architecture

The Brutalist H – House of Soviets, Kaliningrad

House of Soviets

Decadent, exquisite, and of the finest architectural achievements of the Teutonic Order are what could be said about the magnificent castle in the heart of Kaliningrad. Unfortunately, the Königsberg Castle was destroyed in the 1960s and in its place was erected the boring but bold, blueish-grey monstrosity representing the most depressive nature of Soviet style columns.

The Predecessor

The church from the Königsberg Castle courtyard Source: Library of Congress

To amplify the ugliness of the House of Soviets, you need to be able to appreciate the building that stood before it. The first stone of the Königsberg Castle was laid on 1 September 1255 by knights of the Teutonic Order. This date was to be considered the birthdate of the city of Königsberg. The initial fortress was later converted to a palace housing the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order and Prussian rulers. The castle housed the city council, a massive church with a magnificent organ, a jail, and a museum. Enormous cellars could be found at the wine restaurant “Bloody Court”, which was build in a former courtroom above the bloody dungeons.

The castle took damage from allied forces in World War II, and the region was soon taken from Germany and absorbed into the Soviet Union. It was later deemed too much to repair, (or too German to repair) so the beautiful castle was destroyed.

Birth of Kaliningrad

After destroying the heart of Königsberg, now known by the Russian name Kaliningrad, the city needed a new centrepiece. It was decided to erect the House of Soviets to house the central administration Kaliningrad Oblast. Construction began in 1960, but the project fizzled out in the 80s. In the early 2000s it finally had windows installed and was given a lick of paint, but the interior remains empty and unused.

House of Soviets

Style

The House of Soviets was typical of post war Soviet Union architecture, and the architectural style of brutalism. While this style was considered modern, brutalism is a harsh and almost cold-hearted style typically built with unfinished concrete using repetitive block like structures. They are often regarded as eye-sores in modern skylines. Moving away from the unnecessary flamboyance of the past, brutalism was considered architecture “for the people” so the city planners clearly thought “the people” were blind to ugly architecture.

The end result is a square concrete block holding two rectangular concrete towers connected by two shonky looking bridges. From a distance, it looks like an H. From another angle, it looks like a robot head from a low-budget sci-fi grindhouse film.

Brutalism was popular throughout the Soviet Union, but the House of Soviets takes the cake. No other brutalist building pollutes a city’s skyline like its big H shape. For the fact that one of the most beautiful buildings in the world was demolished to make way for it, and for the fact that was never completed and has no use at all for over half a century cements this brutalist building as one of my favourite ugliest.

References

Königsberg Castle

Own Experience

2 thoughts on “The Brutalist H – House of Soviets, Kaliningrad

  1. FWIW brutalist architecture can be saved and even made beautiful. I did my degree at Maquarie University in Sydney in the 1970s. The entire campus was built in the brutalist style. It was awful. Twenty something years later my son went to the same university and the transformation was stunning. No longer ugly and depressing the campus has become a place of beauty – mostly through the additions of gardens and trees.

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