Support Hyperallergic’s independent arts journalism.
If you think Soviet architecture was strange — with its retrofuture angles and monolithic forms — you should see what came after the USSR’s collapse. German photographer Frank Herfort has spent years traveling all over Russia and the former Soviet territories, from metropolises to remote rural zones, to capture the bizarre architecture of the post-Soviet era.
Herfort’s photographs have now been published in Imperial Pomp: Post Soviet Highrise (2013, Kerber), and all the structures together look more like a speculative vision of a surreal future than reality. From 2009 to 2013 he journeyed to 20 cities to find the most ostentatious and bombastic of the odd mix of architectural forms that peaked in the 1990s and are just now receding. There are remnants of the Stalinist style with its stern classicism meeting Western modernism, and it all seems to be stretching for a more vibrant, and perhaps impossible, future. Time has collided in their designs.
However, what makes the buildings curious is not just their futurism — there’s plenty of that all over the world — but how much they stand out from their often somber surroundings of empty space or low brick residential space. People in the frame are totally miniaturized by the “imperial pomp,” each building seeming to strive for some proud stature in the cityscape, all while leaving its human occupants an afterthought. As Herfort is quoted in a Metropolis article published last week: “Architects, it seems, are encouraged to be as bold as possible. You feel that each building wants to scream out, that ‘I’m the best, the biggest, the richest.’ It is now more a question of prestige, which didn’t play any role in the Soviet times.”
Part of the uncanny nature of the photographs is also Herfort’s technique, which mixes film with digital — emphasizing sharp detail and color — as well as his patience for framing contrasts: an old Soviet car set against a new building that seems like the office park version of the Stalinist Seven Sisters. While the Soviets certainly thought big with their monuments, the idea of architecture being an object of grandiose pride didn’t end with the USSR. However, it would be remiss to not point out that there are these kinds of buildings in all the major cities where contemporary architecture often trumps context, but Herfort has found a unique juxtaposition between an accelerated modernism and a Soviet past.
Imperial Pomp: Post Soviet Highrise by Frank Herfort is available from Kerber.
The pandemic raged on, plus we were forced to learn about crypto-art.
From North to South America, artists used the bold colors, figuration, and appropriated imagery of Pop Art, but with a biting political message.
Yemen Blues brings their sonic blend of Yemenite, West African, and Jazz back to Joe’s Pub in New York City this December, featuring opener Ahmed Alshaiba.
Coralina Rodriguez Meyer invites women to reconnect with the indigenous and syncretic spiritualities of their ancestors to find new power.
A young, Black, gay man from the American South, Kelly was a determined, self-taught innovator who worked his way into the highest levels of international fashion.
Join designers, artists, educators, and publishers, including Sonel Breslav, Printed Matter’s Director of Fairs and Editions, for talks and conversations exploring artist book publishing.
Stephen Raw, the 69-year-old artist behind the project, has been photographing and collecting rusty objects since he was 17.
Researchers and artists are working to restore biodiversity in Kofele, Ethiopia, through a 50-meter tree nursery in the shape of a lion that will be visible from outer space.
Students can expect to pay significantly less than half the cost of attendance of equivalent private graduate programs, thanks to the college’s position in the State University of New York (SUNY) system.
Acclaimed director Jane Campion returns to film with an all-star cast featuring Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, and more.
Detroit police received a tip that led them to Andrzej Sikora’s art studio, where police took James and Jennifer Crumbley into custody.
In 1962, Andy Warhol desperately wanted to be like his accomplished new pal, Marisol.