1. Shaping New Urban Identities: Symbolic Transformations of the Modernist Urban Heritage under New Post-Soviet Geography
Research fields: urban studies, architectural studies, memory politics, utopian studies, modernist architecture
Keywords: urban areas, architectural modernism, cultural heritage, Soviet urban planning, post-Soviet city, urban identity
Researcher: Mikhail Ilchenko
This research project aims to explore specific features of spatial, social and cultural development of the Soviet modernist urban areas within the context of the Eastern European region. It seeks to analyze how the Soviet urban areas of 1920-1930s are transformed today in terms of their a) urban structures; b) social functions; c) symbolic meanings and, thus, to reveal to what extent these changes are in line with the similar trends in Eastern Europe in general.
Research problem and theoretical context:
Urban planning reforms and architectural transformations of the 1920-1930s covered different regions all over the world and actually became a full-fledged instrument of a modernizing policy. Along with the new engineering and building technologies they promoted new values, social practices and modes of behavior in various cultural and political contexts. For Eastern and Central Europe new architectural policy played an especially significant role: it coincided with the emergence and rise of the new states and, thus, not just contributed to a general outlook of the growing cities but to a large extent symbolized the very process of building the new societies. It was no accident that all the most radical and influential projects of the new modernist urban settlements were developed and implemented in the Eastern European countries: “Siedlungen” in Germany, so-called “socialist cities” in the USSR, company towns in Czechoslovak Republic and in Poland. Modernist buildings and complexes gave a practical tool of organizing new urban spaces and at the same time helped to shape new vision of social life and a general image of the future. In this regard, modernist urban transformations seriously contributed to the formation of the Eastern European cultural identities laying their foundation both on the level of everyday practices and symbolic representations. The difficulty, however, is that all those urban projects which relied upon the common principles and guidelines were implemented under various ideological, political and social conditions (Weimar Republic in Germany, establishment of the Soviet system, Czechoslovak Republic, Second Polish Republic etc.) that seriously impacted on their perception and symbolic significance. For that reason, it is especially important to examine different trajectories of their social, cultural and spatial development under current conditions.
The main research questions:
2. Languages of Utopia: Narratives and Symbolic Representations of the Soviet Architecture
Research fields: literary urban studies, utopian studies, Soviet urbanism, discourse studies
Keywords: socialist cities, utopia, Soviet architecture, narrative, public discourse, industrial heritage
Duration: 2016 – present
Researcher: Mikhail Ilchenko
The aim of the project is to trace how narratives of the Soviet “ideal” cities changed and transformed over time starting from 1920s up to the present period. This could explain the logic of their symbolic transformation, as well as to reveal how the areas of the former “ideal settlements” are represented in the public rhetoric under current conditions. What are the ways of speaking on them? And how these new discourses and symbolic meanings affect their development and public perception?
3. Art Strategies for Urban Space Development in Post-Socialist Cities
A special issue of “Laboratorium: Russian Review of Social Research”. Guest editor in cooperation with Aleksandra Nenko.
Created / Updated: 18 March 2018 / 5 May 2018