The House of Soviets: the monster of Kaliningrad

It has been there for for decades, right in the centre of Kaliningrad: an unfinished monster of a building, paroxysm of the absurdity of the Soviet regime.

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The construction started in the 1970s and the building was meant to host the House of Soviets. However, the project was abandoned half way when the engineers realised the foundations were inadequate, making the building too dangerous to occupy.

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It is so big and in the centre that it can be seen from everywhere. Here in the back of the Fishermen’s Village, an street of houses in a vaguely historical old town style, built recently in an attempt to make Kaliningrad pretty.

Part of the irony is that the building is situated partly on the ruins of the former Königsberg – a castle built by the Teutonic Knights in the 13th century that was demolished by British bombings in 1944. After the war, the Soviets did not bother to restore the castle; on the contrary they razed the ruins and replaced it by this vain project.

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Before it was painted, the building looked very brutalist. Photo borrowed from the wikipedia page.

Until 2005, the unfinished “monster”, as locals call it, was just a big concrete block; but at the occasion of a visit from President Putin, they painted it white and installed windows – pure illusion as the building is still and will remain unoccupied.

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Despite being unoccupied and dangerous, the monster has very regular hosts. During the night we see guards inspecting the city from its top; during the day we see youngsters exploring the ghost to cover it with graffiti or take selfies.

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The site is surrounded by fences but there are enough holes in the fence to easily access it and climb the monster.

The city of Kaliningrad is currently undergoing a major urban identity requestioning with international architectural competitions going on and one of the key issues at stake is: what should the city do with its monster?

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