The Art of Yakov Chernikhov

Yakov Chernikhov

Yakov Chernikhov (1889-1951) was a Russian constructivist architect and graphic designer, born in what is now Ukraine.

He set out his ideas in a number of books published in the late 1920s and early 1930s, but his (for the time) unconventional style did not win him many friends and favors under Joseph Stalin.

His later work, of which examples are shown below, was closer to the Stalinist Empire style — but they don’t exactly suggest he thought life in the Soviet Union was a happy one.

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Unbuilt Amsterdam

Amsterdam could have had a Parisian-style boulevard.

Around the turn of the last century, the city council accepted proposals for a new commodity exchange. It initially favored a design sponsored by hotelier W.P. Werker, who would have demolished a whole street of buildings between the Dutch capital’s central railway station and the Royal Palace on the Dam Square to create something of a miniature Champs-Élysées.

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Unbuilt Barcelona

By the middle of the nineteenth century, Barcelona was bursting at the seams. The city hadn’t expanded beyond its medieval walls, but its population had grown almost 50 percent between 1800 and 1850. The congestion was contributing to outbreaks of disease. There was clearly a need for expansion, but it wasn’t until 1853 that the central government in Madrid allowed Barcelona to tear down its walls.

Two expansion plans were introduced, one by Antoni Rovira i Trias, which was favored by the Barcelona city council, and another by Ildefonso Cerdá, which was favored by Madrid. Neither was implemented in full, but Cerdá’s, with its distinctive hexagonal blocks, proved by far the most influential.

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Modernista Architecture in Barcelona

Modernisme is the Catalan version of Art Nouveau. Its popularity coincided with the late-nineteenth-century expansion of Barcelona, which more than doubled the city in size. Walk around the Eixample district, which rings the historical city center, and you’ll find countless examples of this organic architectural style that is rich in decoration and incorporates Arab and Gothic elements.

Some, like Antoni Gaudí’s Sagrada Família and Lluís Domènech i Montaner’s Hospital de Sant Pau, are well known. Others you would probably pass by if you didn’t know where to look.

What follows is only a selection. The best way to explore Barcelona’s Modernista architecture is to take a day to roam Eixample and give yourself time to gaze at the many beautiful buildings here.

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Unbuilt Los Angeles

Los Angeles is a dieselpunk’s delight with its collection of Art Deco architecture, ranging from its famous City Hall to the Art Nouveau-ish Bullocks Wilshire to the iconic Eastern Columbia Building to the heavyset headquarters of the Los Angeles Times.

If it had been up to the following architects, though, the city would have been turned into a theme park of postwar, Atomic Age architecture as well.

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