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Iakov Chernikhov

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Chernikhov sketch on the book cover 'Chernikov Fantasy and Construction'

Iakov Georgievich Chernikhov (Iakov Georgievic Cernixov) was a constructivist architect and famed for his graphic and illustrative architecture drawings. Chernikhov published a series of books on architectural design in Leningrad between 1927 and 1933 which are considered to be some of the most innovative texts and illustrations of their time.

Early Life

Chernikov was born to a poor family, one of 11 children. In 1904 he left Pavlograd for Odessa and became a student at the Odessa Art School, a branch of the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts. To earn his living young Chernikhov worked as a docker, a cardboard factory worker, a passe-partout maker, a retoucher/ photographer, and an assistant architect employed to design and construct the Odessa Exhibition, during which he mastered various aspects of graphical design. It was in Odessa that the distinctive style of Chernikhov took shape. In 1912 he became interested in the art of drawing, in graphics, and began his work on a course in ornamental drawing

After studying at the college of art in Odessa, he then joined the Architecture faculty of the Imperial Academy of Arts in 1916, where he later studied under Leon Benois.

After graduation from the Academy of Arts in 1925, Chernikhov was occupied with production and project work in Leningrad throughout the 1920s and 30s. In 1927 he organized in Leningrad his own Science and Research Pilot Laboratory for Architectural Shapes and Graphical Studies, where with a group of students and assistants he became actively involved, in experimental and design work.


Greatly interested in futurist movements, including constructivism, and the suprematism of Malevich (with whom he was acquainted), he set out his ideas in a series of books in the late 1920s and early 1930s, including:

  • The Art of Graphic Representation (1927)
  • Fundamentals of Contemporary Architecture (1930)
  • The Construction of Architectural and Machine Forms (1931)
  • 101 Architectural Fantasies (1933)

His famous colour printings were published in an avant-garde art book during the Stalinist era. Although he continued working as a teacher and held a number of one-man shows, few of his designs were built and very few appear to have survived. The tower of the 'Red Nail' factory in St. Petersburg is the only realised building by Iakov Chernikhov, who is recognised today as more of a graphic designer.

Chernikhov joined the Constructivist movement relatively late, after the culmination of lab research efforts in the late 1920s - early 1930s. In Leningrad he published a series of books depicting architectural fantasies that made him famous worldwide and earned him the title of "Soviet Piranesi"

A book on 'The Construction of Letter Forms' containing some of his typographical designs, was published after his death, in 1959.


Chernikhov produced some 17,000 drawings and projects and was dubbed the Soviet Piranesi.

On August 8, 2006, it was announced that hundreds of Chernikhov's drawings, with an estimated value of $1,300,000, had gone missing from the Russian State Archives. Some 274 have been recovered, in Russia and abroad.

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  1. Iakov Chernikhov International Foundation
  2. Wikipedia
  3. Quote: Foundations of the Contemporary Architecture
ziggurat, June 14th, 2019
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