Friday, 27 March 2009

Miklós Radnóti

Razglednicas, Stanza IV

I fell beside him and his corpse turned over,
tight already as a snapping string.

Shot in the neck. "And that's how you'll end too,"

I whisper to myself; "lie still; no moving.
Now patience flowers in death." Then I could hear

"Der springt noch auf !" above, and very near.

Blood mixed with mud was drying on my ear.

[Translated by Zsuzsanna Ozsváth and Frederick Turner]

Miklós Radnóti, birth name Miklós Glatter (May 5, 1909, Budapest, Austria-Hungary – November 10, 1944, near Abda, Hungary) was a Hungarian poet who fell victim to The Holocaust. Besides writing his own poetry, he translated into Hungarian works of Arthur Rimbaud, Stéphane Mallarmé, Paul Éluard, Guillaume Apollinare and Blaise Cendras.

In the early forties, he was conscripted by the Hungarian Army, but being a Jew, he was assigned to a weaponless support battalion (munkaszolgálat) in the Ukrainian front. In May 1944, the defeated Hungarians retreated and Radnóti's labor battalion was assigned to the Bor, Serbia copper mines. In August 1944, as consequence of Tito's advance, Radnóti's group of 3200 Hungarian Jews was force-marched to Central Hungary, which very few reached alive. Radnóti was fated not to be among them. Throughout these last months of his life, he continued to write poems in a little notebook he kept with him. According to witnesses, in early November 1944, Radnóti was severely beaten by a drunken militiaman, who had been tormenting him for "scribbling". Too weak to continue, he was shot into a mass grave near the village of Abda in Northwestern Hungary. Today, a statue next to the road commemorates his death on this spot. Eighteen months later, his body was unearthed and in the front pocket of his overcoat the small notebook of his final poems was discovered. (His body was later reinterred in Budapest's Kerepesi Cemetery.) These final poems are lyrical and poignant and represent some of the few works of literature composed during the Holocaust that survived. Possibly his best known poem is the above fourth stanza of the Razglednicák, where he describes the shooting of another man and then envisions his own death.

Another grand and haunting poem of Radnóti is "Root" (Wurzel), written in August or September 1944:

Kraft geheimnisst in der Wurzel,
Regentrank, Erdenbrot,

Schneeschlaf steht ihr zu Gebot.

Drunten ist sie, aufwärts bricht sie,

klimmt ins Licht hoch und ist schlau,

wirft den Arm aus wie der Tau.

Würmer schlafen, Würmer sitzen

ihr im Arm, ans Bein geschwellt,

es verwurmt die ganze Welt.

Doch die Wurzel lebt tief weiter,

nicht die Welt geht sie was an,

nur der Ast, der grünen kann.

Den bewundert und verpflegt sie,

ihm verschafft sie holdes Naß,

Labsal aus dem Himmelsfaß.

Wurzel bin ich jetzt auch selber,

lebe unter Würmern fort,

form dort dieses Dichterwort.

Selected works

- Subway Stops: Fifty Poems, 1977
- The Witness: Selected Poems by Miklós Radnóti, 1977

- Radnóti Miklós művei, 1978

- Forced March, 1979

- The Complete Poetry, 1980

- Under Gemini: A Prose Memoir and Selected Poetry, 1985

- Foamy Sky: The Major Poems of Miklós Radnóti, 1992

Sources and links

English translation of some poems
Hungarian Literature Online

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Art and Artillery

A digitalization of Hans Georg Schirvat's
Kunst und Artilleriebuch (1622)

"Der Fürst von Ligne: 'Mit dem Vergnügen des Soldaten und dem Schmerze des Philosophen sah ich zwölfhundert Bomben in die Luft steigen, die ich auf jene armen Teufel abzuschießen befohlen hatte.' Man muß die Messer des Schmerzes am eigenen Leibe fühlen, wenn man mit ihnen sicher und kaltblütig operieren will; man muß die Münze kennen, mit der man bezahlt."

Ernst Jünger, Das Abenteuerliche Herz

Etienne-Louis Boullee

Étienne-Louis Boullée (February 12, 1728 — February 4, 1799) was a visionary French neoclassical architect whose work greatly influenced contemporary architects. Born in Paris, he studied under Jacques-François Blondel, Germain Boffrand and Jean-Laurent Le Geay, from whom he learned the mainstream French Classical architecture in the 17th and 18th century and the Neoclassicism that evolved after the mid century. He was elected to the Académie Royale d'Architecture in 1762 and became chief architect to Frederick II of Prussia, a largely honorary title. He designed a number of private houses from 1762 to 1778, though most of these no longer exist; notable survivors include the Hôtel Alexandre and Hôtel de Brunoy, both in Paris. Together with Claude Nicolas Ledoux he was one of the most influential figures of French neoclassical architecture. Boullée's biography can be read here.

Boullée, Cénotaphe de Newton

His style was most notably exemplified in his proposal for a cenotaph for the English scientist Isaac Newton, which would have taken the form of a sphere 150 m (500 ft) high embedded in a circular base topped with cypress trees. Though the structure was never built, its design was engraved and circulated widely in professional circles.

"O Newton ! Si par l’étendue de tes lumières et la sublimité de ton génie, tu as déterminé la figure de la terre, moi j’ai conçu le projet de t’envelopper de ta découverte." (Boullée, Essai sur l'art)

The Hôtel Alexandre or Hôtel Soult, rue de la Ville l'Évêque, Paris (1763-66), is the sole survivor of Boullée's residential work in Paris. It was built for the financier André-Claude-Nicolas Alexandre.

Boullée, Hôtel Alexandre

Boullée projected a Palais National to replace the ancient Couvent de Capucines between Place Vendôme and the boulevard. The construction was inspired by antique roman architecture. The cupola seems to be influenced by the Panthéon, inaugurated 27 BC.

Boullée, Palais nationale

"J’ai fait un devoir aux architectes d’introduire la poésie de l’architecture dans leurs productions, surtout lorsqu’ils se trouveraient chargés de traiter un monument public. Je leur recommande de faire en sorte qu’ils nous présentent en quelque façon des poèmes, etc., etc." (Boullée, Essai sur l'art)

Boullée, Entry of the National Library

Alte Nationalgallerie in Berlin by Karl Friedrich Schinkel with revolutionary flag. Photography by Ulay RMX.

Influencenced by Montesquieu, Voltaire and Rousseau, Boullée created a "talking architecture" with educational virtues. Inspired by classical Greek and Roman architecture he proposed a renewed usage of the most elementary forms: cube, sphere and pyramide.

Boullée, Metropolitan Gateway

Boullée's project Palais pour un Souverain in Saint-Germain-en-Laye shows an utopian palace surrounded by residences and buildings for the education of the Prince.

Boullée, Project for a palais in Saint-Germain-en-Laye

Bartolomeo Del Bene, Civitas Veri, 1609

A link to more illustrated Utopias.

Boullée, Project for a palais in Saint-Germain-en-Laye

"Temples de la mort, votre aspect doit glacer nos cœurs ! Artiste, fuis la lumière des cieux ! Descends dans les tombeaux pour y tracer les idées à la lueur pâle et mourante des lampes sépulcrales !" (Boullée, Essai sur l'art)

Boullée, Cénotaphe in Egyptian style

Boullée, Fanal

"En un mot, le compas de la raison ne doit jamais abandonner le génie de l’architecture qui doit toujours prendre pour règle cette belle maxime : 'rien de beau si tout n’est sage'". (Boullée, Essai sur l'art)

The Tower of Babel, The Confusion of Tongues by Gustave Doré (1865)

The centerpiece for Kazakhstan's new capital, Astana, will be a monumental center of "religious understanding", a pyramid designed by Norman Foster where representatives from all major world religions will meet every three years to foster religious understanding. With this rendering, Foster must be consciously evoking Etienne Boullee. Like Boullee's design, Foster's pyramid is formally and ideologically epic. It includes an opera house "to rival Glyndebourne or Covent Garden," a national museum of culture, a new center for Kazakhstan's ethnic and geographical groups - and in order to secure its status as a new wonder of the world - hanging gardens.

Norman Foster, Astana Pyramid

"Un théâtre est un monument consacré au plaisir ; avec quelle délicatesse, avec quel soin le goût ne doit-il pas présider à sa construction ! Les assemblées publiques de nos spectacles peuvent, ce me semble, être comparées aux fêtes des Gnidiens si agréablement décrites par le célèbre Montesquieu. Je vois le sexe le plus aimable se rendre dans nos salles de spectacle et ne paraître s’y rassembler que pour rivaliser d’attraits, charmer nos cœurs, manifester son empire et y recevoir aussi les hommages du génie qui, inspiré par l’amour et les grâces." (Boullée, Essai sur l'art)

Boulée, Project for an opéra

Piero della Francesca - Ideal City, Galleria Nazionale at Urbino.

Opera in Novosibirsk, completed 1945

Inspired by the Colosseum Boullée's "Circus" was designed for "patriotic meetings" of 300.000 people. He imagined this circus to be "filled with a brilliant youth rewarded by its virtues and achievements. Nobody can avoid the gaze of the multitude."

Boullée, project for a Circus

"Profondément frappé de la sublime conception de l’École d’Athènes par Raphaël, j’ai cherché à la réaliser ; et c’est sans doute à cette idée que je dois mes succès, si j’en ai obtenus." (Boullée, Essai sur l'art)

Boullée, Project for a Royal Library

Erik Demazières illustration (1997) was inspired by Jorge Luis Borges Library of Babel.

Erik Desmazières, The Library of Babel

Boullée, interior view of a museum

Raphael, The School of Athens, 1511

Some Influences

Jean-Jacques Lequeu, Gate of a hunting-ground.
Project, ca. 1800

Palace of Soviets - arguably the most famous Soviet neoclassical
building never to have been realized.

Yakov Chernikov

Principal Sources
Exposition virtuelle de la Bibliothèque nationale de France
Wikipedia, Étienne-Louis Boullée
Wikipedia, Cité idéale

Monday, 23 March 2009

Cocaine and Biplanes

We are close to waking when we dream that we're dreaming - Novalis

Alexander Deineka, The shot-down ace, 1942

During the First World War my grandfather served as a fighter pilot in the Richthofen squadron. When I was a young boy, he told me, that many of his comrades took cocain and other drugs to sharpen their minds and to calm down their notorious fears. Still today, I sometimes envision the grand reveries of these pilots who envelopped their nerves with the white soft mat of anaesthesia and who, under the delusive shield of an artificial painlessness, infinitely alone with all the thousand images and thoughts surging out of ecstasy, drew their lonely circles high above the clouds. Maybe he fired his shots, if the encounter took place, with a sentiment of unconcern, as if this had to be done. Maybe, while he was lying in a steep curve and the wires were howling, a world of strange insights opened before him and he disposed of an endless time to finish his thoughts before he came in a position to fire again. Yes, and maybe the chain of his imaginations had just run back as the projectile hit him with that enigmatic necessity which marks the intersection of dream, sleep and awakening.

Christopher Nevinson, Banking at 4000 feet, c. 1918

Dark Moor, Vivaldi's Winter

Sea Monsters

Contrary to popular belief, the sailors of Columbus's day did not think they would sail right off the edge of the earth. They were, however, apprehensive about what they would find in their travels. Mistakes about marine life have ranged from inaccurate assumptions about the behavior of known species to fanciful depictions of animals that "might" exist.

Albrecht Dürer, Arion, 1514. According to the Greek legend, the gifted singer Arion was tossed overboard by sailors who wanted to steal his stuff. By the time he was thrown into the sea, however, he had bewitched a dolphin who came to his rescue. This dolphin sports more protuberances than any seen in nature, but in fairness to Dürer, who was known for his realism, the fact that he was illustrating a legend may have given him a greater sense of artistic license.

Abraham Ortelius (1
527–1598) was a Flemish cartographer and geographer, generally recognised as the creator of the first modern atlas.

Abraham Ortelius, Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, 1570.This excerpt of a map of Iceland shows sea monsters that many believed inhabited the surrounding waters.

Louis Figuier (1819-1894) was a French scientist and writer. He edited and published a yearbook from 1857 to 1894 — L'Année scientifique et industrielle — in which he compiled an inventory of the scientific discoveries of the year (it was continued after his death until 1914). He was the author of numerous successful works: Les Grandes inventions anciennes et modernes (1861), Le Savant du foyer (1862), La Terre avant le déluge (1863) illustrated by Édouard Riou, La Terre et les mers (1864), Les Merveilles de la science (1867-1891). The complete text with plates of La Terre avant le déluge is published electronically here. Some wonderful plates of his Les Mammifères are here.

Louis Figuier, La Terre avant le Déluge, édition de 1864, Fig.130. L'ichthyosaure et le plésiosaure, illustration par Riou.

Franz Unger (1800-1870) was an Austrian botanist, paleontologist and plant physiologist. Unger was one of the major contributors to the field of paleontology, later turning to plant physiology and phytotomy. He hypothesized that (then unknown) combinations of simple elements inside a plant cell determine plant heredity and greatly influenced the experiments of his student Gregor Johann Mendel. Unger was a pioneer in documenting the relationships between soil and plants (1836).

Franz Unger, The Primitive World in Its Different Period of Formation, 1851

Barthélemy Faujas de Saint Fond (May 17, 1741–July 18, 1819) was a French geologist and traveller. By the late 18th century, Europe's savants had begun wrapping their brains around the concept of an ancient earth that had both predated humans by an unimaginable time span and crawled with strange creatures. The savants also hired capable artists and engravers to render accurate depictions of the fossils they found. The year 1780 marked the discovery of an enormous fossil reptile in underground quarries near the Dutch town of Maastricht. Nineteen years later, Faujas published a description of the reptile. The illustration of the fossil itself is pretty accurate (the oval-shaped objects with the skull are fossil sea urchins). Faujas's interpretation wasn't quite as accurate as the pictures. He classified it as a giant crocodile. Today, the fossil is identified as a mosasaur, an extinct marine reptile.

Barthélemy Faujas de Saint Fond, Montagne de Saint-Pierre, 1799

Gaspar Schott (1608-1666) was a German scientist, specializing in the fields of physics, mathematics and natural philosophy. Schott was a one-time student and long-time collaborator of the German Jesuit polymath Athanasius Kircher. Besides editing and defending Kircher's works, Schott published some of his own. This page from the second volume of his Physica Curiosa shows a motley assortment of sea monsters, including a fish resembling a monk (upper left), a marine monster looking suspiciously like a bishop (lower right), and two chimerical creatures with long, fishy tails. Similar depictions appeared in numerous works in the 16th and 17th centuries. Religious tensions of the time might have contributed to the strong resemblance between alleged monsters and clerical figures.

Caspar Schott, Physica Curiosa, 1662

Konrad Gessner (1516-1565) was a Swiss naturalist and bibliographer. His five-volume Historiae animalium (1551-1558) is considered the beginning of modern zoology. His great zoological work, Historiae animalium, appeared in 4 vols. (quadrupeds, birds, fishes) folio, 1551-1558, at Zürich, a fifth (snakes) being issued in 1587: This work is the starting-point of modern zoology. Not content with such vast works, Gessner put forth in 1555 his book entitled Mithridates de differentis linguis, an account of about 130 known languages.

Conrad Gesner, Icones Animalium, 1560. Gesner was one of the finest naturalists of the 16th century, but he occasionally misfired. In this woodcut, a mother whale and her young look awfully porcine.

Pierre Pomet (1658-1699) was a French pharmacist. After travels in Italy, Germany, Great Britain and Holland he returned to Paris where he opened pharmacy. He acquired a great reputation quickly. He gave courses to explain the manufacture of his products. He regularly published a catalog of drugs made up of his vast collection as well as a Cabinet of curiosities. In 1694 he published the General History of drugs, plants animals and minerals, illustrated with more than 400 figures.

Histoire Générale des Drogues, 1694. Pomet pictured both a sea unicorn (top) and a narwhal (bottom). Unlike the first creature, the second was real, and its horn was often mistaken — or deliberately passed off — as a unicorn horn, believed capable of curing all kinds of diseases and poisonings. As Europe's upper-crust families showed such a fondness for poisoning their own, such antidotes were always in demand. Not long after Pomet's book was published, the narwhal was identified as a "false unicorn."

Albertus Seba by Jacobus Houbraken (1731)

Albertus Seba (1665-1736) was a Dutch pharmacist, zoologist and collector. Born in East-Frisia, Seba moved to Amsterdam as an apprentice and opened around 1700 a pharmacy near the harbour. Seba asked sailors and ship surgeons to bring exotic plants and animal products he could use for preparing drugs. Seba also started to collect snakes, birds, insects, shells and lizards in his house. From 1711 he delivered drugs to the Russian court in Saint Petersburg and sometimes accepted fresh ginger as payment. Seba promoted his collection with the head-physician to the czar, Robert Arskine, and early 1716 Peter the Great bought the complete collection. In 1728 Seba had become a member of the Royal Society. In 1735 Linnaeus visited him twice. In 1734 Seba had published a Thesaurus of animal specimens with beautiful engravings. The full name of the Thesaurus is, with a dual Latin–Dutch title, Locupletissimi rerum naturalium thesauri accurata descriptio — Naaukeurige beschryving van het schatryke kabinet der voornaamste seldzaamheden der natuur (Accurate description of the very rich thesaurus of the principal and rarest natural objects). The last two of the four volumes were published after his death (1759 and 1765). Today, the original 446-plate volume is on permanent exhibit at the Koninklijke Bibliotheek in The Hague, Netherlands. Recently, a complete example of the Thesaurus sold for US $460,000 at an auction. In 2001, Taschen Books published a reprint of the Thesaurus.

Albertus Seba, Thesaurus, 1734. Seba portrayed this hydra in the 18th century. Seba had his doubts about its authenticity, but more than one "respectable eye witness" vouched for the accuracy of the stuffed specimen, so he published this picture of it. Seba's mistake is understandable in light of the fact that most genuine animals were either preserved in spirits or stuffed by the time they reached him.

Athanasius Kircher, the 17th-century German Jesuit polymath established a fabulous museum in Rome, filled with antiquities, speaking tubes, odd animals and fossils. Some of these "wonders" were too fantastic to be true. (Kircher believed every story he ever heard about someone catching a dragon — assuming that someone was a pope.) But much of what he collected was absolutely real. These fish carcasses and shark teeth must have looked outlandish to the visitors to Kircher's museum, but fish like these swim in the sea today. After Kircher died, Buonanni took over his collection and published a catalog in the early 18th century. These images from the catalog show some 18th-century progress in accurately depicting sea life. Numerous works by Kircher were published electronically by Max Planck Gesellschaft here.

Ath. Kircher and Filippo Buonanni,
Musæum Kircherianum,1709

Nicolas Steno (Danish: Niels Stensen; latinized to Nicolaus Stenonis) (1638 -1686) was a pioneer in both anatomy and geology. Already in 1659 he decided not to accept anything simply written in a book, instead resolving to do research himself. He is considered the father of geology and stratigraphy.

Niels Stensen, Canis Carchariae Dissectum Caput, 1667. Strange as it looks by today's standards, this picture of a dissected head of a giant white shark actually marked significant progress in marine biology. For years, fossilized shark teeth were believed to be tongues of serpents turned to stone by St. Paul, and hence were named glossopetrae, or "tongue stones." Niels Stensen correctly identified tongue stones as shark teeth.

Pierre Dénys de Montfort (1766 – 1820) was a French naturalist, in particular a malacologist, remembered today for his pioneering inquiries into the existence of the giant squid Architeuthis, which was thought to be an old wives' tale, and for which he was long dismissed. He was inspired by a description from 1783 of an eight-metre long tentacle found in the mouth of a sperm whale. Dénys de Montfort was author of Conchyliologie systématique, et classification méthodique de coquilles (2 vols., Paris 1808 - 1810) and of Histoire Naturelle Générale et Particulière des Mollusques (2 vols., Paris 1801 - 1802) published as an addendum to the comte de Buffon's Histoire naturelle générale et particulière.

Denys de Montfort bragged that if this representation were swallowed, he would next represent a cephalopod embracing the Straits of Gibraltar. Seventy years later, Alexander Winchell did two admirable things: He called Denys de Montfort's depiction a sailor's yarn, but also suggested, "the unexplored depths of the ocean conceal the forms of octopods that far surpass in magnitude any of the species known to science." Winchell was right on both counts.

Ulisse Aldrovandi (1522-1605) was an Italian naturalist, the moving force behind Bologna's botanical garden, one of the first in Europe. Carolus Linnaeus and the comte de Buffon reckoned him the father of natural history studies. He is usually referred to, especially in older literature, as Aldrovandus. The Göttinger Digitalisierungszentrum has published some of his works:
  • Ornithologiae, hoc est de avibus historia libri XII (1599) Digitized version of 1637 edition
  • De animalibus insectis libri septem, cum singulorum iconibus ad vivum expressis (1602) Digitized version of 1637 edition

Ulisse Aldrovandi, De Piscibus, 1613. Aldrovandi sometimes combined impressive realism (a recognizable shark) with puzzling chimera. The fish on the bottom has a mammal-like face with a saw protruding from the head, dragon-like scales, fishy fins and flippers. Aldrovandi sometimes exhibited what the 18th-century naturalist Buffon would later describe as "a tendency towards credulity." Of the stingray, Aldrovandi observed, "They love music, the dance and witty remarks." Exactly how stingrays exhibited their affection for these niceties is unknown.

Honorius Philoponus, Novi Orbis Indiae Occidentalis, 1621. The whale-as-island made another appearance in this 17th-century engraving. It shows the whale, Jasconius, in an account of the voyage of Saint Brendan. Some of the monks were preoccupied with mass when the nature of the island became obvious.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Yakov Chernikhov

Yakov Georgievich Chernikhov (1889 - 1951) was a constructivist architect and graphic designer. His books on architectural design published in Leningrad between 1927 and 1933 are amongst the most innovatory texts (and illustrations) of their time. Chernikov was born to a poor family, one of 11 children. After studying at the college of art in Odessa, he moved in 1914 to Petrograd (St. Petersburg) and joined the Architecture faculty of the Imperial Academy of Arts in 1916, where he later studied under Leon Benois.

In 1927 he organized in Leningrad his own Science and Research Pilot Laboratory for Architectural Shapes and Graphical Studies, where with a group of students and assistants he became actively involved, in experimental and design work.

Chernikhov with some of his students

Greatly interested in futurist movements, including constructivism, and the suprematism of Malevich (with whom he was acquainted), he set out his ideas in a series of books in the late 1920s and early 1930s, including:
  • The Art of Graphic Representation (1927)
  • Fundamentals of Contemporary Architecture (1930)
  • The Construction of Architectural and Machine Forms (1931)
  • Architectural Fantasies (1933)

The latter, a very fine example of colour printing, was perhaps the last avant-garde art book to be published in Russia during the Stalinist era. Its remarkable designs uncannily predict the architecture of the later 20th century. However his unusual ideas meant that Chernikhov was distrusted by the regime.

Although he continued work as a teacher and held a number of one-man shows, 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, here shown on the left (2006).

In various years he also executed a series of works in the area of architectural theory, proportions, architectural aesthetics, and the methodology of teaching the graphical disciplines.
Chernikhov also produced a number of richly designed architectural fantasies of historic architecture, which were never exhibited in his lifetime.

1. "Fundamentals of Modern Architecture" (1925-30)

In 1930 Iakov Chernikhov published his first major book in the field of architecture, "Fundamentals of Modern Architecture", where he reinterpreted the fundamental concepts of architecture, such as space, harmony, statics, functionality, construction, and composition proceeding from an earlier proposed postulates concerning a basic shift of rhythms in favor of a rhythm of proportions and the predominance of asymmetry.

By rejecting naked, ascetic, "boxed" architecture, which offers no architectural saturation of space and does not satisfy our eye from the aesthetic side or the side of emotional experience, I tried through consonance of basic masses to achieve a truly expressive architectural image in new forms.

“The architect should not limit the sphere of his work with narrow frames and servile imitations, but, where necessary, should overcome obstacles by means of his powerful fantasy and bravely move forward. Those who think that the architect’s activity should embrace only current realistic requirements are thinking incorrectly and falsely."

2. "Architectural Fantasies" (1925-33)

Architectural Fantasies: 101 compositions in color and 101 in black-and-white—is the last and, probably, the best book published during Chernikhov’s life and summarizing his search for the forms and images of new architecture. In the second half of the 20th century this book, in which Chernikhov’s compositional talent appeared with greatest brilliance, became mandatory for architects in Japan, Europe, and the United States.

"An epoch of the greatest reconstructions of human relations must be reflected by its own unforgettable highly artistic monuments. It will create its own style not by rephrasing the old basics, but through creative quests for new forms with new content under the new requirements.”

3. "Construction of Architectural and Machine Forms" (1925-1931)

Having graduated in 1925 from the Academy of Arts, Iakov Chernikhov became fascinated with industrial architecture, which was the area of construction showing the most progress. In comparison with other areas, it possessed multifunctionality and a wider elite, and consequently promised a wider field of activity in terms of form creation.

The pathos of industrialization, with its sublime, heroic-romantic aura in those years, defined creative quests in various forms of art. 1927 witnessed the debut of Alexander Mosolov’s one-part symphonic piece, The Factory, in which the image of a working factory was reproduced by musical means. It immediately entered the repertoire of the leading orchestras, and for several years its performance opened concerts of symphonic music in Moscow and Leningrad. Also at that time Sergey Prokofiev wrote his famous Le Pas d'acier, and Dmitry Shostakovich composed the ballet Bolt. Alexander Mosolov : Steel - The Iron Foundry

Soviet Union 1920s: Concert of Factory Sirens and Steam Whistles. The conductor stands on the roof of the tallest house and conducts by means of flags. Source:, The Cultural Revolution in Soviet Russia 1920-1929.

"Black chimneys, buildings, crankshafts, cylinders. Ready to talk to you, I raise my hands, I sing of you, my iron friends. I go to the factory as to a festival, as to a feast." Thus wrote Alexander Gastayev in his Poetics of a Work Offensive, a distinctive manifesto of proletarian poetry in those years.

4. "Palaces of Communism" (

In the mid-1930s, after the establishment of Constructivism and the proclamation of a principally new approach to architectural ideology in Soviet Russia, Iakov Chernikhov, like many others, was subject to a vicious criticism. His books were withdrawn from libraries, and those already submitted to the printer were never published.

Nevertheless, Chernikhov preserved his ability to generate new ideas. By now already clearly in the Piranesi style, he created in 1934-1946 a cycle of works that included: The Architecture of Palaces, The Architectural Ensembles, The Architecture of the Future, The Architecture of Bridges, and The Palaces of Communism in which the author not only studies the image of the architecture of the new epoch, but also the issues of formation of the architectural ensemble.

5. "Pantheons of the Great Patriotic War"
(1942 -1945)

In 1942, when the Union of Architects announced a competition for monuments to war heroes, Chernikhov created the design-graphic suite “Pantheons of the Great Patriotic War” that embodied the tragedy and greatness of Russia in the Second World War. For the competition Chernikhov prepared nine Pantheon project-perspectives, made in large format (900x1200 mm), which was unusual for the author. He has worked out the detailed program for the Pantheon conceived as a grandiose museum. After the War the total number exceeded 50.

6. Some Influences

Étienne-Louis Boullée, Projet de cénotaphe à Newton, vue en élévation, 1784.

Erich Mendelsohn, Einstein Tower in Potsdam, 1920s

Tatlin’s Tower or The Monument to the Third International, 1920s (not realized).

El Lissitzky, Der Wolkenbügel (The Cloud Iron), 1925 (not realized)

7. Sources
Constructivist architecture (Wikipedia)
Yakov Chernikhov International Foundation (with many more images)