The University Record, January 18, 1993

‘Architectural fantasies’ on display in Rackham Galleries

By Terry Gallagher
News and Information Services

The “architectural fantasies” of Iakov Chernikhov, on display in the Rackham Galleries through Feb. 1, are not plans for buildings as much as they are proposals for a new world of architectural form and a new language of vision.

Chernikhov was a leading architect, graphic artist, theorist and teacher in the Soviet Union in the 1920s and 1930s, during an exceptionally productive period in the Russian arts. His role in the Soviet avant-garde has gained attention in recent years as more of his original compositions have been included in international exhibitions.

“Chernikhov epitomized a phenomenon in architecture that is centuries old—the architecture of the mind,” says Anatole Senkevitch Jr., associate professor of architecture and of history of art and curator of the exhibit.

“This type of visionary architecture is less concerned with designing buildings than it is with fantasizing a world and populating it in the imagination,” Senkevitch says. “Chernikhov’s richly varied and prodigious work places him in a lineage with Piranesi as one of the great architectural fantasists.”

The exhibition, which includes hundreds of drawings, paintings and other objects, “presents a rare opportunity to study in original form the spectacular architectural graphics of this talented Russian avant-garde architect, graphic designer and teacher,” Senkevitch adds. “The University community is very fortunate to have this rare opportunity to benefit from such a world-class exhibition.”

Ranging from illustrations of constructed machine forms and their architectural counterparts to linear displays of pure form, Chernikhov’s graphic designs were a central focus of his teaching methodology in Leningrad, where he founded the Experimental Laboratory of Architectural Forms in the 1920s.

In the 1930s, Chernikhov was chief architect for the Soviet Union’s centralized chemical industry, and he designed and built industrial facilities in Leningrad, Kiev, Stalingrad and elsewhere in the Soviet Union.

Chernikhov completed more than 20,000 drawings in a variety of media during his career as an architect and teacher. Despite the large volume of work, “there’s not a lot of unevenness here,” Senkevitch says. “I have yet to see a bad drawing anywhere.”

The exhibition is sponsored by the Iakov Chernikhov International Foundation, and co-sponsored by the College of Architecture and Urban Planning and the Center for Russian and East European Studies with assistance from the Office of the Vice President for Research and the Office of International Academic Affairs. Lufthansa German Airlines provided transportation for the art works in the exhibition.