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International Urban Design Studio at the St. Petersburg Academy of Fine Arts

Palaces and Prisons

(St-Petersburg, Russia)

The International Urban Design Studio at the St. Petersburg Academy of Fine Arts was established in 1996 under the patronage of the Prince of Wales' Projects Office in London, England. This educational studio focuses on architecture and urban planning projects. An exception in Russia, the studio prides itself on its international partnerships and has participated in several summer schools and exhibition projects with institutions in Rome and Bologna, Italy.

The Daniel Langlois Foundation is supporting the development of a distinctive exhibition and Web site dedicated to the architect Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-1778) and his unique influence on Soviet architecture. Palaces and Prisons will highlight the works of rarely recognized Soviet architects while featuring a unique collection of etchings by Piranesi himself. The exhibition will take place at the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow and later travel to the Museum of the Academy of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg. The Web site component of the project will allow global access to the research done by the International Urban Design Studio and promote the use of new technologies in contemporary Russian exhibitions.

Curators of the exhibition include Alexander Brodsky, a renowned Russian architect and sculptor who is a member of the Russian "paper architects."

"[In the seventies,] the perception of Soviet architecture as a derivative from the collapsing socialist practices led to a dramatic discovery of the real historical imposition. As a protest against the tedious standardized design production, a large group of Russian architects united into a "paper architecture" movement in the early eighties. In their work, which only existed on paper, parallels were apparent with the early days of the Soviet Union, when constructivists, futurists, and modernists were making cultural and architectural history. The sophisticated and ironical images designed in 1980s became remarkable semantic signals of transition, as a realization of a different architectural mentality being shaped, as messengers and later on as a reflection of the sociopolitical and ideological changes in the after-socialist Russian state." (1)

Brodsky has exhibited his drawings, etchings and sculptures in the United States, Russia and Europe and was previously commissioned to develop public art projects in New York and Pittsburgh. Dr. Nickolai Molok, also a curator of the exhibition and Web site, is a fellow of the Russian Institute of Art Studies in Moscow and a specialist in 18th-century architecture. The other co-curators are Simeon Mikhailovski (the director of the International Urban Design Studio and an architecture historian who most recently curated exhibitions for the Russian Pavilion at the 1999 Venice Biennale Architectural Exhibition), Dmitri Shelest (an architect and computer graphic artist) and Alexander Belosludsev (a graphic designer and art director of M-Vogue in Russia).

Angela Plohman © 2004 FDL

(1) Anna Sokolina, « Technology and Tradition in Russian Architecture 1950s-1990s: Dynamics of Transformations and Conceptual Conflicts » in Art, Technology and Modernity in Russia and Eastern Europe, Columbia University, 25 août 2000.