This article is part of "Eastern Bloc Architecture: 50 Buildings that Defined an Era", a collaborative series by The Calvert Journal and ArchDaily highlighting iconic architecture that had shaped the Eastern world. Every week both publications will be releasing a listing rounding up five Eastern Bloc projects of certain typology. Read on for your weekly dose: Colossal Libraries.
Soviet Architecture: The Latest Architecture and News
This article is part of "Eastern Bloc Architecture: 50 Buildings that Defined an Era", a collaborative series by The Calvert Journal and ArchDaily highlighting iconic architecture that had shaped the Eastern world. Every week both publications will be releasing a listing rounding up five Eastern Bloc projects of certain typology. Read on for your weekly dose: Futuristic Hotels and Avant-Garde Resorts.
From the famous Kitchen Debate between Nikita Khrushchev and Richard Nixon to the popularity of Henry Ford within the USSR, the hundreds of factories designed by Detroit engineer Albert Kahn for Soviet Russia, and skyscrapers erected in Moscow, the Cold War had a peculiar side to it, that is the Russian fascination with American culture and technology.
After the success of the original guide-book on underrated Soviet architecture, Garage Museum of Contemporary Art is publishing an English version of the bestselling guide: Moscow: A Guide to Soviet Modernist Architecture 1955–1991 in a new digitalized format with six new chapters.
Last week, we covered the work of Moscow-based visual artist Danila Tkachenko, whose “Monuments” project appropriated abandoned Russian Orthodox churches with abstract modernist shapes. Tkachenko’s further work, “Restricted Areas” is equally as impressive, focusing on the human impulse towards utopia through technological progress.
The “Restricted Areas” photography set distills humanity’s strive to perfection through recording abandoned Soviet infrastructure. Traveling to now-deserted landscapes which once held great importance as centers of technological progress, Tkachenko captured images of “forgotten scientific triumphs, abandoned buildings of almost inhuman complexity” and a “technocratic future that never came.”
British researcher Darmon Richter has recently released Monumentalism, a visual study of over 200 photographs featuring socialist architecture and designs built by 20th century regimes around the world. These photos were taken in more than 30 different countries and show a broad range of subject matter, from military parades in the former Soviet Union to revolutionary memorial sites. See more after the break.
Havana is often referred to as a time machine that transports visitors to a particular moment in history, seemingly frozen in time. While it is a city that boasts an exhaustive timeline of imported styles, Havana in the present day is not defined by a singular historical era—either in its political climate or in its architectural zeitgeist.
Over the decades, the Cuban Revolution has had powerful domestic and international repercussions. In particular, it transformed Cuba’s relationship with the United States. But efforts to improve diplomatic relations have gained momentum in recent years, with the teetering lift of the embargo that exacerbated a David and Goliath situation and left a lasting economic impact on the Cuban people. Havana’s skyline has hardly altered since the fall of the Soviet Union, and the city became shut off from the rest of the world, having to rely heavily on its own resources. Today, the government in Havana occupies the gap between the last stance of post-Cold War communism, and the looming influence of Capitalism, a situation which reveals itself in the variety of distinct architectural styles. These seven sites in the island nation’s capital best explain the story about where Havana has been, and offer a prediction as to where it may head next.
The history of Slovakia is riddled with political unrest and unwanted occupation, with the Slovak people having repeatedly been denied a voice throughout history. In the years following World War I, Slovakia was forced into the common state of Czechoslovakia; the territory was dismembered by the Nazi regime in 1938 and occupied by the Nazis for most of the Second World War, before being eventually liberated by Soviet and Romanian forces in 1945. Over the next four decades of communist rule—first by communists within Czechoslovakia itself and then later by the Soviet Union—the architecture of Slovakia came to develop into a unique form of sci-fi postmodernism that celebrated the shift in industrial influence at the time.
Photographer Stefano Perego has documented the Slovakian architecture from the 1960s–80s and has shared some of his photos with ArchDaily.
The Republic of Georgia’s past is defined by turbulence and a struggle for identity. A former republic of the USSR, Georgia is perhaps best known as the birthplace of Joseph Stalin. The nation's history has been anything but calm, and remnants of the architectural past provide a glimpse into the nation that was.
The country's remaining Soviet landmarks give Georgia an air of being caught between the past and the present. Italian photographers Roberto Conte and Stefano Perego capture this in their photo series, Soviet Architecture Heritage in Georgia, with a compilation of photos that highlights the existing Soviet heritage in Georgian architecture today.
Best known for the Rusakov Workers’ Club and his own house, Russian architect and painter Konstantin Melnikov (August 3rd, 1890 – November 28th, 1974) has only recently received his due, now more than forty years after his death. He spent much of the twentieth century shunned by the Soviet architectural establishment, having refused to capitulate to the increasingly conformist (and classicist) prescriptions of Stalinism. As a result, he was forced to end his career only a decade after it started, returning to his other avocation as a painter and leaving in his wake only a precious few completed works.
The Moscow government has just launched the biggest demolition program in the city’s history. Its goal is to get rid of 8,000 5-story residential buildings constructed in the Soviet era—it is probably the biggest program of erasure of modernist architectural heritage in world history. The main assumptions of the plan, as well as the press comments following it, show that we have forgotten what modernism was about, and what the real values of this architecture are.
A few years ago I published an essay titled Belyayevo Forever, dedicated to the preservation of generic modernist architecture. I focused on Moscow’s microrayons—vast, state-funded housing estates built in the Soviet era. In the essay, I explained the spatial and cultural values these prefabricated landscapes had. I also speculated about how one would go about preserving architecture that completely lacks uniqueness. The essay ended with a provocative statement: we should put Belyayevo—the most generic of all Soviet estates—on the UNESCO heritage list.
The Barbican Centre in London is celebrating its 35th anniversary. Widely regarded as the pinnacle of the Brutalist movement, the mixed-use development is home to 4,000 residents, the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, and the London Symphony Orchestra. Located in the heart of London, the Barbican is just one example of how Brutalist architecture forms a central part of our cities. To celebrate this progressive, modernizing, sometimes controversial style, GoCompare has created an online gallery illustrating Brutalist icons from across the world.
The history of what is now the Republic of Belarus is a turbulent one. It has been part of the Russian Empire, occupied by the Germans during both World Wars, divided between Poland and the Soviet Union, and finally declared its independence in 1991. Although Belarus is now an independent nation, it is also an isolated dictatorship that has in some ways remained unchanged since the 1990s, and is largely seen both culturally and architecturally as a sort of time warp, Europe's most vivid window into life in the Soviet Union.
Photographer Stefano Perego recently documented the postwar Soviet legacy of Belarus' architecture from the 1960s-80s, and has shared the photos from his 2016 cross-country drive with ArchDaily.
Socialist Modernism on Your Smartphone: This Research Group is Raising Funds for a Crowdsourcing Mobile App
Recent years have seen a rapidly increasing interest in the architecture of the former Soviet Union. Thanks to the internet, enthusiasts of architectural history are now able to discover unknown buildings on a daily basis, and with the cultural and historical break caused by the collapse of the Soviet Union, each photograph of a neglected and decaying edifice can feel like an undiscovered gem. However, often it can be difficult to find more information about these buildings and to understand their place in the arc of architectural history.
That was the reason behind the creation of Socialist Modernism, a research platform started by BACU - Birou pentru Artă şi Cercetare Urbană (Bureau for Art and Urban Research) which "focuses on those modernist trends from Central and Eastern Europe which are insufficiently explored in the broader context of global architecture." Socialist Modernism already consists of a website on which BACU has cataloged a number of remarkable and little-known buildings. However, now the team is raising funds on Indiegogo's Generosity platform for the next step in their research project. With this money they hope to create an app on which users can add new sites and buildings to the database.
North Korea is one of the few countries still under communist rule, and probably the most isolated and unknown worldwide. This is a result of the philosophy of Juche – a political system based on national self-reliance which was partly influenced by principles of Marxism and Leninism.
In recent years though, the country has loosened its restrictions on tourism, allowing access to a limited number of visitors. With his personal photo series “North Korea – Vintage Socialist Architecture,” French photographer Raphael Olivier reports on Pyongyang’s largely unseen architectural heritage. ArchDaily interviewed Olivier about the project, the architecture he captured, and what he understood of North Korea’s architecture and way of life.
Architecture is propaganda. Throughout my two years of visiting and living in North Korea the country slowly revealed to me the details of this evolved and refined tool for totalitarian control of the country’s population. The West views the country with incredulity—surely this cannot be a functioning country where people lead “everyday lives?” Surely the country’s populace can’t possibly buy into this regime? But I assure you that they do. People have careers, they go to work on the bus, and those women crying over the death of their leader were doing so through their own initiative, if not out of genuine emotion. How is this possible? This is a carefully constructed regime which has, at its heart, an unprecedented understanding of how architecture and urbanism can influence and control people. Coming second only to the military on the list of party priorities, the design of the built environment has had an incalculable effect on reinforcing the ideologies of the North Korean regime and conveying these to the people.