El lissitzky’s other wolkenbügel: Reconstructing an abandoned architectural project

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While convalescing from tuberculosis in Switzerland during the winter of 1924-25, El Lissitzky completed a design for a horizontal skyscraper that he had pondered for almost two years. He called the building his Wolkenbügel, asking the German word for skyscraper (Wolkenkratzer) to take on the building’s precariously balanced multistory horizontal bracket (Bügel), as if replicating his creation’s internal tensions. Realizing such a project was, it could be said, imperative for Lissitzky, whose four-year engagement with abstract painting was originally intended as little more than a tactical diversion of painting’s creative surplus into the field of architecture. To differentiate his activities from mere painting, the artist had coined a new term for his works: Proun. 1 The neologism probably derived from a slogan, Project for the Affirmation of the New (Proekt utverzhdeniia novogo), intimately bound to an artists’ collective, UNOVIS (Utverditeli novogo iskusstva, Affirmers, or Champions, of the New Art), that Lissitzky and the inventor of Suprematism, Kazimir Malevich, had joined while they served as instructors at the Vitebsk People’s Art School, in early 1920. But after Lissitzky devoted the years 1922 and 1923 to propagandizing the achievements of postrevolutionary Soviet art abroad, his neologism threatened to devolve into empty phraseology if its architectural product did not appear.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)147-169
Number of pages23
JournalArt Bulletin
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 3 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts
  • History


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