From children’s building blocks and model ships to student work at VKhUTEMAS and the designs of professional architects and artists, Soviet models in the 1920s and '30s operated equally in the present and in the nation’s idealized future. These objects stood in for projects to be constructed later, at a larger scale—when their builders became adults, for example, or when conditions would allow for the realization of revolutionary plans. Images of models often engaged the documentary powers of photography to play further with scale and temporality, presenting planned constructions as plausible (or even already completed) buildings. Attending especially to photomontage, itself formulated as a kind of model making, “Happy Soviet Model Childhood” explores how representations of architectural models and their makers, large and small, presented early Soviet utopian visions as monumental facts.
Juliet Koss is associate professor and chair of the Department of Art History at Scripps College in Claremont, California. She is the author of Modernism after Wagner (University of Minnesota Press, 2010) and publishes and lectures widely in the United States and Europe on modern European art, architecture, and related fields. She has received fellowships from the American Association of University Women, the NEH, the Mellon Foundation, the Getty Research Institute for the History of Art and the Humanities, the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal, and the Humboldt Foundation in Bonn/Humboldt University in Berlin. In 2009 she was a Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin and in 2011 she was the Rudolf Arnheim Visiting Professor at the Humboldt University in Berlin. Her current book project is titled Model Soviets, Monumental Snapshots, and the Perfect Future.