Architecture at the End of the Earth. William Craft Brumfield’s Photographs of the Russian North

Architecture at the End of the Earth explores the Russian North and its multifaceted architectural legacy through the photographs of the historian, slavicist and photographer William Craft Brumfield. Over the past four decades, Brumfield has traveled extensively in Russia, documenting and photographing the country’s diverse architecture. What began as a sporadic endeavor evolved into a multi-decade archiving project, which has been recognized in the United States and Russia for its historical as well as artistic accomplishment. The North, which Brumfield first visited in 1988, is the latest chapter in this long historical exploration of Russian architecture and culture.

The exhibition features photographs of seven locales, each presenting a different aspect of
the region’s architecture from the wooden dome churches in the village of Varzuga to the imposing stone cathedrals of Vologda. The photographs and accompanying narrative illuminate the transformation that many of these buildings underwent as the communities they served, and the cultural contexts they were situated in, changed over time. The photographs tell a complex story, often of neglect and ultimate loss, but also of reconstruction and reinvention. Featuring photographs that span almost two decades, as well as graphics and audio-visual components, the exhibition also chronicles Brumfield’s travels through the North and traces his encounters with communities striving to maintain continuity with their own history.

The exhibition was organized by the Wolk Gallery, MIT School of Architecture and Planning. Curated by Ulrike Heine in collaboration with the photographer and with contributions by Christianna Bonin. Assistance provided by Jonathan Duval and Nina Hofkosh-Hulbert.