Cleanness Factory

The Constructivist bathhouse, built in the early Soviet days, welcomes Moscow swimmers and architecture enthusiasts.

After the October Revolution, the new authorities were concerned about the lack of hygiene awareness among its citizens, and considerable effort was directed at sanitary enlightenment of people. Workers’ clubs and “houses of culture” became its loudspeakers: thematic plays and educational games were staged, leaflets were distributed and banners with catchy slogans decorated the public spaces. One tagline perfectly describes the 1920s zeitgeist in the Soviet state: “One not bathed and clean is a bad communist, those angry at water and soap are not needed in the Komsomol.”

But sanitary conditions could not be improved by propaganda alone: in 1930 two industrial-scale bathhouses were opened in Moscow. One of them, designed by architect Sergey Panin, covered a huge area of 10,000 square meters near the Likhachev automotive plant (ZiL) and could serve 400 people an hour. It featured one of the largest covered swimming pools in the USSR, several steam rooms as well as dozens of shower units and baths, which were considered progressive facilities at the time. 

Originally, there were no decorative elements: heating and ventilation pipes as well as metal beams were left bare, emphasizing the bathhouse’s sanitary function. In the 1930s the sculptures “Sportsman” and “Swimmer” were added to the decor. The monumental building’s character mostly survived the following eras of reconstructions and urban planning, although the interiors were heavily changed during the 1980s-2000s and the whole right wing was destroyed to make space for Moscow’s third traffic ring. Now the bathhouse is still operational, standing as a monument to progressive ideas of the past and providing opportunities for physical fitness to modern urbanites.

Text adapted from the book “Bathhouse of Rogozhsk-Simonov District,” published by the Moscow Avantgarde Centre in collaboration with “Togda” project.