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100 Years of Mass Housing in Russia



Russia’s history of mass housing development can be divided into several distinct periods, each manifested by its own specific type of residential building. These houses reveal what lifestyle, comfort level, construction cost and distinctive traits were considered preferable in any given decade. Every new stage saw its own experiments and had its achievements, which together can be regarded as a line of lessons, discoveries, and experiences, helping to understand a specific character of Russian standard housing.

Courtesy of Strelka KB




根据计划,当地居民可以在这个社区度过一生,生活所需不需要从外界获取:这个地方有商店,托儿所,学校,宿舍,工厂,甚至火葬场。 Khavsko-Shabolovsky住房区是该区的重要组成部分。它的十三座建筑彼此成直角布局,与主要街道成45度角。这一特征提供了良好的日照,并形成了一个封闭的庭院系统。阳台和客房都面向南立面,而厨房和浴室则朝北设计。每排房屋都有自己的配色方案。公共建筑位于区域的中心。

1917-1930: First efforts, first experiments
The October Revolution brought about a number of changes in Russia’s housing policies, defining its development for many years to come. Two decrees of 1918, “On Abolition of Private Property in Cities” and “On Land Socialization,” gave rise to so-called communal apartments. The state-owned property began to account for a larger share of the country’s total housing stock and construction projects; the Soviet regime also took over the task of allocating dwellings among people.
In the 1920s, a new type of low-cost mass housing began to take shape. The Construction Committee of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic was the first in country’s history to embark on developing a model of a standard house in accordance with modern requirements and with the use of a scientific approach. Among other things, the authorities had held a number of various contests, and these measures eventually resulted in creating fundamentally novel types of homes, ranging from communal houses to so-called garden cities.
According to plan, a local resident could have spent his whole life in this neighbourhood without feeling any need for something outside of it: this place had shops, nurseries, schools, an institute with dormitories, factory, and even a crematory. Khavsko-Shabolovsky housing area was an important part of the district. Its thirteen buildings were situated at a right angle to each other, and at a 45-degree angle to main streets. This feature provided a good lighting, and created a closed yard system. Balconies and bad-sitting rooms both faced southern façades, while kitchens and bathrooms were designed to look to the north. Each row of houses had its own color scheme. Public building was placed in the center of the district.


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在尼基塔•赫鲁晓夫(Nikita Khrushchev)在1955年发表的具有里程碑意义的演讲以及“关于规划和建设中的过度清算”的法令之后,俄罗斯房地产业开始转向更为简单,更平庸和更便宜的建筑。此外,该法令还决定使用空地进行大型低成本住宅区开发—即微区—而不是在市中心进行昂贵的建设。




1935-1955: Fine décor and high ceilings: The indiscreet charm of Stalinka building
In the early 1930s, a public contest for the Palace of the Soviets project and a new Stalin’s Moscow city master plan (1935) marked an architectural shift towards exploitation of classic legacy. Moscow city was first to straighten, enlarge and build-up its avenues with solemn ensembles, and then many Russian cities followed the lead. Artistic features in buildings, and for the neighborhood as a whole, became a priority. After World War II, the trend increased; although, multi-story buildings became less common, while wooden construction regained its relevance.
Mastering a technology of manufacturing structure elements at the factory (instead of making them right at the construction site) is a huge breakthrough of this period. But many projects were still being carried out upon their own unique custom design, and this ensured diversity of housing architecture of the time.
1949 saw an introduction of so-called standard planning: this approach completely dismisses the idea of a separate design for each project, and embraces exactly the opposite of that—a design concept which implies working upon standardised housing types and series plans.
On Tverskaya Street, Russia had tried a fast-track (industrialized) construction technology for the first time: a number of teams of workers with different skills shifting from one object to another in rotation, each in charge of his own task.
As a result of the successful experiment, the house number 4 on Gorky Street had been perfectly integrated into the mounting terrain of the road: in all three sections, residential units occupy five stories, but the height of ground floors, reserved for shops and eating places, is different. Basement and portal had been faced with polished granite, residential walls—with prefabricated tile; the interior decoration featured moulding and sculptures.

1955-1960: Khrushchev formula: Compact housing and arrival of “micro-districts”
In the aftermath of Nikita Khrushchev’s landmark speech of 1955 and the decree “On Liquidation of Excesses in Planning and Construction,” Russian housing industry started shifting to much simpler, less assertive architecture—and cheaper construction. Also, it was decided to utilize vacant lands for large low-cost residential neighborhoods—that is micro-districts—instead of proceeding with costly construction in the city center.
Since the rapidly advancing industrial technology suggested uniformity in construction, the custom planning had had to be practically abandoned. In 1959, Soviet Russia established its first DSK—Integrated House-building Factory, and more than 400 such plants were to come along in the future.
To deliver on the promise “For every family—separate apartment!,” the USSR had to build as simple and compact as possible; at the same time, expected lifespan of those structures was estimated to be around 20 years.
K-7 house line delivered the first and the cheapest mass five-story building; it took only 12 days to build such a home. Of course, this type of dwelling had its downsides, such as walkthrough rooms and no balconies. These issues have been revised and fixed for K-7 later versions.


Image Courtesy of John William Reps, Fine Arts Library, Cornell University
1956年,苏联在全国范围内举办了一场关于成本效益的公寓项目竞赛。计划在Novye Cheryomushki区进行第9区块实验,并提交了本次比赛提交的解决方案。建造一个新社区需要22个月;该地区曾作为14种建筑类型的试验场(每个都使用不同的规划和材料),建筑高达五层。




在70年代后期,住房政策议程包括重建和改造战前和战后早期住房的任务。酒店和公寓占这些新项目的很大一部分。但是,住房问题仍然是一个主要问题,也是一个紧迫问题。 1986年,为了解决这一严峻挑战,政府采用了一项名为“住房-2000”的特别计划——但它从未完全实施。

In 1956, the USSR had held a nationwide contest for best projects on cost-effective apartment house types. The experimental 9th Block in Novye Cheryomushki district was planned and a put up drawing on the solutions submitted for this competition. Construction of a novel neighborhood took 22 months; the area had served as a testing ground for 14 building types (each of them used different planning and materials) and is up to five storeys high.
In an effort to make up for small apartments, great emphasis was put on spacious yards. These space were equipped with special leisure zones, playgrounds, landscaping, carpet-beating areas, paddling pools. Architectural planning of micro-districts excluded any through-traffic, and each block had its own nursery, kindergarten, school, canteen, shops, cinema, amenities’ building, telephone exchange, and garages.

1960-1980:Brezhnev-era homes: Same trend, greater comfort
During this period, greater focus had been placed on constructing high-rise buildings, as well as introducing improved housing types. This era gave birth to apartments with 1-5 isolated rooms, providing housing for different kinds of families. Besides, certain series allowed for flexible layouts of apartments.
In the late 70s, the housing policy agenda embraced the task of rebuilding and renovating pre-war and early post-war housing stock. Hotels and dormitories accounted for a large part of these new projects. However, housing problems still remain a major concern and a pressing issue. In 1986, with the aim to address this serious challenge, the government adopted a special program called “Housing-2000”—yet it was never fully implemented.


Image Courtesy of glokaya_kuzdra /


1991—2018: 现代时代:定制设计的回归,迎接更大规模的建设



This neighborhood had been made up of 9- and 16-story residential buildings. For the purposes of accessible infrastructure and comfort, the architects decided to arrange entrances to all consumer service facilities in lobbies, or at least within walking distance. Buildings were connected by ground floor halls, therefore it was possible to move around almost without getting outside of the block. With internal passages reserved exclusively for taxi and ambulance, each house came with its own underground parking. The project also offered built-in furniture options, with one of the buildings attempting to perform a duplex apartment experiment.

1991—2018: Modern era: Return of custom design, and embracing larger scale
This phase saw the formation and development of the Russian housing market. The country has witnessed a glorious comeback of both individual development projects and widespread use of décor. There is an ongoing quest for new buildings’ and apartments’ layouts (studios, projects with common neighborhood areas, etc.),—while some housing series already provide options for possible replanning.
Thanks to privatization, Russians have regained their right to acquire and own housing property. This drastic shift is responsible for an important new trend in the Russian housing market. Today, more than 85% of homes are owned by private citizens.


Courtesy of Strelka KB


1997年,俄罗斯进行了新的住房改革,还设立了住房抵押贷款机构。一年后,俄罗斯提出了抵押贷款的法律依据。 2016年,DOM.RF(前住房抵押贷款机构)和Strelka KB开始编写一份名为“地区综合发展指南”的论文——各方都致力于在俄罗斯引入和确保舒适的城市环境。这些指导方针的一个关键思想是放弃微区发展,转而采用城市街区模式。

In 1990s, our housing development has been taking rather erratic and unsystematic forms. The industry, largely dominated by infill development plans, saw a significant increase in the share of private and luxury housing. Then in the 2000s, during a period of intense economic growth, it has brought about some large-scale integral development projects for new territories.
In 1997, alongside with a new housing reform in Russia, Agency for Housing Mortgage Lending was created. A year later, the state presented a legal basis for mortgage lending. In 2016, DOM.RF (former Agency for Housing Mortgage Lending) and Strelka KB started to work out a paper called “Guidelines on Comprehensive Development of the Areas”—both parties are driven by their commitment to introduce and ensure a comfortable urban environment in Russia. One of the key ideas of these guidelines is to abandon micro-district development in favour of city blocks.


Image Courtesy of Alexey Mikheev /

最初,Yuzhnoye Butovo和Severnoye Butovo地区由早期类型的建筑组成,这些房屋主要用于没有房屋的家庭或福利受益家庭。一步一步,私人建筑的发展一直在推进和扩大——这一过程伴随着新的现代化规划。除此之外,在20世纪90年代中期,Butovos接纳了我国最早的联排别墅原型。


Initially, Yuzhnoye Butovo and Severnoye Butovo districts were made up of buildings of earlier types, and these homes were mostly intended for and granted to waiting-list households or welfare beneficiary families. Step by step, private construction development has been advancing and expanding—the process accompanied by the introduction of a new modernised planning series. Besides that, in the mid-1990s, Butovos accommodated our country’s first prototypes of a townhouse.
Due to its location far from city center and, thus, a long-distance commute of residents to their workplaces, Butovo district has become a symbol, and a generic term for the so-called “bedroom suburbs”—together with a burden of their distinctive problems: commuter migration, lack of public areas, underdevelopment of small-scale street trading, limited leisure options, etc.




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