History of Soviet Architecture: Brodsky and Utkin's buildings on paper.

Fantastically Hypothetical Buildings on Paper, Drawn by Two Soviet Architects

Fantastically Hypothetical Buildings on Paper, Drawn by Two Soviet Architects

The Vault
Historical Treasures, Oddities, And Delights
Sept. 16 2015 1:20 PM

Fantastically Hypothetical Buildings on Paper, Drawn by Two Soviet Architects

Between 1978 and 1993, Soviet architects Alexander Brodsky and Ilya Utkin created a series of beautifully complex drawings of buildings they never expected would be built. In a new edition of a book collecting their work, Brodsky & Utkin, the range of their "paper architecture" is on display. 

Brodsky and Utkin, who trained at the Moscow Institute of Architecture in the 1970s, became collaborators as students. After graduating and while employed on state-sanctioned projects, they turned to imagined architecture as a creative outlet, working together on drawings that they would then submit to international competitions. Lois Nesbitt writes in her introduction to the book that their work on paper should be considered a response to "a bleak professional scene in which only artless and ill-conceived buildings, diluted through numerous bureaucratic strata and constructed out of poor materials by unskilled laborers, were being erected—if anything." 

While their work has some connections to Western postmodernism, writes Nesbitt, Brodsky and Utkin "eschew[ed] the irony or at least detachment characterizing much postmodern architecture in favor of a reverence for past modes of designing and building." Influences and references Nesbitt identifies include many from the 18th century: Italian and fellow fantastical draftsman Giovanni Battista Piranesi, French visionary architects Étienne-Louis Boullée and Jean-Jacques Lequeu, and Englishman John Soane, who shared Brodsky and Utkin's fascination with the passage of time. 

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Click on the images below to reach bigger, zoomable versions. 

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Columbarium Architecturae (Museum of Disappearing Buildings), 1984/90. Part of the text on the right-hand side of the page reads: "The museum that we propose is called upon to preserve the memory of all disappearing buildings, regardless of whether, during their lifetime, they were architectural monuments or were visited by great and famous people. Each disappearing building, even the most unprepossessing, is an equal exhibit in the museum."

Courtesy of Ronald Feldman Fine Arts Inc

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Columbarium Habitabile, 1989/90. Subtitle of the drawing: "The Inhabited Columbarium or the reservation for little old houses and their inhabitants in a large modern city."

Courtesy of Ronald Feldman Fine Arts Inc

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Contemporary Architectural Art Museum, 1988/90.

Courtesy of Ronald Feldman Fine Arts Inc

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Doll’s House, 1990. Part of the text reads: "This is something like a holy Totem of Indians, a kind of pagan object of adoration placed at home where the children live and designed primarily for them. The children, no matter where they live, are in some sense pagans that sometimes worship the most unexpected things. This Doll's House must have the mysteriousness of the Christmas Tree, the joyfulness of the Maypole and enigmatic spirit of a pagan Idol."

Courtesy of Ronald Feldman Fine Arts Inc

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Dwelling House of Winnie-the-Pooh, 1990. Part of the text reads: "The house is for people who enjoy living in a big modern city but are not entirely happy because of three problems. 1) Nostalgia for a house of one's own. A person living in a big city means by 'my home' no more than a few windows lost in an ocean of the same windows on the huge facade of an apartment building. 2) People always want to decraate their houses distinctively, to make them different from all the others. In a large city today this creative desire is frustrated. 3) Everyone in big cities has especially dear places close to which he would like to live. Houses do not always completely satisfy this desire..."

Courtesy of Ronald Feldman Fine Arts Inc

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Glass Tower II, 1984/90. Part of the text reads: "Why does a Man build a Tower? To fight off enemies? To transmit TV programs? To house more inhabitants and to economize high costly earth? No, no, no! that's a lie, and a masking of the real and the only true function of a Tower—to shout as loud as possible: 'Here I am! Look at how strong and mighty I am!'" This Tower, Brodsky and Utkin write, would be a way for a person to fully display himself: "A man can go upstairs, and at the moment he enters [the tower's single room], his Old Dream comes true: Due to the newest technical inventions and wonderful nature of glass, a little Man will fill in by himself the gigantic tower. And all the town will see him, and every tremendously enlarged spot on his nice face will shout 'Look, here I am!'"

Courtesy of Ronald Feldman Fine Arts Inc