The Paper Architects – In reaction to the scenario that did not allow for the assertion of one’s voice, a group of young visionary architects decided to start their movement. These young people devoted their lives to escaping the humiliating confines of a bureaucratic organisation that stifled their artistic ambitions. To counter the formal uniformity envisioned by communist aesthetics, which penalised anyone who deviated from it, forcing them to respect standard methods for cheap and quick building construction, rejecting any specialised workmanship, and with no regard for users or their needs, they devised a revolt strategy using art which is difficult to decipher, and which also comprised of allusions legible only by an attentive and, above all, intellectually and culturally trained eye.

In reaction to the scenario that did not allow for the assertion of one's voice, a group of young visionary architects decided to start their movement - Sheet1
The Paper Architecture of Brodsky and Utkin _©

Soviet Architecture and their Architects | Paper Architects

Many Russians expressed sorrow over the fall of the Soviet Union’s sole economic system, while others longed for their time as citizens of a significant global superpower. The older respondents expressed the most nostalgia. Similar remarks have been made by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who famously described the fall of the Soviet Union as the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century.

With not just an older population missing the old Soviet Union but also a leader of the nation who appears to have the same nostalgia, it is simple to understand where some of it may originate from among the younger generation. This influence may undoubtedly be observed in Russia and across Eastern Europe in the still-used old Soviet architecture across Moscow. Blocky apartment complexes are still common in former Soviet republics such as Ukraine, Belarus, Poland, and Russia.

A younger generation growing up in the body of a now-dead USSR, with a leader who appears to want to return to the past rather than move away from it, produces a bleak environment. In addition, the perception of many of these buildings is that they are dreary grey with an overcast sky over Moscow‘s suburban streets. While there is no specific number on how many grey buildings exist in suburban Moscow, a google search and navigate to the photos page will show you the impact I am referring to. The massive ex-soviet flat buildings soar far into the sky, accompanied by a dearth of colour. 

In reaction to the scenario that did not allow for the assertion of one's voice, a group of young visionary architects decided to start their movement - Sheet2
©Elena Chernyshova

If you work as an architect in Russia, you will be utterly dissatisfied at every stage of your career. For example, there are just three types of windows available; if you want to build a structure with windows that differ in shape, size, proportion, or construction, you’re out of luck unless you can find a wealthy, authorised cooperative to import windows from the West.

After graduating from the Moscow Institute, architects would work on wholly formulaic designs where their creative abilities were useless. Anyone with true architectural vision found the practical and ideological situations infuriating. One architect said, “It was awful. “I used to spend the day making blueprints for buildings I didn’t like. Walking through Moscow today, I see dreadful buildings and know they are my creations. I cannot even begin to describe how awful that is.

Origin Of Paper Architecture

In many situations, brilliant persons trained as architects did not practice architecture and became children’s book artists or exhibition designers. To keep their thoughts active, the most inventive architects began designing structures in their leisure time, ones they knew would never be realised. They would think up ideas for open spaces in Moscow or imagined areas in other cities. They would show their work to one another and attempt to keep up with the language and habits of creation — not because they expected to build the buildings, they were sketching for one another, but because it was their only way to escape boredom and aggravation. 

As time progressed, the concepts they devised became less and less plausible. Reality’s restrictions did not restrict them; it didn’t matter whether their construction was buildable because it would never be built. As a result, they built the Tower of Babel for one another, constructed entire villages, or supplied a structure for a floatable theatre. Their creative talents were liberated, but they were always architects, and their language, no matter how inventive and conceptualist, employed architecture’s essential grammar. As a result, the Paper Architects formed, cut off yet determined, working in “the optimistic spaces between imagination, history, and the deteriorating reality of Soviet urban planning,” as Jamey Gambrell described it. In the late 1970s, they realised that their abstract principles might be applied to several major competitions outside the world. They discovered that Japan Architect, the country’s leading architectural magazine, held an annual competition with a subject that was always sufficiently abstract to permit a conceptual response, frequently sponsored by Central Glass.

In reaction to the scenario that did not allow for the assertion of one's voice, a group of young visionary architects decided to start their movement - Sheet3
Paper Architecture_©Left Yuri Avvakumov,Sergei Podyomschikov centre Yuri Avvakumov Igor Pischukevich, Y.Zirulnikov, Right Konstantin

Misha Filipov And Nadia Bronzova

“It was because we cared so much about these competitions,” recalls Misha Filipov, one of the movement’s leaders and a regular winner. “Architects in the West completed their submissions quickly, as a diversion from their main work of creating real structures.” This was our true task; we could deliberate for a year on what to do.” A cooperative Aeroflot pilot smuggled the entries out of the country on the Tokyo route. The Paper Architects would meet and critique each other’s work before he took them. Of all, winning these competitions is merely a question of glory for architects in the West and the Far East; the honorarium of perhaps $5,000 is wonderful, but it hardly improves the life of a working architect. Finances are different in Moscow.

 Misha Filipov and Nadia Bronzova bought their studio, car, and food and clothing for a year with the proceeds from a single first prize. Because there were relatively few winners of these prizes and because the Union of Architects eventually gave its ideological seal of approval to the winners, the Ministry of Finance did not attempt to devise a plan to withhold the money from the architects as they would later do with artists who were offered Western money.

The Paper Architects- Alexander Brodsky, Ilya Utkin, Nadia Bronzova, Misha Filipov and Yuri Avvakumov
The Parnassus Hill,1990_©Nadia Bronzova

Yuri Avvakumov

Yuri Avvakumov is responsible for the present version of the Paper Architecture movement. He organised the shows that took place in Moscow and coordinated those that took place in the West. He has connected architects and encouraged their mutual impact. He has compiled a collection of all the architects’ work. During the contests, Yuri Avvakumov was responsible for arranging for the work to be brought from Moscow. It was Yuri Avvakumov’s responsibility to keep everyone informed of the deadlines. 

The Paper Architects- Alexander Brodsky, Ilya Utkin, Nadia Bronzova, Misha Filipov and Yuri Avvakumov
Red Tower _©Yuri Avvakumov

Alexander Brodsky And Ilya Utkin | Paper Architects

Brodsky and Utkin have been involved with Paper Architecture for quite some time. Their 1982 “Crystal Palace” has become an icon, a globally acclaimed classic work of Paper Architecture. In the city, you travel down the main street towards a sparkling glass palace whose unusual domes, arches, and pediments intersect at amazing angles. You never leave the city; the crystal castle glitters on the horizon like a mirage. When you enter the palace, you will notice that it is composed of flat sheets of glass carved into spectacular designs and set hard in a base at a constant distance from one another. It would be like a mirage: an object of deception. 

The Paper Architects- Alexander Brodsky, Ilya Utkin, Nadia Bronzova, Misha Filipov and Yuri Avvakumov
Villa Nautilus Bulwark of Resistance_©Alexander Brodsky and Ilya Utkin

The Paper Architects are free from above, from the government, and from below, from having to take care of the lives of those who live in actual structures. Paper architecture has a liberating effect. Paper architects are like all artists; they hate to compromise and prefer to keep things as extreme as possible. OK, good. Then make a lot of it.


Author Huck and Huck (2021) Home, Youth Voices Site Wide Activity RSS. [online]Available at:,known%20as%20%D0%A5%D1%80%D1%83%D1%89%D0%B5%D0%B2%D0%BA%D0%B0%20(Khrushchyovka) . (Accessed: March 29, 2023). 

Massimiliano Gioni, Y.A. (2017) Paper tigers, DOMUS. Domusweb.[online] Available at:  (Accessed: March 29, 2023). 

Paper architects: Floornature (no date)[online] Available at: (Accessed: March 29, 2023). 

The paper architecture of Brodsky and utkin (2011) A Journey Through Slavic Culture.[online] Available at: (Accessed: March 29, 2023).

Paper tsars (no date) Andrew Solomon Paper Tsars Comments. [online]Available at: (Accessed: March 29, 2023). 


Amrutha is an architect and designer based in Bangalore. She is a voracious reader and believes that architecture is similar to a narrative that slowly unfolds in time and space. As an avid traveller she finds thrill in serendipitous encounters.