Constrained by the Limitations of Soviet-Era Architecture, Brodsky & Utkin Imagined Fantastical Structures on Paper

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Hill with a Hole, 1987/90
. Courtesy of Ronald Feldman Fine Arts Inc.

To be an architect with vision in the Soviet Union during the 1970s and 80s, was to witness a near complete loss of Moscow’s historical architectural heritage. Restrictions on aesthetics, quality building materials, and access to skilled labor resulted in poorly designed structures void of inspiration that were practically destined to crumble. Architects with any shred of ambition were severely limited by communist bureaucracy and were often outright penalized for their ideas. Desperately seeking a creative outlet, these constrained artists and designers turned instead to paper.

Perhaps the most vivid example of this is the work of renowned Soviet “paper architects” Alexander Brodsky and Ilya Utkin who from 1978 to 1993, retreated into their imaginations to create fantastical etchings as a revolt against communist architecture. Paper architecture (or visionary architecture), is the name given to architecture that exists only on paper that possesses visionary, often impossible ideas interlaced with whimsey, humor, satire, and science fiction.

Building on ideas borrowed from Claude Nicolas Ledoux, the design of Egyptian tombs, and urban master plans envisioned by Le Corbusier, the duo conceived of obsessivly detailed renderings that seeme to fill every inch of the canvas with buildings, bridges, arches, domes, and schematics. Through these artworks, Brodsky & Utkin criticized the aesthetic norms of the day until their partnership ended shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Princeton Architectural Press just released the third edition of Brodsky & Utkin, a large volume containing 30 duotones from the artists, but also includes “an updated preface by the artists’ gallery representative, Ron Feldman, a new introductory essay by architect Aleksandr Mergold, visual documentation of the duo’s installation work, and rare personal photographs.” Several Brodsky & Utkin prints are also currently on view at Tate Modern. (via Hyperallergic)

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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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Diomede, 1989/90
. Courtesy of Ronald Feldman Fine Arts Inc.

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Doll’s House, 1990
. Courtesy of Ronald Feldman Fine Arts Inc.

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Dwelling House of Winnie-the-Pooh, 1990. 
Courtesy of Ronald Feldman Fine Arts Inc.

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Glass Tower II, 1984/90. Courtesy of Ronald Feldman Fine Arts Inc.

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Ship of Fools or a Wooden Skyscraper for the Jolly Company, 1988/90. Courtesy of Ronald Feldman Fine Arts Inc.

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Villa Nautilus, 1990. Courtesy of Ronald Feldman Fine Arts Inc.

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Courtesy of Ronald Feldman Fine Arts Inc.

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Courtesy of Ronald Feldman Fine Arts Inc.

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