A floating metropolis … the Georgian Ministry of Highways Photograph: Frédéric Chaubin

Frédéric Chaubin was wandering through a market in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, in 2003 when an old book snared his eye. Although unable to read the words, the French photographer was mesmerised by the images it contained.

Chronicling 70 years of post-revolution architecture, the book featured an extraordinary collection of buildings that drew on an extraordinary collection of styles: as well as the Soviet schools of suprematism (a controlled explosion of geometric forms) and constructivism (wild projections, provocative angles), there was a strong western undercurrent, with echoes of everything from Alvar Aalto and Antoni Gaudí to Oscar Niemeyer. And running through all this was a thrilling element of Soviet over-reaching, a hint of sputniks, space rockets and flying saucers.

Chaubin was hooked. And so began a seven-year odyssey to seek out and photograph some of the Soviet era’s most unusual architectural creations, many now under threat. Each one, says Chaubin, was amazing. “It was like finding an undiscovered monument – a Machu Picchu of your own.”


Jonathan Glancey