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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