The Talent-Meter: Space, Labor, and Architecture in Soviet Russia
El Lissitzky, Tatlin at Work on the Monument to the Third International (1922). Illustration to Ilya Ehrenburg’s Six Stories with Easy Endings (Berlin: Gelikon, 1922). Image in the public domain.
6:00 pm (c.t.)
Goethe University Frankfurt, Campus Westend, HZ 8


The Talent-Meter: Space, Labor, and Architecture in Soviet Russia

Alla Vronskaya

Buildings, projects, and even architects’ bodies exist a wider world—the world of socio-economic reality. Exploring architecture’s engagement with this reality, the lecture examines how a Fordist belief in maximizing efficiency through optimizing the division of labor was applied to architecture in the interwar Soviet Union. It focuses on the activity of the Psychotechnical Laboratory, opened by architecture pedagogue Nikolay Ladovsky to test physiological and psychological abilities of his students. The most important of the testing devices employed in the Laboratory, the so-called space-meter, grounded architectural talent in binocular vision, construing it as a superior ability of visual estimation. What were the consequences of such a redefinition of architecture? And what can an analysis of this episode contribute to our understanding of architectural disciplinarity today?

Alla Vronskaya is Professor of the History and Theory of Architecture at the University of Kassel. Her research focuses on the theory of modern architecture, particularly in the Soviet Union and other state-socialist countries. Her book Architecture of Life: Soviet Modernism and the Human Sciences (University of Minnesota Press, 2022) explores intersections between architecture, labor management, and human sciences in modern Russia. She has also worked on gender history of socialist architecture as a regional editor for the former Soviet Union in Bloomsbury Global Encyclopedia of Women in Architecture and the head of Women Building Socialism research project. She is currently working on her second monograph, devoted to Soviet architecture’s encounter with climatic and geographic diversity of the country during the Cold War.

The event is part of the lecture series Designed Orders. The lecture will take place on the Westend Campus of Goethe University Frankfurt (HZ 8) and will be held in English.