The story of Boris Iofan—designer of the iconic but unbuilt Palace of the Soviets—whose buildings came to define the language of Soviet architecture.
The story of Boris Iofan (1891–1976), state architect to Joseph Stalin, is a story about architecture, politics, and power, and in Stalin's Architect, Deyan Sudjic offers the first major account of Iofan's remarkable life and career. Iofan's buildings came to define the language of Soviet architecture; his most famous design was the iconic—but unbuilt—Palace of the Soviets, 1,400 feet high and topped with a figure of Lenin bigger than the Statue of Liberty. Iofan won a design competition for the Palace in 1933 (other competitors included Le Corbusier) and spent the next twenty years taking notes from Stalin on how to make it ever more grandiose. Sudjic describes how Iofan managed to survive Stalin's reign, dying in his bed at 84—unlike many other Stalin enablers.
Sudjic chronicles the endless jockeying for position and compromises required to remain in Stalin's good graces. Iofan was prepared to build what the dictator demanded. Living in luxury in one of his own buildings—the House on the Embankment, a megastructure for Soviet elite—Iofan knew that the price of disobedience could range from losing one's apartment to losing one's life. Many archival images, including Iofan's non-Stalin work, accompany Sudjic's insightful text. Stalin's Architect offers a unique perspective on the politics of twentieth-century architecture and the history of the Soviet Union.