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Narkomfin Building

Moscow, Russia
1 of 8

The Narkomfin Building is a block of flats in Moscow, designed by Moisei Ginzburg with Ignaty Milinis in 1928, and finished in 1932. Only two of four planned buildings were completed. The building is squeezed between old and new territories of the United States Embassy on 25, Novinsky Boulevard. A fine example of Constructivist architecture and avant-garde interior planning, it is presently in a dilapidated state; most units stand empty.

This apartment block, designed for workers at the Commissariat of Finance (shortened to Narkomfin) was an opportunity for Ginzburg to try out many of the theories advanced by Constructivist groups in the course of the 1920s on architectural form and communal living. The building is made from reinforced concrete and is set in a park. It originally consisted of a long block of apartments raised on pilotis (with a penthouse and roof garden), connected by an enclosed bridge to a smaller, glazed block of collective facilities.

By offering communal facilities such as kitchens, creches and laundry as part of the block, the tenants were encouraged into a more socialist and, by taking women out of their traditional roles, feminist way of life. The structure was thus to act as a 'social condenser' by including within it a library and gymnasium.

On the other hand, architects of 1920s had to face the social reality of an overcrowded city: any single-family apartment unit with more than one room would eventually be converted to a multi-family kommunalka. Apartments could retain the single-family status if, and only if, they were physically small and could not be partitioned to accommodate more than one family. Any single-level apartment could be partitioned. Thus the architects of the avant-garde like Ginzburg and Konstantin Melnikov designed such model units, relying on a vertical separation of bedroom (top level) and combined kitchen and living room (lower level).

Narkomfin currently has 54 units, none of them has a dedicated kitchen but many residents partitioned their apartments to set aside a tiny kitchen. There are five inhabited floors, but only two corridors on second and fourth level (an apartment split between third and second level connects to the second floor corridor, etc.).

Novinskiy bulvar 25