Undulating Grounds, Undisciplined Bodies: The Soviet Rationalists and the Kinaesthesis of revolutionary crowds

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In the turbulent political conditions of early modernity, the urban mass crowd emerged as a social phenomenon which presented demanding challenges to the arts: to innovate spatial formulations, graphic compositions and even aesthetic principles drawing on this new collectivity for legitimacy. Comparing the work of the Soviet Rationalist architects to the theatrical methods and productions by the Soviet revolutionary director V. E. Meyerhold, this paper probes the arts’ responses to this crowd design problem. It discerns a spatial logic of ground-and-body: designers shaped theatrical sets and building surfaces to choreograph group ensembles as events, and to forge an alternative conception of space from the varying intensities of kinaesthetic bodily rhythms. Accordingly, the paper reflects on the nature of collective consciousness thereby evoked, and its distinct difference from another modernist state of consciousness: the paranoid individualism of panoptic inspection. It ventures to speculate that the Rationalists’ architecture (and Meyerhold’s theatre) effectively restores inter-subjectivity from its idealist discourse as an inquiry into other minds, to aproblem of other bodies where subjectivity unfolds between emotional states at the body’s expressive surface: the domain of generative spatial-design.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)591-617
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Architecture
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2013
Externally publishedYes


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