picked up a book yesterday from the princeton architectural press collecting some of the works by the russian architectural duo of alexander brodsky and ilya utkin and i’m very happy i did. got it for a song and it’s a really gorgeous book. or rather the 28 plates are. they’re an interesting duo, a bit like a visual rosencrantz and guildernstern in that they create etchings together and their styles are indistinguishable within the whole. the buildings and spaces they create are wildly poetic in no small part because they are by and large unbuildable. these are paper architects you see.
some snippets from the books into:
in 1957 kruschev declared socialist realist architecture the “over-decorated” style and abolished the academy of architecture. the notion of a critically assimilated cultural heritage (i.e. the reuse of classical forms to serve modern ideological ends) was replaced by a doctrine of unadorned utilitarianism. modern technology, especially prefabrication, was exploited to produce the urgently needed mass housing and aesthetic discourse of any kind was considered unnecessary and immoral. faceless functionalism continued to dominate throughout the brezhnev years as economic constraints, a hopelessly tangled bureaucratic procedure, a dearth of building materials, and a shrinking body of skilled laborers exacerbated unimaginative planning. this scenario confronted brodsky and utkin and their classmates at the moscow institute of architecture in the mid-seventies.
many of the more creative young soviet designers abandoned the exasperating professional situation they found themselves in while others like brodsky and utkin began using international competitions as a creative outlet.
as brodsky and utkin and a dozen or so other friends began to produce such projects in evenings and weekends over the next few years, the group assumed the title of “paper architects” - a derogatory epithet applied to avant-garde architects still producing radical work after the socialist realist clampdown of the thirties.
brodsky, utkin, and the others began producing visionary schemes in 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. as such their work constitutes a graphic form of architectural criticism, an escape into the realm of imagination that ended as a visual commentary on what was wrong with social and physical reality and how its ills might be remedied.
now that you’re prepped here are 10 of brodsky and utkin’s etchings (click all for large version)-
if your interested in the book try the newer updated edition.