Friday, April 4, 2014

The Armenian Icon of Soviet Design

There are only few names involved in Armenian car design, and this is explained by the almost complete lack of car industry in our country.
Imagine the delight and excitement I felt , when I came across the name of Svetlana Mirzoyan on one of the websites dedicated to car design.
It turns out that the name of this Armenian woman was well known throughout the world of automotive design during the Soviet period, but, let's start from the beginning.
Svetlana Mirzoyan was born in Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg) in 1936, in a highly educated family (her father was a doctor and her mother-biologist).
In 1962 she entered the Leningrad Higher School of Art and Industry the department of metal art design. The school was one of the best of its kind in the Soviet Union.
It was a great honor and privilege to study at that school, since only the best sculptors, architects and other highly skilled specialists were teaching there.
Once, during the presentation of Svetlana's graduation work, the dean of the faculty Joseph Wax announced the following, 'If there has been any ideal student in the history of the school, it should be Svetlana!'.

After the brilliant graduation, she moved to Latvia and got a job at RAF (Riga Autobus Factory).
In 1959, RAF was still considered as a newly founded factory and had manufactured only a few experimental models, but was planning to launch the mass production of new and high standard minibuses. The young Armenian specialist was among those who shouldered the responsibility of implementing this grand project.
She was responsible not only for creating a new style, logo and advertising brochures, but also for defending the project in the higher authorities.
Svetlana managed to invent a totally new looking car in a short period of time (In the Soviet Union everything was strictly scheduled-even human imagination and creative thinking were limited by time).
In 1960 at the London International Motor show the company received an award for its RAF 977 'Latvia'   minibus. In that year, the company started bulk deliveries of the minibus in various modifications to different countries of the world. In 1961 and 1962, RAF 977 received awards at international motor shows in Brussels and Paris.
Indeed, those achievements were Svetlana's personal victories. Who could imagine that the designer of the culturally iconic RAF was our countrywoman?

In 1963, Svetlana started to work for the bureau of art projects at one of the six branches of the All-Soviet Research Institute of Technical Aesthetics, which had been founded in 1962.
Grabbing all the opportunities, she successfully exerted every effort for her projects to go on production. The results of her talent were reflected in various spheres of Soviet production (tableware, telephones, furniture.,house and industrial vacuum cleaners, searchlights, and of course, the first Soviet high-speed train ER-200).
In 1964 she began to collaborate with the Civil Aviation Plant no.85 and designed a large number of steam engine vehicles to support airplanes and airport facilities, among such products was Leonid Brezhnev's personal boarding ramp.

Soviet power allegedly killed design and creative thought, as a result, women in monotonous and boring dresses, little choice of toys, tastelessly furnished apartments, and streets full of similarly looking cars.
By striving for equality, they only gained featurelessness.
But in spite of the allegations that the Soviet Union was destitute of design, we should, single out the names of the people whose hard work linked our present those historical times.
Whenever I look back in time,the past depicting pictures of the fixed-run taxis, fantastically looking airports and the futuristic boarding ramps start to revive before my eyes;all these characters are tightly connected with the name of Svetlana Mirzoyan.