The Brave Drawn World of Iakov Chernikhov
Architectural Palaces, Architectural Complexes and Palaces of Communism (1934-1941). These could be a palace of anything — monstrous Babylonian hallucinations, huge sci-fi complexes, totalitarian labyrinths or Piranesian/Stalinist prisons.
BY BEA MARTIN
They possess an excruciating symmetry and potential for enormous processions. Where are these palace? What are they for? There was no text accompanying the designs. Because, since they were not published, no explanation was needed.
Iakov Chernikhov was born in 1889 in a small town in Ukraine, into a poor family of 11 kids. He finished art school in Odessa and then moved to St Petersburg to study at the Academy of Arts. In 1916, mobilised into the army, he worked as a draughtsman. After that he practiced as an architect, designing huge industrial buildings for the new Soviet Republic. He was odd. He drew obsessively. For years. His work was amazing. It still is, 60 years after his death.
In the mid-1920s he founded his own Research Laboratory of Architectural Forms and Methods of Graphic Art. It was an almost unbelievable achievement to have your own studio in those post-revolutionary times. His industrial work had brought him money. He would spend this money publishing his endlessly prolific graphic studies — work he did in parallel to his main architectural practice from the mid-1920s.