Soviet space programme: Philipp Meuser lifts the lid on the seminal cosmic design of Galina Balashova
With this modest monograph, Philipp Meuser lifts the lid on a little considered figure in the annals of space exploration. Galina Balashova still lives in Moscow but spent the best part of her life shaping the forms, ergonomics, colour, style and typography of Soviet Russia’s ambitious space programme. Meuser reproduces a host of beautiful watercolours from the architect’s personal archives, kept off-limits by Soviet secrecy for many years.
The internet has brought a closer focus on the technology and achievements of the Soviet push into space, with a relentless emphasis on abandoned plans, ruined schemes and the perception of a barely plumbed-together fleet.
Balashova’s precise brush and eye for colour dispels all that in a single image – a space capsule that looks as put together and composed as an Arne Jacobsen hotel room, or a page of colour swatches that look desperately contemporary.
From Soyuz, to Mir, Buran and beyond, Balashova created interiors, logos and badges, contributing a personal touch to the programme that went above and beyond. Perhaps her most poignant works were small watercolour scenes of Russia for incorporation into the spacecraft, to buoy memories of the motherland. ’These pictures no longer exist, since they were incinerated with those parts of the spacecraft that burn up during landing,’ she writes, ’However, each individual watercolour remains engraved in my memory and hopefully in those of the cosmonauts.’