Hailed as an icon of modern architecture, the Narkomfin building was designed by Moisei Ginzburg and Ignatii Milinis in 1928. The building was commissioned to house employees of the National Finance Ministry, known as the Narkomfin. The building’s Constructivist style reflects the new technologies, styles, and approaches that were developing at the time.
Exemplifying a national experiment with socialist ideals of communal living, the building symbolizes the transition from family housing to collective living communities that occurred in the early years of the Soviet republic. Originally, the architects planned for an extensive complex, with two residential blocks, a school, and a hostel; only the Narkomfin building itself, a laundry, and a facilities building were constructed. Certain concepts revealed in the original master plan show the influence of the Constructivist style of the architectural field beyond Russia. For example, the duplex living units, which are accessed at their midpoints by glazed corridors, call to mind aspects of Le Corbusier’s seminal Unite d’Habitation (1947-52) in France.
The Narkomfin building was included on the World Monuments Watch in 2002, 2004, and 2006. From the time of its first nomination, the building displayed significant deterioration and a semi-ruinous condition. The survival of the building was of acute concern to local residents as well as international architects and conservationists, yet no significant moves toward preservation were made.
Since the Watch
Although the building still stands as of February 2016, Narkomfin’s future is perhaps even more uncertain than before. Continuing structural decay and insensitive repairs that are reportedly being performed by tenants have drastically impacted the building. A weakened economy, development pressures, and mixed ownership of the units in the building shared among private owners, the government, and a majority-owning developer, make comprehensive restoration difficult, and demolition a strong possibility.