Gilded City | SMArchS Thesis

Advisor: Ana Miljacki
Readers: Mark Goulthorpe, Rebecca Sheehan

Gilded City appropriates seven copper plate etchings produced by Alexander Brodsky and Ilya Utkin between 1982 and 1990 in the pursuit of their preservation through reinterpretation and recontextualisation. Gilded City reacts to the political events in the United States of the past six months. It anchors Brodsky and Utkin’s works into specific geographical locations in order to support its political commentary as well as in order to open up these works to new audiences through the use of social media. Gilded City explores the potential of architectural animation as a tool for both design and representation as well as (anti) propaganda while making use of traditional cel animation, 2D Vector based animation, 3D computer animation, as well as motion graphics.

In 1978, disenchanted with the bleak prospect of the faceless, unadorned, utilitarian architectural doctrine of the Brezhnev and Khrushchev years, Brodsky and Utkin began to produce fantastical landscapes and structures in exquisite, detailed, labored drawings. Imaginative, whimsical, subversive, their body of work freely referenced historical precedents ranging from Greek mythology to eighteenth-century architects.

Brodsky and Utkin utilized paper architecture to subvert the dogmas of soviet ideology by instrumentalizing a form antithetical to existing power structures. Produced for the famous A+U (now JA+U) architectural competitions and often smuggled out of Soviet Union in secret, their drawings were acts of architectural dissidence. In a (dis)similar act of subversion, Gilded City reinterprets this paper architecture into architectural animation, a medium that has historically lacked critical dimension, as a powerful tool of (anti) propaganda. Anachronistically transposing Brodsky and Utkin’s etchings into the contemporary moment and North American context, the film makes use of multiple forms of animation to propose five political-spatial archetypes of the Trump regime, each constituting one chapter of Gilded City: Tower, Golf Course, Wall, Casino, and Prison. The thesis stakes a claim for the timely relevance of Brodsky and Utkin’s body of work to contemporary architectural and socio-political discourse while also arguing for the legitimacy and critical instrumentality of animation in architectural design. Furthermore, Gilded City proposes that architectural animation can occupy a more significant and critical role both in architectural practice and pedagogy.