Landscapes Of Communism
A History Through Buildings
Landscapes of Communism is an intimate history of twentieth-century communist Europe told through its buildings; it is, too, a book about power, and what power does in cities.
In Landscapes of Communism, Owen Hatherley embarks on an evocative historical journey through Eastern EuropeIn Landscapes of Communism, acclaimed cultural commentator Owen Hatherley offers a very different narrative of Eastern Europe to the familiar image of Stalinism and the Stasi, cold-war espionage, forbidding architecture ('Soviet' and 'Eastern Bloc' are commonly used as pejoratives for anything large and made of concrete), the sex industry, stag parties and immigration.
As Hatherley shows, the region's architecture tells the story of two of the twentieth century's most wide-ranging political experiments: full-scale socialism post-1945 and, after 1989, neo-liberal capitalism. Hatherley travels through the region's immense boulevards, monumental, windswept squares and crumbling apartment blocks, exploring the original ideals behind their creation and asking what we can learn from them today.
From Warsaw to Berlin, Kiev to Moscow, this is a passionate journey in search of the true meaning of cities and the ways in which they reflect our values and shape our lives.
Owen Hatherley is the author of the acclaimed Militant Modernism, a defence of the modernist movement, and A Guide to the New Ruins of Great Britain ('A book of finespun rage . . . a book that had to be written. Wittily, bitterly, pithily, mostly accurately, Hatherley tells it how it is' - Rowan Moore, Observer; 'Fear and loathing in lost Albion riffed by a quainter version of Hunter S. Thompson' - Jay Merrick, Independent). He writes regularly on the political aesthetics of architecture, urbanism and popular culture for a variety of publications, including Building Design, Frieze, TheGuardian and TheNew Statesman.
'In the craven world of architectural criticism Hatherley is that rarest of things: a brave, incisive, elegant and erudite writer, whose books dissect the contemporary built environment to reveal the political fantasies and social realities it embodies.' Will Self%%%During the course of the twentieth century, communism took power in Eastern Europe and remade the city in its own image. Ransacking the urban planning of Haussmann's Paris, and imperial Vienna, Berlin and St Petersburg, communism set out to transform everyday life, its sweeping boulevards, epic high-rise and vast housing estates an emphatic declaration of a non-capitalist idea. Now, the regimes that built them are dead and long gone, but from Warsaw to Berlin, Moscow to post-Revolution Kiev, the buildings, their most obvious legacy, remain, populated by people whose lives were scattered and jeopardized by the collapse of communism and the introduction of capitalism.
Landscapes of Communism is an intimate history of twentieth-century communist Europe told through its buildings; it is, too, a book about power, and what power does in cities. In exploring what that power was, Hatherley shows how much we can understand from surfaces - especially states as obsessed with surface as the Soviets were. Walking through these landscapes today, Hatherley discovers how, in contrast to the common dismissal of 'monolithic' Soviet architecture, these cities reflect with disconcerting transparency the development of the Soviet idea over the decades, with its sharp, sudden zigzags of official style: from modernism to classicism and back; to the superstitious despotic rococo of high Stalinism, with its jingoistic memorials, palaces and secret policemen's castles; East Germany's obsession with prefabricated concrete panels; and the metro systems of Moscow and Prague, a spectacular vindication of public space that went further than any avant garde ever dared.
But most of all, Landscapes of Communism is a revelatory journey of discovery, plunging us into the maelstrom of socialist architecture. As we s