Khrushchyovka


Khrushchyovka

Khrushchovka ( _ru. хрущёвка) is a type of low-cost panelled or brick three to five-storied apartment building which was introduced in Nikita Khrushchev's time in the USSR.

History

Traditional masonry is labor-intensive; individual projects were slow and not scalable to the needs of overcrowded cities. To tackle housing crises, in 1947-1951 Soviet architects evaluated various technologies attempted to cut costs and completion time. In January 1950 an architects' convention, supervised by Khrushchev (then the party boss of Moscow city), declared low-cost, high-speed technologies the objective of Soviet architects. This was followed by setting up two prefab concrete plants in Moscow (Presnensky, 1953; Khoroshevsky; 1954). By this time, competing experimental designs were tested in real-life construction, and prefab concrete panels emerged as a clear winner. Other possibilities, like in situ concrete, or encouraging individual low-rise construction, were discarded as heresy.

In 1954-1961, engineer Vitaly Lagutenko, chief planner of Moscow since 1956, designed and tested the mass-scale, industrialized construction process, relying on concrete panel plants and a fast-track assembly schedule. In 1961, Lagutenko’s institute released the K-7 design of a prefab 5-storey that symbolised the Khrushchyovka. 64,000 units (3,000,000 m2) of this type were built in Moscow from 1961 to 1968, but it was just a beginning. In Moscow, space limitations forced a switch to 9 or 12-story buildings (of the same low quality), the last 5-story Khrushyovka was completed there in 1971. The rest of USSR continued building Khrushyovkas until the fall of communism; millions of such units are now past their design lifetime.

Design

The Khrushchovka was an early attempt at industrialised and prefabricated building, the elements (or panels) made at concrete plants and trucked to the site just-in-time. Elevators were considered too costly and time consuming, and according to Soviet health/safety standards, five storeys was the maximum height of a building without an elevator. Thus, almost all Khrushyovkas have five storeys.

Khrushchyovkas featured combined bathrooms. They had been introduced with Ivan Zholtovsky's prize-winning "Bolshaya Kaluzhskaya" building, but Lagutenko continued the space-saving idea, replacing regular-sized bathtubs with 120 centimeter long "sitting baths". Сompleted bathrooms cubicles, assembled at Khoroshevsky plant, were trucked to the site; construction crews would lower them in place and connect the piping. Some theorists even considered combining toilet "bowl" functions with the shower's sink, but the idea was discarded. Kitchens were also small, usually 6 square meters. This was also common for many less-than-elite class Stalinist houses, some of which had dedicated dining rooms.

Typical apartments of the K-7 series have a total area of 30 m2 (1-room), 44 m2 (2-room) and 60 m2 (3-room). Later designs further reduced these meager areas. Rooms in K-7 are "fully isolated", in the sense that they all connect to a tiny entrance hall, not to each other. Later designs (П-35 et al.) disposed with this "redundancy": residents had to pass through the living room to reach the bedroom. These apartments were planned for small families, but in real life it was not unusual for three generations (6-7 people) to live together in two-room flats. Some apartments had a "luxurious" storage room. In real life, it served as another bedroom, without windows and ventilation.

This "cookie-cutter" architectural approach is satirized in the 1975 Russian comedy film "Irony of Fate or Enjoy Your Bath" directed by Eldar Ryazanov, where a Moscow dweller was flown by mistake to Leningrad, the taxicab drove him to his home street address which happens to exist in Leningrad as well, and the house and the apartment, and even the key to the apartment are exactly the same as his own.

Present day

These buildings are found in great numbers all over the former Soviet Union. They were originally considered as temporary housing until the housing shortage could be addressed with the arrival of "complete communism", when shortages of all kinds of things would have disappeared. Khrushchev declared to have achieved communism in 20 years (by the 1980s). Later, Brezhnev promised each family an apartment "with a separate room per person plus one room extra", but many people continue to live in Khrushchovkas today.

Khrushchovka standard types are classified into "disposable", with a planned 25-year lifetime (сносимые серии) and "permanent" (несносимые серии). This distinction is important in Moscow and other affluent cities, where disposable Khrushchovka are being demolished to make way for new, higher density construction. The City of Moscow plans to complete this process by 2009. Less wealthy communities will rely on the crumbling Khrushchyovka stock indefinitely.

External links

* [http://www.ukraine-observer.com/articles/228/993 The Khrushchovkas] The Ukrainian Observer
* [http://www.sptimes.ru/index.php?action_id=2&story_id=5483 Soviet-Era Housing Gets New Lease of Life] The St. Petersburg Times


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