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‘Impossible Architecture: The Architects’ Dreams” at The National Museum of Art, Osaka, eulogizes aborted artistic conceptions. The models, drawings, photographs, CG animations and reading-intensive wall charts, representing more than 40 international architects and artists, are proposed as the frontiers of a century of architectural imagination. For the most part technically possible, these building plans were scuttled, usually because of social or political factors. This is an exhibition with a few bones to pick and a future point to make.

Opening the early chronological bracket is Vladimir Tatlin’s symbol of modernity, the “Monument to the Third International” (1920). Tatlin proposed a 396-meter-tall spiral structure of steel and glass. Within it would have been four suspended geometric forms, one above the other, rotating in differing durations — a year, a month, a day, an hour. These spaces were to serve the Communist International, responsible for spreading the Bolshevik Revolution (1917-23) abroad. Tatlin’s fanciful project, however, was critically dismissed for representing romantic bourgeois individualism.

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