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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Renaissance Man Shows His Color

Not many Muscovites know architect Mikhail Filippov. But they’re probably familiar with some of his work — most notably the classical-style Acropolis Trading Center on Komsomolsky Prospekt, and the Greek restaurant on its basement floor.

The style — which attempts to recreate the classical prototype, not as Napoleon adapted Roman architecture or as Stalin recreated French Neoclassicism, but like the Greeks, who built their famous stately columns merely to imitate trees — suits him.

Filippov, whose recent stint in Italy is celebrated in his "Return From Venice — 2000" exhibit, may very well be the last word in postmodernism in Russian architecture. Despite having a hand in the redesign of such Moscow cityscapes as the Prechistenka Embankment, Filippov has been openly dismissive of the capital’s many cosmetic overhauls. For him, progress can be only achieved by moving back to architecture’s origins.

Filippov, who graduated from the St. Petersburg Academy of Fine Arts in 1979, has always shown a preference for historical architecture. In his 1985 work "Style for the Year 2001" — a three-part series that took top honors in a Tokyo design competition — Filippov showed how an urban metropolis could transform itself into a living historical city.

Many of his so-called "architectural fantasies" display delicate, intricate ruins reflecting the impact of the centuries that followed — ruins that are made more elaborate with time. The result, in many of Filippov’s designs, is the creation of a descriptive world that integrates the stately columns and arches of once-great classical palaces with the vines and clutter of passing history.

His exhibit, which opened Sunday at Project O.G.I., is further testament to his desire to return classical architecture to its origins as a branch of the fine arts. Only his third-ever exhibit in the city, the "Return to Venice" project is nearly accidental — a casual collection of watercolor studies made by Filippov during his participation in the "Less Aesthetics, More Ethics" architectural show at this year’s Venice Biennale international arts exhibition.

The conceptualist collection captures Venice as a city frozen in its architectural past but with the warm perspective of a 21st-century observer. "One of the things that separates Filippov from his neoclassical Soviet predecessors is that he turns to the Renaissance for inspiration," said Liza Plavinskaya, a curator for the O.G.I. exhibit, adding that the Venetian cityscape has had a liberating affect on Filippov’s formal approach to art.

"As an artist he is very canonistic," she said. "His previous watercolors of old cities were very technical and academic. But the force of Venice and of the Biennale freed him artistically."

The result? "Some of the most fantastic watercolors you could ever imagine," she said. "You can’t take your eyes off them."

"Return From Venice — 2000" runs through Nov. 20 at Project O.G.I., located at 8/12 Potapovsky Pereulok, Bldg. 2, and is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Metro Chistiye Prudy. Tel. 927-5776.