A “Palace for the People”: the design of the Moscow metro, in pictures

A shot of the design guide. Image: Blue Crow Media.

Blue Crow Media is an independent publisher producing a series of urban architecture maps. The company’s latest work is the Moscow Metro Architecture & Design Map – a bilingual, cartographic guide curated by architectural historian Nikolai Vassiliev. The book features photography by Alexei Narodizkiy and an introduction by Nikolai Shumakov, president of the Union of Architects of Russia and chief architect of numerous stations presented on the map.

We asked founder Derek Lamberton to give us a flavour of the new book – and what inspired him to publish it.

I studied in Moscow in the early 2000s, and fell in love with the city's architecture and metro. The latter is best known for its baroque Stalin-era interiors – but the system has evolved over generations, and today’s metro even features remarkable contemporary designs by Shumakov and other leading Russian architects.

The guidebooks I had 15 years ago dated from the Soviet era – and although the content was occasionally high quality, the formats and materials were certainly not. So both the 2016 Constructivist Moscow Map and this year’s Moscow Metro Architecture & Design Map were opportunities to make editors Natalia Melikova and Nikolai Vassiliev's expertise available to everyone in an affordable, original and well-designed format. Fortunately, we've had a lot of support from bookshops around Moscow – and we are working on a third 20th century map, to be published in 2020.

The city is enormous, fascinating and difficult to grasp. I hope that by providing insight into particular layers, it becomes more accessible and easier to comprehend.

Below are notable stations from different eras of Moscow’s ever-growing “Palace for the People”.

Kievaskaya-1, 1935

Architect: D. Chechulin

This Stalin-era underground temple is complete with three naves and three rows of flat light-filled cupolas. The impressive column capitals and walls represent the first use of porcelain on a grand scale in the Metro.

Mayakovskaya, 1938

Architects/artists: A. Dushkin, A. Deineka, E. Kibalnikov

Massive pillars are replaced here by thin elegant arches with inlaid steel ribbons – originally intended for a nearby Zeppelin factory. Romantic flight-themed ceiling mosaics display the sky, from factory chimneys to paratroopers, over 24 hours across the land of the Soviets.

Dobryninskaya, 1950

Architects/artists: L. Pavlov, M. Zelenin, N. Ilyin, E. Yanson-Manizer, G. Rublev, I. Iordansky

Image: Mikhail (Vokabre) Shcherbakov/Wikimedia Commons.

With its distinctive limestone arches, this station is dedicated to ancient Russian architecture.

Reliefs depict traditional tasks from across the Soviet republics. The entrance pavilion is in a festive Classical style, with Red Star chandeliers illuminating the interior.

Aviamotornaya, 1979

Architects/artists: A. Strelkov, V. Klokov, N. Demchinsky, Yu. Kolesnikova, J. Bodniek, Kh. Rysin, A. Mosiychuk

Dedicated to flight and aviation, the central hall of this highly decorated Socialist-Modernist station features a luminous anodised metal ceiling and a polished steel sculpture of the mythical Icarus.

Fonvizinskaya, 2016

Architects/artists: N. Shumakov, A. Nekrasov, G. Moon, V. Fillipov

The design and lighting of this recently built underground hall, devoid of figurative imagery, reflects onto the polished dark floor to create a remarkable abstract scene. The concentric design is perhaps in homage to other station features, such as Krasnye Vorota’s iconic entrance and Lubyanka’s circular motifs.

The Moscow Metro Architecture & Design Map, in English and Russian, is part of a series of urban architecture maps by Blue Crow Media. All available here.

For more on Moscow, check out this episode of our podcast, Skylines.

All photographs except Dobryninskaya courtesy of Alexei Narodizkiy/Blue Crow Media.


 

 
 
 
 

What’s the constitutional status of the Isle of Man, then?

...what? Image: Google Maps/CityMetric.

Amidst the tumult of Brexit negotiations, away from questions about the integrity of the Union itself being asked by wearied bureaucrats in Edinburgh, Belfast, Brussels and London, the constitutional uncertainty of our times has washed up on the shores of the Isle of Man. Now it threatens the slumber of policymakers in Douglas, too.

The ten-by-forty mile island in the Irish Sea is best known internationally for its annual TT motorcycle races and tax haven status. If you haven’t been you should go: the variety of scenery is breath taking, as are the economics. Lamborghinis emerge from the back of slate cottages, a seaside dwelling can set you back more than an Edinburgh duplex, and the gilet prevalence index is off the charts in certain localities.

The reason for the disconnect is the constitutional relationship between the Isle of Man and the UK. For centuries the island supplemented threadbare revenue streams from subsistence farming and fishing with a robust smuggling sector. The IoM government homepage clearly, maybe even proudly, states that it has never been part of the UK: in the 1700s plans to buy it out and make it part of England were shelved after local unrest, while the current arrangement of Home Rule dates to the early 1800s.

Today the IoM government is based in Douglas, the island’s largest town. Its funding comes through a revenue sharing agreement, the “common purse”, with tax gathered locally on behalf of London and returned to the island according to an unpublicised formula. The agreement has been a source of contention for about as long as it’s existed, but ire has grown proportionally with the island’s pre-eminence as a tax haven. Its detractors point out that the UK consistently gives back to the IoM government more than it gathers, effectively subsidising the island’s status as a tax haven; while its supporters are wealthy.

A map of the Isle of Man. Image: Eric Gaba/Wikimedia Commons.

In a world gripped by economic injustice, the IoM drives social change with a programme of support to welcome the huddled masses of oligarchs yearning for freedom from autocratic tax regimes. Income tax tops out at 20 per cent but, fear not, it’s capped at £150,000. Corporation tax is nil, until your firm earns £500,000 a year; then it has to pay 10 per cent on everything over that. For mega-wealthy émigrés forced to flee odious obligations like capital gains, inheritance or wealth tax, there are opportunities to invest in local property, to get back on your feet: proceeds are taxed at 20 per cent.

The Isle of Man enjoys the same constitutional status as the Channel Islands: the UK handles its accountancy and defence, but aside from the constant vigilance required to keep Dublin at bay the only international hassle comes from Brexit. In the same way as the IoM has never been part of the UK, it’s never been part of the EU – it enjoys all the benefits (or unconscionable infringements) of membership by virtue of a legal protocol which doesn’t bestow membership. Crucially, the IoM doesn’t have any representation with the EU – it can’t, being the kind of Schrödinger jurisdiction which is neither part of the UK nor its own recognised area.


That distinction brings other problems. Regardless of how Brexit pans out, the EU has shown signs of going to war on tax avoidance – a rare political argument which unites populists and progressives. The EU now maintains lists of high risk money-laundering and tax compliance jurisdictions, and the IoM’s prominence in the international sector was part of the reason some MEPs have pushed for including the UK as a whole.

The IoM experiences the paradox of autonomy without representation. Its relationship with the UK has often been hamstrung, too, such as in 2009 when the Treasury slashed common purse funding in an attempt to nudge Douglas away from its tax avoidance platform.

Domestically, the distance between the plutocracy and everyday islanders is stark. Most people on the island are not wealthy: they rely on public services and work jobs like anywhere else. After the IoM’s funding was cut by London at the height of the financial crisis, lower and middle income earners were worst hit. Now the island has to maintain a favourable tax code for plutocrats while supporting public services used by the people who need them. It’s a difficult balance to strike, and likely to become more so if the EU pursues its anti-tax avoidance agenda post-Brexit.

Simon Jones is a writer based in Glasgow.