39 Myasnitskaya Ulitsa

Le Corbusier with Nicolai Kolli 1930-1936

The Tsentrosoyuz building was Le Corbusier's only building to be built in the Soviet Union, though he designed many others. It was the headquarters of all the soviets (workers councils) of the time. The building was designed in 1929, but took several years to complete because of materials shortages during Stalin's first Five-Year Plan.

Built on Le Corbusier's favored piloti – reinforced concrete pillar – the building facade is a dramatic, smooth, glazed curtain wall, framed at the top and bottom by strips of red volcanic stone blocks from the Caucasus, and at the sides by projecting volumes clad in the same red stone. The heaviness of the stone frame was originally balanced by the open ground floor, in common with other Le Corbusier designs of the time, but this has since been enclosed to use as an additional floor.

The curtain wall was an innovative design that would provide natural ventilation between two layers of glazing, but was never implemented as Le Corbusier originally intended.

Good proportions, a subtle plan (e.g. the two wings splay out slightly from the central slab, and join it via a recessed wall), and detailing (e.g. the windows set right into the recessed joint where the wings start) distinguish the Tsentrosoyuz from some of the many buildings that have copied the style since.

The building includes office space for 3,500 people, a restaurant, lecture halls and a theater. It now houses the Statistics Service of the Russian Federation.

Simon Glynn 2007

How to visit

The Tsentrosoyuz building is at 39 Myasnitskaya Ulitsa. The nearest Metro stations are Turgenevskaya and Chistiye Prudy, in Turgenevskaya Ploshchad [Square] and Myasnitskiye Vorota Ploshchad. From the southeast corner of that square, walk northeast up Myasnitskaya Ulitsa to reach the front of the building.

It is also worth finding the back of the building, which you need to approach separately from Prospekt Akademika Sakharova / Dominkovskaya Ulitsa.

If you follow either of these streets further, as far as the Garden Ring (Sadovaya-Spasskaya Ulitsa), you will see the Narkomzem building by Aleksey Shchusev of the same period.

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