The Soviet Roadside Bus-stop
Departure from the common and boring , Next stop the wild and crazy
For the most part Soviet architecture and design is remembered for its heavy block buildings and functionally Spartan designs. Its overpowering desire for conformity left little room for individual creative freedom. A notable exceptions to this is in the transportation sector. One can admire this creativity in the Metro stations of cities like Moscow and Tashkent where the coldness and sterility of typical soviet urban architecture is abandoned and costs are not spared as creative freedom is unleashed. While many of us are aware of the elaborate splendor of the Moscow underground, it is easy to overlook the phenomenon of the common roadside bus stop as an example of soviet art and design letting loose and becoming a little weird and crazy.
The roadside bus stop serves a simple purpose – to show where the bus will stop and to provide some comfort and shelter for waiting passengers. One would think that the Soviets would have come up with one universal design for this community structure – simple, functional and cheap to mass produce. However, in many instances this was not the case, much time, effort and imagination went into many roadside bus stops. The sky was the limit with different shapes and design– blocks, domes, columns, towers, A-frames and archways, even ones shaped like birds, yurts and hats. If the bus stop was less bold and daring with its architectural design then the creators would often attract attention with decorating the structure with murals or mosaics. The themes that these decorated bus stops took usually varied depending on the region, often reflecting the local culture, history, or industries.
Sadly, with the breakup of the Soviet Union many of the bus stops are quickly deteriorating from their original glory. That being said some local communities have recognized the local treasures as worthy of preserving and have maintained and repainted them. They will appear in the most unlikely places – sometimes in the middle of the desert, steppe or countryside, sometimes with no homes in sight. They will make you wonder why and they will make you smile. The following collection of images was taken during 2002 and 2006, starting with a cycling trip through the Baltic countries to St. Petersburg and followed by several road trips around Central Asia.
Christopher Herwig Photography