Leningrad: Leningr. obl. otdeleniye Vses. obiedineniya
«Mezhdunarodnaya kniga», 1933. 102 pp., 101 ill. in colour mounted on the leaves:
ill. 30,8x22,3 cm. In original publisher’ cloth with blind stamping. Near fine. Spine is
First edition. Scarce. One of 3000 copies. This is the last and one of the
most powerful works published during Yakov Chernikhov’s lifetime (1889-1951).
Standing somewhat aside from the 1920s avant-garde circles, Chernikhov investigated
the constructive principles of architecture and developed his own unique style
characterized by the amalgam of different movements, namely suprematism, cubism,
and expressionism. This kind of architectural eclecticism and an idea of a new world
proposed by the architecture were unsurprisingly met with considerable resistance
from the authorities.
Written in 1933, Architectural Fantasies was a culmination of the author’s
search for the form and images of a new architecture initiated by him in his previous
books: The Art of Graphic Representation (1927), Fundamentals of Contemporary
Architecture (1930), The Construction of Architectural and Machine Forms (1931), etc.
Although the Soviet Piranesi (as Chernikhov was often referred to) was
always distinguished for his revolutionary tendencies, Architectural Fantasies exceeded
all expectations: meticulous compositions depicting utopian cities and buildings,
fantasies envisioning an industrialized future and colourful designs unordinary for the
‘cloudy’ architecture of the 1920s Soviet Union practically shook society. Against this
background, it is a mystery how the censorship allowed something so extraordinary to
appear in print.
The seeds of the architect’s fantasies never had a chance to germinate in
the Soviet Union: his graphical work was denounced as merely fantastical and formal.
Chernikhov had no other choice but to continue his practice under the new socialrealist
revival. From 1935 until his death in 1951, the architect worked continuously on
a series of drawings in the majority of which he inclined towards historical traditions.
The potential of ‘‘Architectural Fantasies’’ lay dormant until Chernikov and
other Constructivist architects were ‘‘rediscovered’’ in the 1980s, inspiring a new
generation of architects worldwide in a movement that was labelled ‘‘deconstructivist’’.
It is important to note, that few of his designs were built and very few
appear to have survived. Amongst the latter is the tower of the Red Carnation factory
in St. Petersburg.