Shukhov. The Formula of Architecture

July 28, 2021

Shukhov. The Formula of Architecture

Arsenal. Centre of Contemporary Arts, Nizhny Novgorod, Russia

20 July – 7 November 2021

The Arsenal Centre of Contemporary Arts presented the exhibition Shukhov. Formula of Architecture, in collaboration with the Shchusev State Museum of Architecture (MuAr), the OMK (United Metallurgical Company) and the charitable foundation OMK-Uchastie. The exhibition, curated by Mark Akopyan and Elena Vlasova, will run from 20 July to 7 November 2021 in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia.

In the spotlight of this exhibition is the figure of Russian engineer Vladimir Shukhov, his work and his cultural legacy upon engineering and architecture in the 20th and 21st centuries. The opening of the exhibition is timed to fit the 125th anniversary of the All-Russia Industrial and Art Exhibition where Vladimir Shukhov made his triumphant appearance.

Shukhov pioneered the use of lightweight diagrid structures through his work as an engineer in Russia at the turn of the 20th century, most famously with the Shabolovka Radio Tower, designed in 1919 and completed in 1922. This tower utilised the diagrid structure to achieve an unprecedented height-to materials-used ratio and has been referenced as an inspiration by Norman Foster who has had a continuous interest in achieving more with less across all his projects. This exhibition traced the cultural heritage of Shukhov’s influence on later architectural and engineering projects, showing the evolution from his hollow tower structures to the high-rise office buildings of today, all utilising the diagrid for the strength, stability, and efficiency it provides.

Before tracing Shukhov’s influence to Norman Foster, highlighting his work as the primary example of the diagrid structural typology in the 21st century, the exhibition also identifies the work of Frei Otto, Werner Sobek and Buckminster Fuller and their position as influential figures who built upon Shukhov’s legacy.

The Norman Foster Foundation collaborated on this exhibition by lending a selection of works from Foster’s career along with some items related to Buckminster Fuller and the collaborations between Foster and Fuller. Notable projects featured in the items sent to Moscow include 30 St Mary Axe (1997), the New International Airport for Mexico City (2014) and the Climatroffice (1971), among others.