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This chapter was translated into Italian in Ceccarelli La costruzione della citta sovietica 1929-31, pp. 68-80, as far as our “machines in them.”

Published onApr 23, 2021





If we examine a properly planned large-scale, steam-operated electric power station, we see the following picture: directly next to the transportation lines are located the reserve fuel dumps; next in line are the boiler installations, supplied with fuel by elevators, conveyors, etc.; beyond this line of boilers are the machines which transform the steam into mechanical energy; behind these steam engines are placed the dynamos which produce electric energy; further along are the distribution switchboards, beyond them the transformer—and still further, the transmission lines.

By laying out the installation this way, we keep machines of one type in clear-cut lines, thereby greatly shortening all the transmission and distribution lines for fuel, steam, and energy. Moreover, the system allows for general servicing of analogous installations—by appropriate crews—and of their subsidiary elements such as approach routes, conveyors, air filters, steam-pipe lines, valves, etc. Finally, thanks to this same system, the expansion of the station is facilitated by means of a corresponding parallel construction of entire aggregates as parts of the whole system.

If such a station were to be built in helter-skelter fashion, that is, according to no system at all, then one can easily imagine what chaos would ensue, with increases in the price of equipment, in maintenance, etc.

It is precisely this chaos, multiplied thousands of times, that we have in contemporary cities. Here we find industry and residential areas located side by side; beyond them, new apartment houses; further on a hospital, another factory; then, somewhere else, a transportation line, more residences, administrative institutions, and so on and so forth. This chaotic condition complicates interurban transportation and increases the cost of communication routes; it complicates the layout of sewer systems and water supplies, dirties the city, poisons the air and the earth. The increased rates of illness and death in the large modern city, the huge and wasteful expense on interurban transportation of freight and passengers, the high cost of communal services, etc.—all this forces the issue of a radical change in the principles of city planning.

We are led to the same conclusion by even the most cursory acquaintance with today’s method of planning towns and population aggregates as a combination of private dwellings and apartment blocks. We must eradicate this system, since it grew out of private ownership of the land—which we have done away with—since it requires an utterly wasteful surveying of each plot, and finally, since it also splits the economy and the territory of the various parts of the settlement, which exceedingly complicates any general solutions.

We must approach each site as a unified whole in which the basic elements are as rationally and expediently distributed as possible; these include industrial and agricultural production, transportation, power, administration, general living conditions, upbringing of children, and education.

Therefore, in the projecting of new settlements or the replanning of existing ones (including their individual parts), the following major objectives must be unconditionally guaranteed:

  1. It is absolutely necessary that productive units be rationally united with one another and with major transportation routes. In addition it will be absolutely necessary to consider the most economical flow (the shortest, and where possible, most direct lines ) in the organization of the processes of production for the entire combine and also in the linkage of the units of production with the communes, with the dwellings, and with the other similar parts of settlements.
    A flowing functional-assembly-line system is the absolutely necessary basis for new planning.2

  2. The residential sector (zone) of the settlement (the communal, residential, children’s, and similar buildings or institutions) must be set up parallel to the productive zone and must be separated from it by a green belt (buffer zone). This protective strip must be no less than 500 meters wide, and must be increased depending on local conditions and the character of the production.
    Only under these conditions, without the superfluous expense for intersettlement transportation, can we arrive at that point where a worker’s home will be situated no more than 10–20 minutes’ walk from his machine (place of work) and which will allow him all the advantages of village life (air, forest, fields).

  3. Railroad lines must be laid out behind the production zone, i.e., behind the line of industrial buildings, while the highway should be between the productive and residential zones (in the green belt). On the one hand, this insures the free deployment of production and transportation lines on the side opposite the residential area of the settlement and, on the other hand, it insures intersettlement communication by automobile (buses, etc.). In addition, railroad stations and warehouses will be placed between the railroad lines and highways for the best servicing of the needs of both production areas and the settlement.

  4. The most desirable placement for agricultural territory (dairy farms, horticultural sovkhozy, bee farms, etc.) is out past the residential areas of the settlement. This would provide the following advantages: sovkhoz workers will live in the same settlement;3 night soil could be directed to the fields by the shortest possible and greatly simplified means;4 products would be transported to the residential zone from the railroad stations and warehouses by the shortest possible routes.

  5. The necessary sites for special buildings for secondary and higher technical and agricultural educational institutions must be situated in the area used by the corresponding activity; and, where applicable, this should also apply to the placement of administrative institutions (with institutions teaching economics close by) and hospitals (with the medical faculties close by), etc.
    Such an arrangement simplifies the problem of the rebuilding of educational institutions along the line of their corresponding industry when “education and labor will be united” (F. Engels). By the unification of educational institutions with production laboratories, work shops, fields, libraries, archives, etc., we will not only achieve significant economies, but will also make possible the great idea of turning an industry into a school. Every male and female worker (including the cook in factory kitchens, the hospital attendant, the courier in Soviet institutions, the shepherd on the sovkhoz) will have the opportunity to become an engineer, surgeon, economist, agronomist, etc., in the course of his or her usual work.
    This prospect of uninterrupted intellectual growth will create such an enthusiasm in the widest sector of the population, such an increase in energy and a will to work and to learn as the capitalist world does not dare even to dream of!

  6. Medical institutions must be divided into 2 groups: a system of separate dispensaries and of hospitals.
    The dispensaries must be situated in the residential zone, but the hospitals must be out toward the border of the settlement in more salutary locales. These latter institutions must be built on the pavilion system and, in addition, must not only be hospital-schools but also polymedical clinics that would include hospitals, sanatoriums, scientific institutes, etc. The expediency of this type of organization cannot be disputed.

  7. School buildings (for the first seven years) must be connected with the corresponding children’s dormitories, which, in turn, should be organized along pioneer lines (like camps).
    At the same time, these institutions must be very closely connected to cuiturai-sociai institutions (clubs, libraries, etc.) and production activities. This is the means whereby we will attain the situation—
    that will, in the case of every child over a given age, combine productive labor with instruction and gymnastics, not only as one of the methods of adding to the efficiency of production, but as the only method of producing fully developed human beings (Karl Marx, Kapital).5
    At the same time this will enable the interaction between themselves of various generations of the population on the basis of work and culture, since the present influence of the family on upbringing must be gradually replaced by the influence of the collective. It is self-evident that any attempt to effect a solution to this problem mechanically must be rejected. However, in the new territorial arrangement for population settlements, we must take this problem fully into account in order not to hinder life where it is ripening for the development of new forms.
    We must take into account the fact that the tempo of our reconstruction of the economy cannot bypass nor disregard our standard of living. Any attempts at hindrance to this would clearly be reactionary.

  8. Proceeding from the most rational solution to the problem of services for the whole settlement (or its parts), communal undertakings involving production must be situated in the productive zone. Moreover, the unity of the communal economy must be unconditionally guaranteed. It would be inadmissible if these enterprises were to solve this problem independent of the community services (the separate fire depots, dining halls, water supplies, etc.).

  9. Warehouses must also be situated in the productive zone, in immediate proximity to railway terminals or corresponding activities.

  10. The consideration must be met that in the future, in step with the construction of new buildings, “all unsound and badly built homes and apartments will be destroyed” (K. Marx–F. Engels, Communist Manifesto).6
    In this way, the planning of new settlements and the replanning of existing ones amounts to setting up the zones for the future settlement on the basis of a clearly worked out, most economical plan for movement of goods and people, and a layout for the basic linear system.

These zones should be laid out in the following order:

  1. area for railroad lines (segregated band);

  2. area (zone) of production and communal enterprises, warehouses, station emplacements, and related scientific, technical, and educational institutions;

  3. green belt (buffer zone) with major highway;

  4. residential zone where, in turn, will be laid out:

    1. a) a band of social institutions (dining halls, dispensaries, meeting quarters of the town-village soviets,7 etc.);

      b) a band of residential buildings;

      c) a children’s band, i.e., nurseries, kindergartens, dormitories;8

  5. park zone with institutions for recreation: ball fields, swimming pools, etc.;

  6. zone for garden and dairy sovkhozy (irrigated fields, farms, and similar agricultural enterprises).

No alteration in the internal order of these six basic zones of different purpose should be tolerated under any circumstances since it would not only destroy the overall plan but would hamper the development of each part (the growth of the settlement), would create unsanitary living conditions, and would deprive us of those tremendous advantages which the functional-assembly-line system affords.

In determining the layout of the various zones special attention must be paid to extant bodies of water and to the direction of the prevailing winds.

A solution must be sought which would place these bodies of water (rivers, lakes, large ponds, etc.) on the side of the residential zone. This will not only be an attractive addition to the settlement and will afford a space for parks along their banks for vacation institutions, ball parks, etc., but it also has great sanitary and hygienic significance.9

The matter of prevailing winds must be handled in such a way that prevailing winds blow from the residential side toward the industrial, and not vice versa.

It is self-evident that when we speak of “lines,” “bands,” and “zones” of construction, we have in mind not absolutely straight lines but linear zones which are adjusted to the local topography and to convenient communication. It should be noted, however, that local variations of topography do not play an important role in the layout of most of these zones of settlements.

In this respect, we are subject to a number of misconceptions. For example, it is usual to think that the site for the construction must necessarily be level, forgetting that there are numerous productive processes which depend on vertical or inclined flow (even within the building). It can even be advantageous to place residential and social buildings on hills: for instance, it is convenient to place theatres and auditoriums on an incline. The eccentricities in the configuration of a site are a help and not an obstacle to a keen engineer and architect.

The reason for variations in the lines and layout can be: rivers, transportation, swamps, etc.—but not the desire to obtain a smooth surface which no one needs in the first place.


For purposes of illustration, let us take three plans of Magnitogorsk.

a) The plan for Magnitogorsk that was accepted in competition (Fig. 8) has the following shortcomings:

  1. ) the factory territory is heaped in one lump; there is nowhere to expand;

  2. ) the railroad lines cut off the factories from the residential areas;

  3. ) the institute of higher learning is separated from the factory;

  4. ) the Soviet institutions are also cut off;

  5. ) the distance to work for half the workers will be more than 3 km, reaching as high as 4 and even 7 for some;

  6. ) the residential area is also heaped in a lump. One cannot even speak about contact with rural life;

  7. ) the water basin (Ural River) is not used at all for the settlement;

  8. ) the streets are overextended due to the rectangular layout;

  9. ) the influence of wind blowing from the factory to the settlement has not been entirely eliminated.


b) The plan proposed by OSA (Fig. 9):

  1. ) as regards the planning of the factory and communication routes, this scheme suffers from the same deficiencies as the one accepted in the competition [Fig. 8];

  2. ) the distance to work for the majority of the inhabitants is more than 6 km and reaches 21 km, which means significant wastes in intersettlement transport with probably doubtful results;

  3. ) the residential section is ideally planned, with the exception that the water basin of the Ural River is not utilized.



c) The plan proposed by Stroikom has two major shortcomings (Fig. 10):

  1. ) the distance to work from the homes is from 2 to 21 km;

  2. ) the water basin is hardly utilized.

In other respects the plan is completely satisfactory.

d) Our own proposal for a plan according to the functional-assembly-line system (Fig. 11) is a correction of the plans of OSA and Stroikom, and is devoid of their shortcomings. The longest distance from work is 1½ km, and for most workers it is 500–700 m.

The village is all in greenery and runs along the bank of the Ural, which is dammed to form a lake; special quarters for the technical and higher institutions of learning are near the production centers; the station is in the center of the settlement along with cultural and Soviet institutions. From windows of the residential buildings only the park or the river is visible.

A hospital (laid out in pavilion form) is situated on the bank of the river.

The railroad runs behind the factories and is from 1–2 km away from the residential area.

This plan reveals eloquently the advantages of the functional-assembly-line system from all points of view, without exception.




We see the same situation in the plans for Stalingradtraktorstroi (see Figs. 12–14).

Taking the functional-assembly-line system as our basis for the planning of settlements, we can solve the problem of the most rational and economic arrangement of the transportation. A number of constructions (viaducts, tunnels, approaches, etc.) become entirely unnecessary or can be reduced to a minimum.

Intersettlement transportation is no more the meaningless transportation of endless masses of workers to and from work. It becomes tied to the way of life and, of course, allows a tremendous economy in expenses otherwise wasted on equipment. The streetcars could be replaced by a few buses, taxis, and the like. The extension and number of the paved streets in the settlement can be sharply reduced, and these roads assume the appearance of arterial highways.

The water arteries, running the length of the settlement, open new prospects for inexpensive light-tonnage transportation, by both motor and sail boats. Aviation thus receives a “free” navigating beacon in the form of these ribbon settlements which give by their illumination a sharp outline to the map of the area.14

In brief, the linear nature of transportation finds its best advocate in this system.



Much the same thing can be said for plans for areas of industrial activities. The attempt to shove all the buildings of an enterprise into one heap is in no way justified and it impairs not only the proper planning of a settlement but also the rational organization of the production. As an illustration, above is the plan accepted for the Nizhegorod auto plant now being built (see Fig. 15).15

As is evident from the diagram, the movement of production is particularly complicated. The mechanics’ shops are squeezed in between the pressing, forging, rolling, and open-hearth sections which will have an adverse effect on both personnel and machinery. The flow of production not only swirls about but cuts back into itself. Coal and iron ore going to the open-hearth furnace cross the mechanics’ and the pressing areas; metals on the way to the foundry and forge cross the power station; freight is constantly whirling about in circles; personnel go back and forth to the settlement across the railroad tracks. The whole combine will be like Hell itself.

If only the shops were placed in one stream then we would have the following (see Fig. 16).16

It is easy to see that all the defects we have mentioned before are here cleared up, automatically, with no added wasteful expenses whatsoever and, on the contrary, with significant reductions in expense—thanks to the shortened transport lines and the absence of circular movement within the enterprise.

The layout of shops and machines will give the enterprise unlimited freedom of movement, will help the enterprise to organize the productive processes themselves in the most rational assembly-line fashion, and will bring the work force closer; and this will have a beneficial effect on productivity and will free it from the necessity of constructing a variety of subsidiary buildings such as branch fire stations, nurseries, dining halls, medical offices, etc.


The placement of factory departments, shops, warehouses, etc. between two lines of transportation (railway and highway) provides an exceptional opportunity to eliminate that chaos and crowding which characterize our plants at present.

The illumination and ventilation of shops under this system will be facilitated since in front of their transparent facades will be nothing but greenery or arteries of transport—not other shops. This will also increase the workers’ production significantly. In general, without spending an extra kopeck but frequently even saving one, we can better organize the productive process and make the work healthier and extend the working hours of men and machines by rational arrangement of the buildings (and also of the machines in them).

Finally, in order not to have to return again to layout of productive systems, we should say a word here about the type of buildings for them.

Here (and frequently in the West as well) the fact that contemporary production is based on a process flow (conveyor) is far from being understood. Meanwhile this intrinsically new principle of organization requires a different layout of the machines and, therefore, of the buildings than we had until now. The conveyor, like all other transportation, must have a linear course, intersected only at those points of contact with processed material (assemblage), but not in the processing of the material itself. The principle is not altered even when circular conveyors are used (in bakeries, for example), where the flow is not intersected.

This situation, as well as the ever-in-creasing significance of machines due to the introduction of new processes with huge capacities, means that questions of the construction of factory buildings must be seen in an entirely new light.

We have a long-standing attitude about the expediency of multistory and wide buildings. Our opinion grows out of the fact that the layout of land plots in the West is connected with planning on the line system but that the expense of the land necessitates the upward growth of the complex. In taking over mechanically this experience from the West we do not make the necessary modifications for our own circumstances. We have said enough concerning the advantage of the linear plan; with us, where the price of the land is practically nil, it is a complete waste to spend money on vertical substantial buildings which will long outlast the machines they house. If we would accept narrow, one-story industrial buildings, we could save considerably on their expense. Thus in these buildings foundations become unnecessary since the floor (for instance, made of xylolite17) will lie directly on the ground as will the machines. The walls could be made of glass in wood or metal frames resting on a light foundation (for example, one-cinder-block thick on the north, one-half on the south).

Supports (columns, pillars, walls, etc.) could be made of ordinary wood, and, where necessary, of reinforced concrete or metal constructions; overhead girders can be light beams except where this would be dangerous or in “hot” departments. The roofs could best be covered with tar paper, a cheap and lightweight material, extremely easy to produce.18

It is evident that this kind of construction would last from 20 to 30 years, i.e., about the same length of time as the machines, and would cost about 3–4 times less than brick buildings [i.e., ⅓ – ¼ as much].

Therefore, in any planning of new buildings and factories and in the replanning of those already existing, it is necessary wherever possible to avoid the parallel distribution of units (and machines), to avoid multilevel buildings and deviations from straight lines, never fearing large expanses of territory for industrial activities nor the construction of additional connecting offices.

It is self-evident that in any planning for the layout of such plants, at the basis must be the most rational and economical organization of the technological processes of the given production. Moreover, the planner must constantly keep in mind the creation of healthy and safe conditions for man, for which, above all, are necessary light and air.

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