“I felt a tender love towards all classical architecture, but a the same time dreamt of loving contemporary architecture as well”. A portrait of Alexander Brodsky.
Until October 2011, in its ongoing exhibition, the Architekturzentrum Wien displays works and a room-sized installation of the Russian artist and architect Alexander Brodsky.
At the beginning of his career, Alexander Brodsky is part of the “paper-architecture“ movement even though at that point, at the beginning of the eighties, there is no movement in the true sense yet. The notion “paper-architecture” rather expresses a typical limitation to architectural creativity in the Soviet Union of the time: Young architects who would refuse to fit in with the established architecture system would have no means to carry out their projects, and therefore design only for presentation or indeed just for the paper.
This kind of architectural existence only begins to form a movement when first signs of openness become perceptible in the Soviet Union. Suddenly young architects receive permission to participate in architecture competitions abroad, primarily in Japan. As the architect tells, the competitions were of a conceptual nature as well, the contributions however received more public attention and awards. This paved the way for “paper-architecture” as a movement.
For the architect, the dissolution of the Soviet Union marks the beginning of an era of travelling abroad. He exhibits in the Netherlands, Germany and other European countries. He lives in New York for four years. On his return in 1994, he finds that his home country, to which he still feels strongly connected, has changed. It is the moment when Alexander Brodsky begins to design architecture to be actually constructed.
As a constructing architect, Brodsky also refuses to conform to the Russian architectural mainstream of the new era - architecture as accomplice of a housing boom, completely changing cities, -architecture as expression of economical megalomania. These approaches are alien to him. In fact, on his quest for a different Russian identity he rather develops a “radically authentic personal position, exemplary for the western here and now as well.”
The reviews, the opinions of colleagues, as well as the attention of the public indicate that his architectural and artistic panache beyond pretentiousness receives wide approval in the western world. His works are shown in artistic contexts, in biennales and exhibitions. He is invited to work artistically in locations frequented by hundreds of thousands daily, such as the underground railways of St. Petersburg and New York. And he builds: houses, restaurants, apartments, pavilions, cafes…
His works are of high aesthetic and visual quality – works of art to be actually utilized- and often they convey a thoughtfulness, a time factor of fugaciousness, of a recovery of objects, and of a historicity often absent in an architecture trapped within the scope of technical capabilities.
His pavilion, assembled out of ice cubes that melts in spring and is built on a frozen lake becomes an allegory of disappearance, with everything around flourishing economically. A club restaurant built by him in Moscow has the spatial proportions of a Soviet-era council flat, its walls consisting entirely of window frames from local waste sites. Thus he creates space for entertainment and exuberance, embedded within a space of the rejected and the refused.
Whenever he is designing contemporary works he is concerned with ruins of bygone times, with things passing by – due to the fact that he is unable to understand modern architecture: “ I felt …a tender love for all classical architecture but at the same time dreamt of loving contemporary architecture as well” he says, and: “in the end I succeeded”.(wh/ca)