Today, when walking the Krivoarbatsky alley, it is not so easy to find the studio of Konstantin Melnikov where the facade is modestly signed with half-meter height letters – “Konstantin Melnikov, Architect.” The truly top of the Russian avant-garde architecture, absolutely innovative and insanely beautiful Melnikovs’ family house project to this day attracts tourists and connoisseurs of the constructivist movement from around the world! But very few know the true story of the house… We will unveil the veil of secrecy and will tell what the Melnikov House really was and where it went!
Birth of the Dream
“Looking at the sky, we see the emptiness with simultaneous completeness and this attracts us: there time is mixed with the space, there are lonely worlds, cold rocks, gas seas, there are no regulations, rules that are prescribed with an ornate font squeezed in lickedly heavy flute. There, deep in the sky the nature is what it was conceived, and I dream to see it! “- these are the words of still young but definitely talented Konstantin Melnikov which were recorded by his mentor, an eminent engineer Vladimir Chaplin. Chaplin didn’t pay enough attention to the saying considering it the imagination of a young man and he gave his preference to the development of the drawing talent that was already clear. But Melnikov was sure that one day, in spite of everything, he would find out what was there, behind the clouds…
In the fall of 1905, Constantine began studying the craftsmanship that he wasn’t really dreaming about. But at the same time he couldn’t find anything better for himself. The dream of distant worlds was only in its infancy and growing, so that it wasn’t ready yet to lead the young guy.
Remembering the early years at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture, Melnikov, being grateful to Chaplin for the opportunity, speaks about the architecture classes as about something boring but necessary. But soon after he met with well-known architects and was invited to the Architectural and Planning workshop of the Building Department of the Mossovet (Moscow Soviet of People’s Deputies), he changes his mind and starts to take a lively interest in the craftsmanship, revealing parallel goals for himself set by the contemporary architecture.
With Melnikov’s growing interest in architecture and engineering his circle of acquaintances grew, among which were amazing figures such as future colleagues and inspirers of Sergei Korolev… Thus, unexpectedly, during long conversations at creative evenings it becomes clear to Melnikov that he wasn’t not alone who was obsessed with the child’s dream of space…
Sign of “Infinity”
According to historians, Melnikov House is the focus of unrealized architectural ideas, something like a manifest in the material where the author had collected all the most unique, the most daring, without being able to implement it in other projects. And of course, this is partly true.
The observation of a solar eclipse during a visit to France in January 1925 as part of the inspection of the work on the construction of the Soviet pavilion for the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts became a lasting impression for the genius architect.
On January 25th, the architect took an impromptu trip to the sea with a group of colleagues and friends when suddenly they witnessed a total solar eclipse. It should be noted that in all fairness the group was able to witness only a part of the natural presentation as the sunset time almost coincided with the full coverage of the solar disk by the Moon, but thanks to this the observations were only brighter: the sea was almost absolutely calm, and the «reflection» of the Moon absorbing the Sun made up the missing part of the picture.
Melnikov saw a sign in the Sun and Moon reflected on the mirror of the calm sea: the path to infinity was open! Thus was born the idea of home-studio of the two crashed into each other uneven cylinders symbolizing the solar eclipse and the sign of infinity.
or Heating Secret
Melnikov drew the attention of the neighbors along the street from the beginning of the construction of his home-studio: everyone was very surprised by the depth of the pit under the future house. Melnikov defended such a deepth by a need to mount a complicated heating system that was required to maintain the heat in the future house where he planned to use a lot of glass. This legend was taken at face value and, thus, the questions ended.
Later, especially in the evenings, there started to appear fancy components of a future “heating system.” Together with them, there were noted people who looked like assemblers: stately young men widely waving hands and emotionally discussing something while lowering parts in the excavated pit. They worked around the clock, during the day the percussion of hammers were heard from the pit, and at night the entire area was filled with light from the sparks of welding machines.
In fact, the heating system was nothing but a rocket engine,and the technology was a first of its kind and the technology, and one of the most active and stately young men representing the assemblers, was none other than Korolev, a young and ambitious “pilot glider” (he was awarded this title after the successful completion of examinations on the “Firebird” glider).
With the noise of hammers, welding flashes and secret atmosphere that was so easy to maintain, the greatest and to this day unmatched project of space exploration began its life – the House Spaceship!
A Desired July
Closer to the 60’s of the last century, Korolev mentions in a private conversation an unnamed project created by him and his “good friend” which, according to him, was head and shoulders above all of what the Soviets were willing to do…
The unnamed project really was the most successful in the history of space exploration. But first things first.
Less than 20 years passed since the visible end of the building of the house to its actual readiness, during this time the secret comrades were improving equipment and technology necessary for a successful start, preparing the construction of a starship and were bringing the necessary components for a rocket fuel mixture at all levels in small parties…
“The dream came to life! The dream came to life!” – Melnikov’s exclamation was heard by the neighboring households from the basement. They took it as a brilliant idea which had come to a master, but in fact it marked the beginning of the countdown which lasted a whole year. Exactly the time they needed for a “subtle” pre-flight setup.
In the summer of 1952, Melnikov expected a bad weather. What he needed was a thick fog or at least a severe thunderstorm to unwittingly take off. The architect’s family was sent to the Crimean “vacation” in advance.
Here, a small piece of found records of K. Melnikov:
“The long-awaited day! I only need now to write down a date and a couple of thanks to my family and a friend of my dreams Sergei K. You need to know, my friends, that I, Konstantin Melnikov, an architect but not only of buildings, on 19th July 1952 went below the horizon and the sky. My dream is almost of my age and I’m happy to go for the long-awaited meeting!”– this note made on the reverse side of the” blueprint” of the spaceship-house was showed us by the descendants of the architect. He left it with no hope of a successful return but with the desire to tell everyone publicly about the life-long project.
The roar of the starting level ceased, the walls of the starship stopped vibrating, the ship began rapidly climbing. The architect watched the receding storm underfoot, flashes of lightning that disguised the takeoff so well that they became barely distinguished, and the stars rushed to meet the traveler!
“I felt a strong push and at the same moment the floor was gone from under the feet, body weight completely vanished as if I had lost it, although I still was there and felt it. I will call this phenomenon weigtlessness!”
“I am shocked by the feelings and completely forgot to rejoice in myself: I am not crippled or even injured, the house is strong and intact, and the storm over Moscow is already quite indistinguishable!”
“At the insistence and request of Sergei, I will fly by the moon before starting the long-distance electric motors where I will take away a handful of local stones as a souvenir and a proof of the success of our work. I have no strength to endure this stop, but the promise is more expensive, so a course to the moon!”
Here the tiny notebook that was found in the ceiling of the house roof during renovations in 2012, is over. The following notes fragmentarily give an idea of the flight and the launch of “long-distant electric motors”. The last two notes about the flight tell us that Melnikov reached Saturn:
“I’m making the only possible stop in the world of emptiness and simultaneous overcrowdedness near Saturn: below just under my feet there is an ocher giant surrounded by a ring of dust and the pentagonal hurricane of a striking scale as the crown of its pole. The perfection of simplicity! “
“The pentagonal whirlwind” is the only proof of the flight’s reality. Melnikov took a close-up photo of it with his “Zorki” camera. The photo was on his table all this time. All the house guests, without exception, didn’t even know what was in the photo. They would look at it and guess it that was either a whirlpool or a strange abstraction accidentally caught by the lens.
“The genius of my trip project companion gave me the opportunity not only to touch with my eyes the distant spaces, but also to come back home with the obtained inspiration. 44 hours separate me from the re-start, during which I must discard the exhausted engines to make the next step. Watching the pole vortex of Saturn, I want to take a chance to leave a mark on these lands. There is only a low chance of success, but being the first person in the vicinity of Saturn, I cannot refuse it…”
To be the first is an amazing opportunity that less people get now due to a furious run of a progress. Melnikov was the first person who “signed” the planet.
During the observation of the vortex on Saturn’s pole, Melnikov noticed that if a large enough alien object intervened in the vortex structure, the chance for the emergence of another angle would be great. “The starting stage!” – that he had to throw it into the vacuum of space before the start of his journey home. Having quickly prepared all the necessities, Melnikov adjusted the house’s position and, just like a seasoned sniper, he twisted the undocking handle while exhaling…
A matter of minutes remained before the start of the return, but Melnikov continued to stare into the vortex. The stage was already so far that it was impossible to distinguish it, but the architect didn’t lose hope.
At the last moment, before the sharp starting push that was supposed to speed up the ship to the mind-blowing speeds toward Earth, Melnikov saw a barely discernible flash in about the same place that first stage was supposed to get: “The residual energy released when it contacted the atmosphere,” – he thought and at the same moment he saw the most amazing and somewhat unbelievable – the whirlwind, the thousand-year Saturnian “monster” began to change…
Six sides in eternity is like the unquestionable evidence that the belief in the dream is all-powerful, and absolutely nothing can stop the real dreamer.
Today, the Melnikov House is in its place in Krivoarbatsky alley. It is slightly shabby and covered with fine craquelures of time. The silent guardian of the secrets is its Creator. There is only one thing that reveals the “tough” landing of the first spacecraft: the house is a little deeper in the ground now… And numerous former employees of various architectural research institutes all wonder why the house has sunk since there are no apparent reasons…
02.04.2014 automatic spacecraft “Cassini” transmitted to Earth
the fascinating pictures of hexagonal vortex at
the north pole of Saturn.
Read about this
studio sibling on
the Tree of Legends: