Hotel Venets was part of a larger complex of buildings, that were specially constructed to mark the anniversary in Ulyanovsk, a small Soviet town formerly known as Simbirsk, renamed in honour of its most famous son, Lenin (born Ulyanov). A photo album discovered amid the archives of the local history museum, published by the Leningrad architects who designed the hotel, contained photographs of the hotel when it first opened, revealing its original interiors. During its 47 years of operation, the hotel underwent many distinct renovations. For the exhibition Space Force Construction, I used one of these photographs as a reference for reconstructing a three-room luxury suite within the palazzo in Venice. Accompanying this is a selection of postcards featuring photographs of today’s Ulyanovsk, titled Ascension to ‘Olympus’ (a rooftop bar called “Olympus” recently opened in the Venets). These images capture my experience of travelling to Ulyanovsk on the eve of the centennial anniversary of the October Revolution. Checking into the hotel, I worked my way up from the first floor to the very top, spending one night in each room, until at last, on New Year’s Eve, I reached ‘Olympus’.
This wonderful book documents the architectural results of another Soviet anniversary – the celebrations of the centenary of Lenin’s birth in Ulyanovsk, formerly Simbirsk, the small city on the Volga where he was born. Told by the authorities in Moscow that the ‘door would be open’ for them to modernise their mainly wooden, one-storey, Tsarist city for the duration of the celebrations, and that they’d close it immediately when it was over, the local Party rushed to build a Museum, a Library, a Palace of Culture, housing, an Airport and the high-rise Hotel Venets before the tap of money and resources was turned off. In its first year of opening, two Poles, 70 Britons, and more than 3,000 East Germans arrived to stay in the Hotel Venets, and we get to read the inventory of difficult questions they answered (‘can we see how people live in those little wooden houses?’), and find out how hotel staff took it out on the guests. — Owen Hatherley, The Architectural Review