Thomas Cubbin

History of Design

E Bogdanov, V Paperny, V Revzin, A Riabushin and A Sergeev, The Domestic Information Machine, 1972


Title of Dissertation: From Technocracy to Techno-Utopia – Futurology and the Soviet home at VNIITE 1964–1974

The subject of my research has been the revival of the industrial design profession in the Soviet Union during the 1960s. After a gap of over 30 years since the dissolution of the Constructivist school of design VKHUTEMAS, it fell to the newly established All-Union Scientific Research Institute for Technical Aesthetics (VNIITE) to set about reconfiguring design for an era of rapid modernisation. Inspired by scientific– rationalist design theories, VNIITE tried to create an industrial design methodology appropriate to socialism, free from the uncoordinated ‘chaos’ of the free market.

Based on archival work in Moscow as well as interviews with designers, I have written about how VNIITE’s ‘Department for Cultural and Household Goods’ intended to regulate the relationship between the designer, industry and society in order to create ‘harmony of the material environment’. The programme quickly descended into a technocratic attempt to control the function and quantities of goods down to the smallest detail, before they had even been designed.

Not everybody agreed with these principles. The section of the department given over to futurological work created an alternative vision of the socialist material environment inspired by Western avant- garde designers such as Archigram and Haus-Rucker-Co. They challenged the revival of controlling modernist practices within VNIITE and the architectural mainstream. By researching computer systems and mass communications, they called for the elimination of the physical collectivity of the collective and envisaged a networked communism fit for the approaching postindustrial society.

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Supported by: The Montjoie Prize

© Vladimir Paperny



BA (Hons), Russian with Czech, University of Sheffield, 2010


PhD studentship, Wolfson Foundation PhD Studentship, 2012; Research funding, Montjoie Prize, Royal College of Art, 2011


VNIITE: All-Union Scientific Research Institute for Technical Aesthetics in Our Metamorphic Futures. Design, technical aesthetics and experimental architecture in the Soviet Union 1960-1980, Tom Cubbin, ed. Andres Kurg, Estonian Academy of Arts, 2012; Resurrecting Past Futures, Tom Cubbin, Estonian Art, Eesti Instituut, 2012


The Domestic Information Machine as a 'Deartifactualised' Object of the Soviet Future, Designing Socialist Modernity, Royal College of Art, 2012