101 Architectural Fantasies: Yakov Chernikhov

A few months ago, Mr. Alberto Campo Baeza told us “An architect cannot not love the rest of the arts”. We, following this vision, focus this week on remembering the work of Yakov Chernikhov, an architect who, among other things, left us a legacy of more than 101 drawn fantasies.

Yakov Chernikhov, born at the end of the 19th century in part of the former Russian Empire (now Ukraine), lived in a cultural golden age. This architect began to walk thanks to the dynamism offered by Russian Futurism, to continue his intellectual development under the protection of Constructivism and Suprematism. He would be in the company of such important people as Vladimir Tatlin, Kazimir Malevich or Vasili Kandinski, who would inevitably influence the development of his work.

If we find something common in these years, it is that the painters projected, and the architects drew. It is in this relationship of disciplines where a maximum in the creativity of the actors takes place. Impossible forms that inspire in the field of architecture. Modes of representation that are imported from painting, for later reinterpretation by the artists. This symbiotic relationship requires both parties to feed back, if one of the two ceases, the “creative organism” dies.

With this reflection we understand that our architect this week is one of the main responsible for maintaining this “organism”. Yakov produces a large number of images where he reflects on the urban order, the scale, the solution of volumes, structural solutions… And all this he does through an interesting way of representing. Within his work we can observe a constructivist Yakov, who contrasts remarkably with a much more “conservative” Yakov. As a result of this combination of forms of representation, he would be known as “The Russian Piranesi”. Now that we know him, let us continue to immerse ourselves in his work.

“Conservative” Yakov

The first works we look at are the most conservative, which surprisingly are the last works he does. We see an architect interested in working with color and volume, where he doesn’t mind paying attention to detail by drawing with stains. We can also read a Yakov interested in the relationship of multiple forms, where bodies of different scales must be related with harmony. These works speak to us of a contained work, probably looking for the image and strength of a united Russia, capable of overcoming the adversities produced by the war.

Architecture or painting?

Yakov gives us a series of works that play with the elements. From drawings of lines with surprising forms, to games of volumes that contrast thanks to the great masses of color that conform them. We, as observers, are enraptured by the thoughts generated by our imagination, as we try to situate these fantastic forms in urban landscapes. Simultaneously our senses find pleasure in the mastery demonstrated with this graphic representation. Both the form and the mode are totally contemporary to us, even though they were made almost 80 years ago, and it is thanks to this that we can see contemporary works that are still inspired by these fantasies.

Urban constructivism

The reflection generated in our protagonist by the different artistic currents that coexist with him is reflected in this series of fantasies in which we work with scale and urban relations. This time the object of study is not the structure, but the relationship of the bodies and the search for harmony. Constructivism leads Yakov to work systematically with recognizable geometric forms, which are related to straight or curved traces. There is a rigorous geometric order hidden in these fantasies, and a harmony is achieved in the relation of volumes. Are these cities designed to be lived or to be seen? This question appears when one finds great pleasure in the images shown, but when one critically reflects on the relationships between places, and the scale – in many cases megalomania – in what is supposed to be the public space of the same. Be that as it may, this architect makes us enjoy and think, helping us to evolve intellectually.

We hope you found the work of this architect interesting, not built, but pictorial, but equally valuable. If you are curious to see more of Yakov’s work, we invite you to visit this page, the source of the images in this entry, or look for the book “101 Architectural Fantasies“, in which the architect compiled most of his latest and most interesting works. We would like to know your reflections on the work of this pictorial architect.