Friendship of People’s Palace. Tashkent, Uzbekistan
Architects: Y. Rozanov, E. Sukanova, S. Schestopalov and Y. Schumov
The Uzbek capital of Tashkent is characterized by generous road axes and extensive open spaces in front of impressive solitary buildings. Following the devastating earthquake of 1966, urban planners took the opportunity to realise the visions of modernism. In this light, vast spatial situations were created, which remain empty on hot summer days and, from time to time, have a strangely unsettling effect on the individual. One of these large axes, is the one that visually connects the building of the Tashkent Circus with the former Friendship of People’s Palace – a voluminous concrete structure towering above a large plateau at the end of a broad, gradually inclined outdoor area.
The palace was designed in remembrance of the great solidarity Tashkent had experienced from neighbouring Soviet republics during the time of reconstruction. A simple rectangle in plan, the building distinguishes itself from others mainly through the rich ornamentation of its facade, which combines oriental decoration with elements inspired by technology. The embellishments in the shape of enormous bolt heads along the edge of the roof are particularly striking. They are reminiscent of machines and lend the building a technoid character that seems to disagree with its cultural function as an event space. In contrast, the pandzharas, the traditional shading elements, appear considerably smaller.
Pandzharas are lattice-like building components often used in Tashkent. Placed in front of the facade, they regulate the incidence of light but also significantly define the external appearance of the building. In the case of the palace, they are made of concrete and follow a rigid geometric pattern of isosceles triangles. They are placed in recesses between long, slender concrete struts that rise from the ground all the way up to the underside of the roof and thereby structure the building. The modern ‘temple of events’ presents itself as a heavy-weight and only upon taking a closer look, does the building dissolve into its individual, delicate components. Due to the elements’ varied structuration and depth, the impression of the building changes with the observer’s perspective – from closed to permeable. The same pandzhara pattern had already been used ten years earlier for the Lenin Museum (today: State Museum of History of Uzbekistan), where architect Rosanow had also been involved. However, while the simple cube of the Lenin Museum is covered by a continuous skin of pandzharas, at the Friendship of People’s palace, the sunscreens become one of many cladding elements. This ornamental overload, which further increases toward the roof, gives the building an oppressive appearance.
The orientalisation of modernism was a peculiarity of the predominantly Muslim region at the southern border of the Soviet Union. It was essential for the development of a distinct architectural language and is reflected in many buildings of the capital city. The examples of Tashkent illustrate in particular the genesis of a local interpretation of modernism by incorporating one’s own architectural tradition. The theme of national decoration gradually spread across Uzbekistan and other constituent republics of the Soviet Union.
text by Uta Gelbke