To celebrate the upcoming release of our new book Tolyatti, we ask its authors Michele Cera and Guido Sechi for their five favourite images from the project.
The chess club room in the picture is located at the ‘social block’ of one of the first residential complexes in the Avtozavodsky district, built in the late 1960s. The block was meant for socio-cultural activities for the residents (library, sport club…) and it preserved its functions (some of them were privatized) to this day. On the day we visited the block, unknowingly to us, a chess tournament in memory of the centenary of the foundation of the Komsomol of Samara region was being held (by initiative of the local Communist Party of the Russian Federation).
As a planned city in an officially atheist country, Tolyatti was devoid of places of worship until the collapse of the USSR in 1991. Orthodox churches and religious buildings are indeed the most recognizable landmarks of post-Soviet architecture in the city. This picture is an example of functional post-Soviet transformation in this regard: the portrayed indoor space is a church that used to be a small micro-district cinema. The seats are, indeed, former cinema chairs.
For both political-ideological reasons (fostering a collective and proletarian civic culture) and ‘ergonomic’ quality of life concerns, residential district planning in post-Stalinist USSR paid a lot of attention to common spaces for social interaction. The courtyards of Soviet kvartali (residential blocks) are still one of the most important places for interaction in Tolyatti, especially for children and the elderly.
The Saturn cinema, built in 1972, was one of the most impressive public buildings in the Soviet-era Avtozavodsky district. Nowadays, no longer a movie theatre, it is the only large private cultural/recreational building in the district, shared by a free climbing gym and a bicycle club for children. Bicycle lessons are held in the surrounding open space.
On the last day we had a stroll on the Volga river embankment, a large and basically informal public space where Tolyatti residents go fishing, have barbecues, sunbathe and go swimming. This child caught our attention – later, this picture looked like an appropriate ending for the book.
Published Sep 2020. See details of the book here