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In western Europe, the bus stop is the most humble of building types, a meanly utilitarian structure that adds little or nothing to the roadside. But in the old Soviet empire, from the shores of the Black Sea to the Kazakh steppe, the norm is “wild going on savage”, as Jonathan Meades writes in a beautiful new photobook featuring 159 bus stops, each illuminating “the Soviet empire’s taste for the utterly fantastical”.
Just as 18th-century English follies were often try-outs for new architectural styles, some of these roadside pavilions may have been experiments for bigger things. As such, they were opportunities for local sculptors, architects and builders to flex their creative muscles – and boy did they let rip.
Soviet Bus Stops, by Canadian photographer Christopher Herwig with a foreword by Meades, is brimming with pyramids and arches, domes and vaults, improbable structural feats that often appear to be held together with not much more than several coats of thickly daubed paint. From a rusting corrugated tin roof above a lonely bench in Armenia, to the heaving ceramic confections along the Abkhazian coast, every architectural style and aesthetic whim is explored, limited only by the designer’s imagination and whatever materials they could lay their hands on. […]