Paper Architects

Group – Moscow, Russian Federation

1981 – 1989

www.utopia.ru

The phrase 'paper architecture' has often been used pejoratively to refer to architects making utopian, dystopian or fantasy projects that were never meant to be built, and in Russia specifically to those producing avant-garde work following the clamp down of the mid-1950s that also abolished the Academy of Architecture in 1957. In the 1980s, a group of young graduates mainly from the Moscow Architectural Institute took on the title Paper Architects in reference to this. At a time when dissenting artists in the Soviet Union were either forced into exile or chose to leave, many architects stayed on to work with the Soviet government. State sanctioned architectural production consisted of standardised buildings with a communist aesthetic that deplored any unnecessary ornament or decoration. Rather than producing such work, the group which included Michael Belov, Alexander Brodsky and Ilya Utkin, Mikhail Flippov, Nadia Bronzova and Yuri Avvakumov amongst others, produced paper architecture as a way of bypassing restrictions and dissenting, as a way to critique the dehumanising nature of Russian architecture of the time and the lack of care for traditional building.

The group, which exhibited collectively under the title Paper Architects in 1984, chose not take part in a system where buildings had to be erected cheaply and quickly with little care for users, where skilled labour was shunned, creativity stifled and architecture was part of a large-scale bureaucratic machinery. These architects were not awarded commissions and had no chance to practice an alternative architecture; in such a context one of the few forms of agency left was a refusal to participate in a bankrupt system.

Other Work

Nora FitzGerald, 'Paper architects and the razing of Moscow [Interview: Yuri Avvakumov]', Russia Beyond the Headlines, 2010, http://rbth.ru/articles/2010/02/24/240210_avvakumov.html [accessed 19 March 2010].

References About

Mark Alden Branch, 'Paper architects "build" in New York gallery [exhibition review]', Progressive architecture, 71 (1990), 25.

Lois Nesbitt, Brodsky and Utkin: The Complete Works, 2nd edn (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2003).

Anna Sokolina, 'Alternative Identities: Conceptual Transformations in Soviet and Post-Soviet Architecture', Art Margins, 2001, http://www.artmargins.com/index.php/featured-articles/371-alternative-identities-conceptual-transformations-in-soviet-and-post-soviet-architecture [accessed 18 March 2010].

---, 'In Opposition to the State: The Soviet Neoavant-garde and East German Aestheticism in the 1980s', Art Margins, 2002, http://www.artmargins.com/index.php/featured-articles/310-in-opposition-to-the-state-the-soviet-neoavant-garde-and-east-german-aestheticism-in-the-1980s [accessed 18 March 2010].

Ines Weizman, 'Interior exile and paper architecture: a spectrum for architectural dissidence', in Agency: Working With Uncertain Architectures, ed. by Florian Kossak and others, 1st edn (London: Routledge, 2009), pp. 154-164.

'Transit. Paper Architecture. Sketch Book', Stella Art Foundation, 2007, http://en.safmuseum.org/news/id79.html [accessed 19 March 2010].
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