Avant-Garde Architects Brodsky and Utkin in the Spotlight

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Avant-Garde Architects Brodsky and Utkin in the Spotlight
Fragment of “Columbarium Architecturae” (Museum of Disappearing Buildings), 1984-90, a response to the destruction of Moscow’s old buildings.
Avant-Garde Architects Brodsky and Utkin in the Spotlight
Fragment of “Columbarium Architecturae” (Museum of Disappearing Buildings), 1984-90, a response to the destruction of Moscow’s old buildings.

The early works of Russian avant-garde architects Alexander Brodsky and Ilya Utkin — copper plate etchings of dystopian and fantastical worlds — are in the spotlight again, with an exhibition of the duo’s work at the Tate Modern in London as part of the gallery’s ongoing “Poetry and Dream” displays, and a reprint of “Brodsky & Utkin,” a collected volume of their etchings.

The duo, who met as students in 1972 at the Moscow Institute of Architecture, combines architecture with fine art in their extremely detailed and dense etchings, many of which took years to make. Since they never intended for their proposals to ever be realized, this work came to be known as “paper architecture.” Despite this, it has influenced countless younger architects and won the team international acclaim.

Taya Osipova, an architect working in Moscow, spoke to The Moscow Times about the significance of paper architecture. “For us as students, it was a translation of architectural language into the field of art, an experiment with imagination and a professional way to express an idea that went beyond the understanding of space. Unlike the routine of architectural practice, it looked like a way to create something sacred, desirable — a different place.”

Most of the examples presented in “Brodsky & Utkin” were submitted as competition entries for Japan Architect magazine’s annual conceptual design competitions in the 1980s, when they were finally allowed to show their work outside the Soviet Union. First published in 1991 and long out of print, the book is a comprehensive overview of the duo’s etchings — many of which won prizes — that are a window into a fantastical world somewhere between dream and reality where memories of the past and visions of the future collide. []

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