Moscow: Sredi kollektsionerov, 1923. Item #1235
116,  pp.: ill. 27x19.6 cm. In original illustrated publisher’s wrappers. Tears of the spine, wrappers detached, edges worn. Otherwise in good condition.
Scarce. First edition. 1 of 2,000 copies. This important work dedicated to the problem of rhythm in architecture was written by one of the most prominent Soviet constructivist architects Moisei Ginzburg (1892-1946).
Ritm v arkhitekture, the first theoretical work by its author, was published in 1923, during Ginzburg’s years as Professor of the theory of architectural composition at VKHUTEMAS. Conceived as a pedagogical tool, the book serves as an attempt to reveal the true essence of architecture through the analysis of rhythm in the architectural styles of the past.
The book consists of two sections: Analysis of Rhythm and Problems of Rhythm. In the former, the author offers a systematic discussion of the dynamic qualities of geometric forms, which permeate the universe and reveal themselves in numerous ways: from the movement of planetary systems to human movement, dance, and song. Ginzburg goes on to examine the harmonious relationships between architectural forms, defining harmony as ‘the mathematical essence of rhythm’, and sets the rhythm of symmetry as the organic and ‘simple law of rhythm’. Most importantly, the author provides a detailed analysis of the architectural forms and rhythms of the past: from prehistoric menhirs to Renaissance palazzo, Palladian villas and baroque facades. Ginzburg sets parallelepiped as the most commonly utilized geometrical shape in various architectural styles and emphasizes the idea that increasing the number of architectural elements (such as columns) correspondingly increases the strength of the rhythmic sensation. Ginzburg illustrates his conclusion by contrasting the Parthenon with the Temple of Poseidon, with the latter being more powerful and the former – more rhythmic. In the last chapter of the first section, the author attempts to transcribe the rhythmical properties of architectural compositions in a graphic system reminiscent of dance notation.
The second part, devoid of a chronological approach, is devoted to the description of compositional methods and the analysis of problems associated with rhythm: the problem of picturesqueness, the problem of monumentality, and the problem of harmony. The author brings the example of Venice as the embodiment of the systemized alternation of rhythmic strokes and intervals, which he describes as the rhythm at its purest form. In the following chapters, Ginzburg examines each of the aforementioned problems based on the examples from Ancient Greek and Egyptian architecture, Baroque, Renaissance, Gothic style, etc. The author also elaborates upon such topics as the development of action in a vertical length both in ancient and contemporary times, mathematical essence of rhythm, the evolution of rhythmic problems, etc. Ginzburg creates a kind of retrospective of rhythmic problems prevalent in different epochs and underlines the necessity to develop new forms in which the rhythmic beating of our days will be manifested.
The edition includes 8 full-page (7 of which are photographs either by Salviati or Alinari) and 39 in-text illustrations depicting Colosseum, Doge’s Palace in Venice, the Marciana Library, the Church of Saint Susanna in Rome, the Pitti Palace in Florence, etc.
Moisei Ginzburg was one of the leading Soviet architects, best known for his 1929 Narkomfin Building in Moscow. Shortly after graduating from Milano Academy (1914) and Riga Polytechnical Institute (1917), Ginzburg moved to Moscow and joined VKHUTEMAS in 1921. In 1924, Moisei published the book Stil’ i epokha [i.e. Style and Epoch] that became the manifesto of Constructivist architecture. Ginzburg founded an architectural association, OSA Group (Organisation of Contemporary Architects), which had links with Vladimir Mayakovsky and Osip Brik’s LEF Group, and experimented with forms of Communal apartments. From the 1930s, Ginzburg, together with other avant-garde architects, was forced to give up on his constructivist inclinations and pursue the official style of Stalinist architecture adopted by the state.
Overall, the first theoretical work of the noted Soviet constructivist architect.
Worldcat shows copies of the edition in Columbia University Libraries, Library of Congress, Art Institute of Chicago, and Getty Research Institute.