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During the space race in the 1950s and 1960s, the task of designing the look of the Soviet Union’s booster rockets, orbital laboratories, space shuttles, and other masterworks of engineering fell to one woman: Galina Balashova. For the budding architect in the midst of a militarized rush into space, the work was also a chance to bring the principles of architecture into places it had never been before.
“The interiors of spaceship is also architecture, [as] architecture is organisation of space and projecting of interiors is the architectural aim,” Balashova, who is now 84, told me by email. “So I never felt that I changed my profession but I [also] never dreamed about space. Never. And my decision to become an architect arose because when I was a small girl I loved to sculpt small houses from loam, so my grandmother said, ‘You should be an architect’ and I became one.”
Her delicate and rich watercolors and pencil illustrations—the design templates for the Soyuz capsules, for the Salyut and Mir space stations, and for the Buran program, the Soviet space shuttle—are testaments to functionality, and have served multiple generations of Russian spacecraft up to the present. But they are also gorgeous works of art, like relics from a nearly forgotten future.
Her own work, much of it once top secret, has itself nearly been forgotten, even within Russia. […]