Unique bus stops of the USSR times: a foreigner view
We are glad to acquaint our readers with a unique photo project by a Canadian photographer Christopher Herwig called “Soviet bus stops”, which can be safely called part of the 20th century architectural art. It took the photographer more than 12 years to prepare the project, and the search for unique stops is still ongoing. Perhaps these fancy bus shops will delight you no less than a foreigner.
Why stop exactly?
For many Soviet citizens, a private car was an unaffordable luxury, but the public transport system was well developed, so bus routes were developed even for trips to the most remote corners of a huge country. And here without stopping for transport is not enough.
Like many foreigners, Christopher Herwig did not expect anything special from Soviet architecture.As, however, and many local residents, she remembered him as boring in her functionalism, clumsy and quite spartan in places, leaving no room for imagination. Most of the buildings of the pre-Soviet period seemed attractive, some examples of Soviet constructivism and Moscow, as well as the Tashkent metro, where functionalism was for some reason abandoned in favor of a creative approach that was not financially limited. But there was another reason to admire the photographer in the countries of the former USSR - bus stops. Why exactly are they?
Prior to that, Herwig had a typical idea of what a bus stop is - a place on the side of the road where buses usually stop. As the bus often has to wait for quite a long time, especially if it is intercity, the stops are mainly built in the form of pavilions or shelters with canopies, where you can hide from the rain / snow / scorching sun and sit down to take a breath. It is not surprising that from such buildings, especially on the territory of the Soviet Union, a rather standard, for all the same kind, cheap in terms of mass production is expected. However, the overwhelming majority of Soviet stops go against such stereotypes.Part of the stops, by the way, does not even perform the functions of a shelter and is simply a work of art.
These amazing stops also attracted the attention of Canadian photographer Christopher Herwig, who in 2002 traveled by bicycle from London to St. Petersburg. Then in Latvia, he saw one of the stops that struck his imagination. Further along the way, he found more and more of such fancy buildings on the roadside. Herwig's unusual passion for bus stops resulted in a unique 12-year-old photo project that allowed the photographer to travel around 13 countries, now the former Soviet republics. The culmination of the project was the release in 2015 of the Soviet Bus Stops photo album, which is the result of an epic 30 thousand-kilometer road trip.
In addition to Russia, Christopher traveled almost all the republics of the former USSR: Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Georgia and Abkhazia, Belarus, Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and others. He searched for information on the Internet, talked to locals and truck drivers, even spent hours on Google Maps to find an interesting bus stop.
As Herwig writes, even though the Soviet Union was a very centralized state, unique, imaginative ways of expressing the diversity of the peoples, places and cultures living on its territory were inherent in it anyway. Apparently, at a time when architects did not have significant freedom of expression, constructions associated with transport, were spared from strict design rules. Thus, aesthetics replaced the functionality, and when creating bus stops, unusual sculptures of the 20th century, frescoes and other very inventive designs were used. As a result, the Soviet bus stops delight the eye with its geometricalness in the spirit of constructivism, diluted in a modernist-fanciful form, filled with curved lines and steep corners. Some of the pavilions have retained their bright colors due to the fact that local residents continue to care for them, paying tribute to the Soviet past.
Absolutely different Soviet sculptors and architects worked on the majority of stops, therefore finding two identical ones is very difficult here. Each one brought his own vision to the project: one can only admire the variety of forms and elements.Even those bus stops that did not strike with their architectural quirkiness took with their design - with frescoes and mosaics. And most importantly, most often these pavilions reflected the culture and color of the local population, the sign elements of some historical event or an outstanding industry.
Alas, practically no one has been engaged in maintaining the stops in proper form since the collapse of the USSR, so now almost all the buildings have decayed considerably. Most are now abandoned and not served, but still are a meeting place for many people, a kind of destination where you can wait for friends and head to a more interesting place. “They deserve more,” says Christopher. - They need to be saved, they need to be remembered. Therefore, I created this photo project to perpetuate all this. ”
The most unusual bus pavilions
- The first stop that caught Christopher’s attention. It seemed unusual to him because it looked like an ordinary living room and looked as if it was designed with real care, although it was just a transit point for waiting for the bus.
- This is one of the most unusual, creative and completely non-functional bus stops from the Herwig album. Its author is the famous Georgian sculptor Zurab Tsereteli. She stands in Pitsunda, Abkhazia. There are no benches and benches here, and the roof is completely absent here - not only there is no escape from precipitation, but also from the baking sun - the shadow falls on the road, and not where people are supposed to stand. But it looks futuristic incredible!
- And in the city of Karakol, in Kyrgyzstan, Christopher found just such a monumental stop with a powerful pigeon spread its wings over the benches for passengers, sheltering them from the sun and precipitation, though, judging by the shadows, it is not very effective.
- The most isolated Soviet bus stop from the nearest settlements was Herwigu in the south on the way from the town of Aralsk (Kazakhstan). For whom it was intended, if there is only one desert around, and a glance cannot even catch on the horizon - it is not known. It is made in the form of a Muslim mosque with a minaret.
- One of the most beautiful stops in the photographer's collection is located in the disputed Abkhaz region on the way from Gagra to Sochi, or vice versa.It was built, obviously, in the form of a wave hanging over the passengers, although it also somewhat resembles a sea shell. Its author is also Zurab Tsereteli, who was probably inspired by Gaudi’s sculptures.
- And here is one of the most beloved stops of Herwig in the form of a traditional Kyrgyz headdress: it is very good because it looks very nice, cozy, and also reflects the culture of local residents. Located near the lake Issyk-Kul in Kyrgyzstan.
- The original sculpture stop Herwig found in Saransk (Russia), which was created in the form of a light bulb. Apparently, it was built in honor of the local electric lamp plant.
- An isolated place for the bus stop was found in Charyn, also in Kazakhstan. Despite the fact that such a stop looks quite budget (as if constructed from the remnants of concrete slabs left after the construction of some residential building), it is decorated with care and love. If you look closely, on the plates painted a father with a child on his shoulders, trees and many pigeons as a symbol of peace. And they did not forget to put two plates in the form of a tent to protect against precipitation.
And here is the cover of Christopher Herwig photo albums. In September 2017, he managed to publish the second volume of the “Soviet Bus Stops”, placing in it new photos and comments about the trips and the process of searching for interesting objects:
Here are some of the other unique Soviet stops captured by Christopher in the former Soviet Union - watch the video:Read on: Top 10 most unusual and amazing buildings in the world