A blood red metal tower spirals skyward in the courtyard at the Royal Academy. A symbol of the space age? A monument to Meccano? A companion to Anish Kapoor’s Olympic tower? No, this is a scaled-down recreation of Vladimir Tatlin’s great glass and steel building that was to soar above the low-lying city of St Petersburg (Petrograd). It was to be 100m higher and much wider than the Eiffel Tower. Tatlin’s Monument to the Third International, conceived in 1920 to mark the Soviet Revolution, never made it beyond the model stage, but the model and Tatlin’s Utopian vision passed into architectural mythology.

Now at 1:40 scale, this icon of Russian Constructivism heralds an exhibition (until January 22) that looks at the explosion of avant-garde architecture and construction that occurred in Russia from around 1922 to 1935.

The years after the 1917 Russian Revolution saw a flood of artistic energy. In the drive to forge a new Socialist society radical art and architecture came together.

Building the Revolution: Soviet Art and Architecture 1915-1935 explores this unique period with drawings and paintings by Constructivist artists such as Tatlin, Liubov Popova, and El Lizzitsky, and vintage photographs of the workers’ clubs, industrial-scale bakeries, bureaucratic headquarters and experiments in communal living for the proletariat, designed by architects such as Konstantin Melnikov and Moisei Ginsburg.

The extraordinary Melnikov House — white slim twin cylinders pierced by hexagonal windows — is detailed, as is the three-stage story of Aleksei Shchusez’s Lenin Mausoleum in Moscow, told at the end in a suitably sombre room.

Richard Pare’s large-scale photographs taken over the last two decades of extant Constructivist buildings set all this into splendid perspective. Pare’s work is sympathetic and stunning — the buildings still look revolutionary today, although most are dilapidated. The Shabolovka Radio Tower (above), designed by Vladimir Shukhov in 1922, is still in use. Geometric, streamlined, functional — hallmarks of Russian Constructivism — it’s as close as it gets to Tatlin’s futuristic vision.