A Brief History of Constructivism

As Modernism and its influence spread across the world in the early 1900s, new art and design factions emerged throughout cultures. Today, we’re exploring Constructivism, a Russian art and architecture movement that brought abstraction to the country. Learn more about the short-lived, industrial-heavy movement below:

The History of Constructivism

Constructivism popularized in the 1910s Soviet Union, the same period that the Bauhaus and De Stijl movements emerged across Eastern Europe. Constructivism was largely inspired by other modern, innovative developments of the time, specifically Bauhaus and Russian Futurism.

Constructivist artists strived to reflect the industrialization of urban society in their work. The movement’s art and architectural works combined characteristics from existing modern principles such as geometric and minimal design, with a more experimental approach.

Often staying away from ornate decorative elements, Constructivist architecture instead favored mechanical and industrial materials. This design direction also focused on space and rhythm, frequently resulting in futuristic and abstract-presenting structures.

Notable Works

Arguably the most well-known and famous Constructivist architectural work was the 1919 proposal of Tatlin’s Tower by Vladimir Tatlin. The project, which was never completed, intended to use iron, glass and steel in its design. As a towering symbol of modernity, its main feature included a twin helix — reaching taller than the Eiffel Tower — paired with four other suspended geometric structures that planned to rotate around the helix.

One of the main philosophies of Constructivism was to instill new aesthetics of the avant-garde into everyday life, which led architects to design some of the country’s most visited buildings in their unique style. The Zuev Workers’ Club in Moscow was one of many workers’ clubs to adopt the Constructivist style when completed in 1929. The composition of the building’s facade features a mix of circular staircases, stacked rectangular floors, bright pink paint and an exterior glazed treatment which was innovative for the time.

Another famous work of Constructivism is Ogonyok Magazine’s printing plant which was commissioned in 1932 in Moscow. Russian artist El Lissitzky designed the building, and it remained his only architectural creation. The dynamic building features a mansard roof and circular windows that contrast the long rectangular exterior. Although damaged in a 2008 fire, the building remains a heritage site, and in 2012 it was named a regional landmark of the country.

El-Lisitsky Ogonyok Printing Plant. Credit: Sergei Dorokhovsky, 2010, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0 Deed

Although Constructivism lost steam only a decade after emerging, its influence is found in other movements like Brutalism, and works of graphic design, industrial design, fashion, and ultimately the Deconstructivism Movement. Stay tuned for more blogs spotlighting the many subsects of Modernist architecture!

A Brief History of the Netherland’s De Stijl Movement

The turn of the 20th century was rich with change in almost all aspects of life. Artists and architects across the globe were more inspired than ever to bring unprecedented works of art to life. Many of which originated in the numerous modernist movements that emerged during this period. Today, we’re exploring De Stijl, a celebrated Dutch movement formed partly as a reaction against Art Deco.

The History of De Stijl

De Stijl was founded in 1917 by a cohort of painters, sculptures, architects and poets in the Netherlands’ largest city, Amsterdam. The art movement is also known as Neoplasticism. However it is more commonly referred to by its traditional name, De Stijl, which says it all for its direction. Meaning ‘the style’ in dutch, nearly all of the artwork and architecture stemmed from a simple vision and philosophy. 

The principles of the movement set to ignore natural form and color. Instead it simplified compositions to only vertical and horizontal lines and palettes to only black, white and primary colors. 

Throughout De Stijl’s lifespan – from 1917 to roughly 1931 – its advocates pushed for full abstraction. However, it never reached the chimeric expressions found in other abstract movements. Artists and architects associated with De Stijl still developed their own visual language, using various avant-garde elements that ranged from basic geometrical figures to intersecting planes and unbent lines.

Much of De Stijl’s work embodied a utopian vision, and realizing that vision was unattainable was one of the resulting factors for its downfall. However, the movement’s continued fame and recognition exists today thanks to the many acclaimed works and artists who contributed to De Stijl. 

Red & Blue Chair, Gerrit Rietveld, 1923. Credit: defining Design on Flickr Creative Commons, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 Deed

Celebrated Works

One of De Stijl’s most well-known works came from the Red and Blue Chair. As one of the first explorations of the movement, furniture designer and architect Gerrit Rietveld first designed the chair in 1918 but didn’t fully complete it until five years later, in 1923. 

Sticking to De Stijl’s design philosophy, the Red and Blue Chair makes use of only primary colors, along with black, and is one of the most popular creations of the movement. Rietveld envisioned the chair to be mass-produced but intentionally designed it to appear man-made due to its unique, clearly defined construction. 

Another well-known work of the movement and the only architectural building which followed all of its aesthetic properties was Rietveld’s Rietveld Schröder House. Built in 1924, the house was a commissioned project for Truss Schröder-Schrader, whose original vision included a grand open space without any walls. 

Interior of Rietveld Shroder House
Interior of Rietveld Schröder House. Photo © Ana Lisa Alperovich for Inhabitat, Flickr Creative Commons, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 Deed

Rietveld delivered on Schrader’s vision, utilizing construction elements that emphasized the building’s form, including various slabs, posts and beams. Making each wall portable, he designed each room as if each was its own movable entity. The design took use of De Stijl’s emblematic color palette of black and white and looked nothing like any of its neighboring builds.

Although it might not be the most notable movement stemming from the Netherland’s, De Stijl’s presence in everything from Dutch literature and paintings to architecture and music communicates just how influential the art movement was throughout the early 20th century.


The Subsects of Modernist Architecture, Part I

As a pioneering approach to architecture, the Modernist discipline took the creative world by storm. It’s only natural that the discipline has since evolved and morphed to mean many different things to many different people around the world, from Japanese Modernists to the Bauhaus School in Germany and beyond. In celebration of this, we’re taking a closer look at just a few of the many nuanced subsects of Modernist architecture. 

Bauhaus School of Design. Credit: Lannguyen138 on Wikimedia Commons, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license


The Bauhaus Modernist architectural style emerged from the Bauhaus School, founded by Walter Gropius, in Germany over a century ago. The school operated from 1919-1933. Gropius formed the Bauhaus in response to the rise of industrialism, emphasizing the importance of craftsmanship and human-centric design. The school united fine arts and craftsmanship to create one strong point of view, a style marked by its eschewment of the ornamental in favor of a sharp focus on geometric and abstract form, function and aesthetic. The simple schema of Bauhaus architecture was intended to be easily mass produced — and indeed, the style was packaged and spread globally, inspiring Modernist architecture as we know it today.

De Stijl

Emerging at the same time period as the Bauhuas, De Stijl (Dutch for “The Style) originated in the Netherlands in 1917 and is said to have peaked between its inception and 1933. The style emerged post World War I as a utopian means of social and spiritual redemption that took advantage of art and its transformative impact. De Stijl applied to both painting and architecture, proposing ultimate simplicity and abstraction through the use of stark and straight horizontal and vertical lines and rectangular forms. Though considered more prominent in architecture than painting, the movement is considered to be led by Piet Mondrian. Pioneers in the movement considered it the perfect fusion of form and function, yielding what they considered the ultimate style.


While the Bauhaus style and De Stijl were emerging in Eastern Europe, Constructivism entered the scene in the Soviet Union in the 1920s. Constructivism was in part inspired by the Bauhaus, as well as by Russian Futurism. The style is characterized by its blend of modern technology and engineering methods, and marked deeply by the socio-political ethos of Communism. Constructivism combined existing Modernist principles like minimal and geometric design with a more experimental lens. This sense of experimental play, combined with its Futurism influences, resulted in intriguing and abstract structures. Though the style fell out of favor only a decade later, its influence can be seen in later movements such as Brutalism — but more on that later.

Stay tuned for more features on the numerous subsects of Modernist architecture.

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