Ross Wolfe

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In Drawings, The Historical Trajectory of Soviet Architecture

Yakov Chernikhov, Factory building, Ca. 1931, Drafting pen, ink and pencil, 298 x 248 mm. Image Courtesy of the Tchoban Foundation
Yakov Chernikhov, Factory building, Ca. 1931, Drafting pen, ink and pencil, 298 x 248 mm. Image Courtesy of the Tchoban Foundation

This article by Ross Wolfe, originally posted on Metropolis Magazine as "Cultural Divide: The 'Paper Architecture' of the USSR" explores the complexity of various Soviet architecture movements through the lens of paper architecture.

In the history of 20th-century Russian architecture, there exists a central struggle. In one corner, the Constructivists, champions of light, airy, and functional buildings that drew their power from the social and aesthetic revolutions of the 1920s; in the other, the Stalinist architects, whose thuggish hybrids and clumsy pastiche became the predominant vernacular throughout the Soviet republics. The latter, as we know, eventually came out on top.

Things are rather more complicated, of course, as an recent exhibition at Berlin's Tchoban Foundation argued. Architecture in Cultural Strife: Russian and Soviet Architecture in Drawings, 1900-1953 brings together a total of 79 unique architectural delineations that chart a historical trajectory running from the twilight years of the Romanov dynasty up to Stalin’s death by the midcentury.

Read on for more about the multiple movements that made up the whole of Soviet architecture.