Виктор Смышляев, Евгений Буров. Дом на Зубовской площади в Москве, 1985/1986 © Виктор Смышляев, Евгений Буров
Юрий Аввакумов, Михаил Белов. Погребальный небоскреб, или столичный самовозводящийся колумбарий, 1983/1988 © Юрий Аввакумов, Михаил Белов
Centrifugal Tendencies. Tallinn - Moscow - Novosibirsk at the Museum for Architectural Drawing is a continuation in a series of exhibitions focusing on socio-critical, revolutionary intellectual approaches in modern architecture. After exhibitions of the work of American, Canadian and European artists such as Lebbeus Woods, Peter Cook, Rem Koolhaas and OMA, Zaha Hadid and Frank Gehry, we now turn our gaze on the former Soviet Union.
This year it is exactly a century since the historical rupture that was the Russian October Revolution of 1917 brought about radical changes in the political, social and cultural situation of the entire world. The revolutionary character of the early Soviet regime and the charisma of such principle figures as Konstantin Melnikov, Vladimir Tatlin, Alexander Rodchenko and El Lissitzky played a major role in avant-garde architecture and continued to influence and inspire later generations of architects for decades. With the advent of Stalin’s dictatorship, the mood of revolutionary change came to an end: various decreed turns in architectural style, stagnation and planning routines dominated the architecture of the Brezhnev era from the end of the 1970s tothe mid-1980s. This was the hour in which so-called ‘Paper Architecture’ was born, a term coined by one of the best-known figures of the movement and one of the curators of this
exhibition, Yuri Avvakumov.
Emerging as a protest against corrupt and inert state architecture and as a haven for new ideas, methods and approaches, Paper Architecture spread swiftly amongst young students and graduates, especially at the Moscow Architectural Institute, MARCHI. Paper Architecture undoubtedly belonged to the non-conformist culture of the Soviet Union that rang out in the collapse of the totalitarian system and planned economy in the 1980s and served as one of the first harbingers of the coming social change.
Due to its place of origin and the fact that Paper Architecture only existed as such – on paper, parallels can be drawn between the Vkhutemas School and the experimental projects of El Lissitzky, Ivan Leonidov and Yakov Chernikhov, whose projects likewise remained mainly in draft form.
It is interesting to note that these tendencies were arising simultaneously in other cities and other architecture schools. Here, in particular, the Tallinn School and the architecture school in Novosibirsk should be mentioned.
Although the artists belong to different architectural groups and come from three diverse cities, Tallinn, Novosibirsk and Moscow, they were united by the impulse to break out of the routine of late Soviet planning bureaus, dare something new, develop bold projects and confront the issues of environmental change, authority and technology.
The works presented in the exhibition show the entire range of Paper Architecture: from the melancholic philosophical etchings of Alexander Brodsky, redolent of book illustrations rather than architectural presentations and the imaginative works of Yuri Avvakumov and Alexey Pestov, reminiscent of the architectural heritage of the 1920s, to the graphic and pithy drawings of Leonhard Lapin. The exhibited works are not, however, utopias; they are rather fantasies and lay no claim ever to be built or to become a key to the solution of human problems. The fantasies spring from the heads of architects and manifest themselves through their hands in a masterful form of architectural drawing.