Ivan Fomin was a Russian architect of early Stalinist architecture phase who had proficiency in Neoclassical and Art Nouveau style. Gifted with an amazing creative approach towards designing, his skills got polished under the famous architect of Art Nouveau style, Fyodor Schechtel.
Ivan Fomin was born on 3 rd February 1872 in Oryol. He went to high school in Riga and later went to Moscow University to pursue a degree in mathematics. He then went to St. Petersburg to study architecture in 1894. Fomin was an active participant in college politics and other political activities, which later on resulted in his expulsion from the college. But he continued to study and completed his study in France. Before beginning the practice he applied for contractor’s license which he got and then he settled in Moscow.
Fomin had a great opportunity to work under the famous and influential architects of that time Fyodor Schechtel and Lev Kekushev. Both of these architects were considered as the masters of the Art Nouveau which gave Fomin a proper exposure to this style of designing. Working with Fyodor Schechtel gave him the opportunity of designing Moscow Art Theater, which was his first project in which he got paid for his work.
Ivan Fomin was considered as a promoter of Art Nouveau. One of the main reason behind it was that he was continuously funded for it by Reck family. One of his main work which earned a name for him was Wilhelmina Reck mansion situated at Skatertny Lane. Fomin decorated the main areas of this mansion by plastered floral designs. Since Art Nouveau was getting all the hype in that era in Europe, Fomin felt the need of organizing an exhibition for all the architects and people who admired this style of architecture. He made sure that other people in this field also get a suitable platform for their work so he contacted them for his exhibition.
Finally, in 1902-03, he held the big exhibition in which guests like Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Koloman Moser, and Joseph Maria Olbrich and other famous Russian artists were called. Fomin put a lot of his effort in arranging the furniture and all other entities that were required to make the interiors in Art Nouveau style.
Since Art Nouveau was getting all the hype in that era in Europe, Fomin felt the need of organizing an exhibition for all the architects and people who admired this style of architecture. He made sure that other people in this field also get a suitable platform for their work so he contacted them for his exhibition. Finally, in 1902-03, he held the big exhibition in which guests like Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Koloman Moser, and Joseph Maria Olbrich and other famous Russian artists were called. Fomin put a lot of his effort in arranging the furniture and all other entities that were required to make the interiors in Art Nouveau style.
Coming of Neoclassicism
Despite having such a popular name Fomin couldn’t manage to get a license for himself to practice architecture from his name. By the start of 1903 Neoclassicism style of designing gained popularity within Russia and nearby places. This style required both money and a combination of technology with the art. More and more people started to turn towards this kind of designing majorly big firms, banks, big stores and offices.
In 1905, Fomin decided to go to St. Petersburg to attend a course at the Academy of Arts. By 1909 he completed his course by Benois and also won a tour for himself to Greece, Egypt, and Italy. After this, he got an interest to what was popular at that time period, Neoclassicism. He published his first draft for this in 1903.
Fomin was a firm believer of uniting the architectural field is good for overall ongoing competition. His exhibition was a true example for it. Moreover, he continued to do such gatherings, for example ‘History of Russian Art’ (1909) and ‘History of Architecture’ (1911) and he also continued to do Art Nouveau shows. He also expressed his views and tried to unite the architecture community of that time in Russia by writing into Mir Iskusstva’s magazine. He also had a soft corner for the work which was done in past, so he ran and participated in various preservation programs of these sites.
Fomin faced difficulties in renovation due to the outbreak of World War one. He somehow completed the interiors of Abamelek- Lazarev Mansion and Polovtsov Mansion. The huge and a golden opportunity which he got at this time to do the general planning of Goloday Island was also interrupted by WW1. Only two buildings of that site stands today which he completed with the collaboration of Fyodor Lidval.
Influential Years (1918-1926)
The Russian Civil war did a tremendous damage to the overall economic condition of the country. The architecture was directly and immensely affected. But Fomin was able to get the place at St. Petersburg zoning commission which gave him the hold to take decisions and plan for the city. He designed the landscape of very famous ‘Field of Mars’ which is a nine-hectare park on the theme of Mars.
The years 1918-1926 were proved truly influential for him also because of his work at VKhUTEMAS. Over there he trained architecture students and was able to seed down his views and thoughts through teaching them. These future architects later maintained his philosophies.
Fomin’s idea of maintaining old style with new technologies was greatly appreciated and accepted. The basic important principals of classicism were now being executed by modern technology.
The Last Years And Legacy
In 1929, Fomin shifted to Moscow. There he designed Dynamo building which was a unique and marvelous combination of Neoclassicism and the modern way. Classic floral and natural designs with concrete slabs and steel frames were now able to give the strength and the beauty to the building at the same time.
Fomin was then considered as the early master of Stalinist Architecture. Despite being such a reputed and a known architect he took part in many architectural contests, Kursky Rail Terminal and Moscow Metro’s first stage are the main examples.
Fomin died due to a sudden stroke in 1936. His last and most important project on the ground was Government of Ukraine’s building which is a ten-storey building and a beautiful mark considered on the early history of Stalinist Architecture. The soviet government also appreciated by mentioning this building in the textbooks of architecture students.
Fomin was buried at Novodevichye Cemetery, Teatyralnaya. His son followed his path, he became an architect, in fact, a very good one and completed many of his father’s unfinished work. Fomin was not only a professional architect but his ideas and vision of uniting the architectural field is the reason that he is respected among all. Some of his most famous works are:
- Wilhelmina Reck Mansion-1900,
- Teatralnaya Station, Moscow Metro,
- Government of Ukraine’s Building