Cosmic Communist Constructions Photographed
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Photographer Frédéric Chaubin shows us ninety buildings, sited in fourteen former Soviet Republics, which express what he considers to be the "fourth age" of Soviet architecture. His poetic pictures reveal an unexpected rebirth of imagination, an unknown burgeoning that took place in the Soviet Union from 1970 until 1990. Contrary to the 1920s and 1950s, no “school” or main trend emerges here. These buildings represent a chaotic impulse brought about by a decaying system. Their diversity announced the end of the Soviet Union.
Taking advantage of the collapsing monolithic structure, the holes in the widening net, architects went far beyond modernism, going back to the roots or freely innovating. Some of the daring ones completed projects that the Constructivists would have only dreamt of, such as the Druzhba Sanatorium in Yalta. Others expressed their imagination in an expressionist way, such as the Palace of Weddings in Tbilisi. A summer camp, inspired by sketches of a prototype lunar base, bears the mark of heavy Suprematist influence (Prometheus youth camp, Bogatyr).
Then comes the “speaking architecture,” widespread in the last years of the USSR: a crematorium adorned with concrete flames and a technological institute with a flying saucer crashed on the roof in Kyiv, a political center watching you like Big Brother in Kaliningrad. This puzzle of styles testifies to all the ideological dreams of the period, from the obsession with the cosmos to the rebirth of identity. It also outlines the geography of the USSR, showing how local influences lent their exotic twists before the country was brought to its end.
Cosmic Communist Constructions Photographed was elected best book on architecture of the year in 2010 by the International Artbook and Film Festival in Perpignan, France (Festival International du Livre d’Art & du Film Perpignan).