The Landscapes of Communism

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9781846147685: The Landscapes of Communism

'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 the grand imperial past, it 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 an 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 submerge into the metros, walk the massive, multi-lane magistrale and pause at milk bars in the microrayons, who knows what we might find?

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About the Author:

Owen Hatherley is the author of the acclaimed Militant Modernism, a defense of the modernist movement, and A Guide to the New Ruins of Great Britain. He writes regularly on the political aesthetics of architecture, urbanism and popular culture for a variety of publications, including Building Design, Frieze, Guardian and New Statesman.

Review:

An extraordinary tour... Hatherley describes the concrete awnings, arcades, peculiar angles, sudden curves, the collage of towers. -- Jay Merrick * Independent * Impressive... intimate, witty and insightful. -- Ian Critchley * Sunday Times * Communism, for all its myriad faults, created another vision of what cities could be, in which public space was dedicated to something other than consumption and in which workers were housed decently and cheaply by the state. We have much to learn from its ambition, as well as its ultimate failure... Owen Hatherley is searching for an elusive alternative [and] is absolutely right that to dismiss this alternative architecture would be a huge mistake. -- Edwin Heathcote * Financial Times * A revelatory voyage into fantastical domains made more so by the fact that they were often enormous forms of propaganda... The outlines of these places might be familiar - vast factory-built housing estates, TV towers, the grandiose palaces and boulevards built by Stalin and Ceausescu, the brave constructivist experiments of the early years of the Russian revolution - but Hatherley fills in these vague forms, and reveals their complexities... It is an epic work. -- Rowan Moore * Observer * 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 I was at first intrigued, and then fascinated, and then captivated by this book. Owen Hatherley's eye is so acute, his architectural expertise so lightly deployed, his sympathies so wide and generous, that reading it is like a tour of a whole world of unsuspected curiosities and richnesses conducted by a guide whose wit is as refreshing as his knowledge is profound. This is far more than a book about buildings: it's a vivid account of the twentieth century's experiment with socialism as it affected the urban landscape, and among other things a celebration of the way human invention, ingenuity and craftsmanship can flourish in the unlikeliest of places. I loved it, and I'll go back to it again and again. -- Philip Pullman Can one talk yet of vintage Hatherley? Yes, one can. Here are all the properties that have made him one of the most distinctive writers in England - not just 'architectural writers', but writers full stop: acuity, contrariness, observational rigour, frankness and beautifully wrought prose. This is a tempered love letter to eastern Europe and a fullblown love letter to an eastern European woman. I can't think of anything remotely akin -- Jonathan Meades

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Hatherley, Owen
Editorial: Allen Lane (2015)
ISBN 10: 1846147689 ISBN 13: 9781846147685
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Hatherley, Owen
Editorial: Allen Lane (2015)
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