Owen Hatherley: Landscapes of Communism

review Landscapes of Communism

Stoundingly insightful and pragmatic writer for one so comparatively young This is the third book of is I ve read this year and I m convinced e s one of the most essential non fiction writers at work in this country I took my time reading Landscapes of Communism in part because it s a weighty tome and therefore inconvenient to take on trains Moreover it is a pretty dense read and perhaps somewhat of an acuired taste I find reading about buildings curiously relaxing for some reason Hatherley takes the reader on a scrupulously detailed tour of communist architecture which includes a selection of black and white images but is largely reliant on detailed descriptions It s both a travelogue and istory lesson written in Hatherley s distinctive tone incisive and intermittently waspish Each chapter covers a different category of communism s physical remnants roads ousing memorials and so on Although I found the first alf enlightening parts of its dragged and it was the second The Dragon in the Clock Box half that proved fascinating Chapter 5 is a definiteighlight as Hatherley and I share a taste for grandiose public transport infrastructure I do love reading about the Moscow metro system Also of note was the chapter that followed which discussed the varying approaches to reconstruction taken by devastated Eastern European cities after WWII Hatherley points out that most of what we now consider My Amazing Dinosaur (Tib Tumtum, historic architecture in such cities is not what it seemsaving been carefully rebuilt by the communists The chapter on memorials contains perhaps the most vividly unsettling descriptions including of Lenin s tomb and the museum devoted to Stalin in is ome town as well as some very thought provoking analysis of Bloods a Rover (American Underworld Trilogy how the communist past is being rewritten through a lens of nationalismIn short this book is well suited to armchair tourists like me who are interested in theistorical significance of architectural aesthetics but don t want the bother of actually travelling to look at structures Perhaps adventurous people than I will be inspired by this book to visit the places it describes I ve mainly been inspired to read about soviet transport infrastructure The book concludes strongly with a comparison of Shanghai s current architecture a vision of capitalist communism in the 21st century Tying up the threads of is istory of communism and its buildings Hatherley cites this conceptually intriguing idea about ChinaWhat seems like merely the administration of capitalism by an oligarchy which is the Communist Party in nothing but name is actually a gigantic prolonged version of the New Economic Policy embarked upon by the Bolsheviks throughout the 1920s the use of a dirigiste state planned capitalism to build up productive forces to a level where the population as gone from being poor to being reasonably comfortable after which the Communist Party could take command of this wealth and use it for the building of full communism something which can after all in stage theory only be achieved after the development of a mature industrial capitalism This is at least what Deng Xiaoping always claimed was going on That point reminded me of Red Capitalism The Fragile Financial Foundation of China s Extraordinary Rise which asks What in China isn t a sovereign wealth fund It seems that the istory of 20th century communist buildings can still tell us uite a lot about socialism in the 21st century Landscapes of Communism is best appreciated at a leisurely pace as it gives the reader plenty to chew on Needs pictures Incredibly detailed and full of Cooking Light Lazy Gourmet history and facts Owen Hatherley wrote about communists cities buildings and public spaces I found some chapters too detailed but on the whole loved the descriptions of the placese was describing I would love a book of just the photos all the photos with brief descriptions as a companion to Landscapes of Communism The fascination Hatherley Arise has for these places are evident andis writing is open and enjoyable even if it is crammed full of details A great photo journalistic exhaustively researched look at Archies Americana, Vol. 1 how communismsocialismas impacted the architecture of a number of countries including skyscrapers The Book Thief housing metro stations memorials The photos alone are uite intriguing Outside of some specific architectural terms I don t think this book is as impenetrable as someave suggested Hatherley writes well even if e does seem a bit of a prig at times His sympathies obviously lie with socialism and I m inclined to disagree with. Idea over the decades with its sharp sudden zigzags of official style from modernism to classicism and back; to the superstitious despotic rococo of igh 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 daredBut 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 fin.

Rifying Silver Mortal (The Gracen Chronicles, hulking monstrosity found in Seskine Vilnius could be the dwelling of a growling unseen baddie from an 80s cartoon and the centre of Lazdynai Vilnius in 1986 bares a shocking resemblance to one of the many Post War new town centres found throughout Great BritainI understand that 500 odd pages dedicated to communist architecture may not be everyone s cup of tea but Iave to say I really got a lot out of this book and learned about countless wonderful examples of Eastern Bloc architecture and their sub genres as well as gaining a deeper understanding about the background and creators behind them In a strange almost inadvertent way this book also works as a loose travel guide to many of the cities of Eastern Europe Some of the buildings are genuinely incredible looking constructions there were so many times where I found myself viewing these buildings in the way that some astronomy enthusiast would look at images beamed from the surface of Mars or Venus This was an absolute joy and a thoroughly rewarding read This is a weighty tome beautifully typeset with correct diactritics and bound with better uality photographs than the author s previous books but with a word count probably twice as large I enjoyed it but it took me a very long time to read it in contrast to New Ruins and Bleak through which I whizzedThe classification of eight types of bui I m probably doing this book a Educating for the New World Order huge disservice if I write that this was one of the most interesting boring books I ve ever come across But then again who actually reads reviews from weird blonde randos rather than just glancing the star rating before they decided whether to go for it rightLandscapes of Communism caught my eye in a bookstore mainly due to my ownorrendously slow and probably not that awesome anyway writing namely it looked like a nice inspiration for strange locations Now that I m done with it I can say that it partially worked but also gave me uite a bit This book I imagine would be interesting for either a niche audience of about 5 people in the west that are into this stuff a small crowd that like decent journalism andor writing and finally a lot of people like me that actually come from the eastern Europe and grew up around all the ridiculous stuff the book describes Briefly if you are one of us one of us one of us this book will Living in Little Rock with Miss Little Rock help you look at where you live or grew up with a completely new eyes enabling you to experience the urban landscape better notice details that escaped you before and lets not forget boring your friends to death with yet another dose of nerdy fun factsWhy do I consider the book boring Ever since I recently made the conscious decision to read nonfiction books I opted for those with events those that told stories wisely assuming that descriptive textbooks would not grab me uite as much and then my reading progress would suffer I d fail my reading challenge and who wants to live like that Well this book fits the latter category full of concrete plastic revolutionary art concrete facades and concrete it s mostly a descriptive non story overlaid at places withistorical remarks and personal notes about The Character Of An Upright Man how the author andis girlfriend explored all of these locations Yet somehow it works and you enjoy looking at all the weirdness opulence and forced glorification of the simple asking for The chapters in the book cover what seems like a complete or at least a major fraction of the well types of communist architecture The topics remain interesting throughout from the major streets and microrayons at the start of the book through underground railways all the way to the self celebratory monuments Throughout and after reading this book I often felt some kind of nostalgia most probably for the places where I grew up and that are changing uickly making a lot of things I knew disappear Consciously I know this is a good thing cities in the east are getting prettier clean and modern Mr. Malcolms List however reading about the weird and abstract art scattered throughout the former communist bloc about milk bars and badly made prefab concrete statues that all brings me back to where I grew up playgrounds I used to play at where most of the euipment was somehow broken the ugly bus stop where Iad my first kiss and once in a while one is very much allowed a completely biased trip down the memory lane Architecture travelogue politics social GURPS Conspiracy X history and aeartfelt plea for Just One Golden Kiss how cities infrastructure and social spaces can inform a better future Hatherley is an Uildings 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 intimateistory 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 The Tyranny of Guilt how much we can understand from surfaces especially states as obsessed with surface as the Soviets were Walking through these landscapes today Hatherley discoversow in contrast to the common dismissal of 'monolithic' Soviet architecture these cities reflect with disconcerting transparency the development of an.

4 stars for interesting content not for clarity and styleFor what might be accurately called townscapes journalist Owen Hatherley presents a detailed at times indigestible analysis of Soviet era architecture Despite limited finances e managed to roam uite widely with firsthand impressions of Moscow Berlin Kiev during the recent demonstrations on the Maidan the remains of Ceaucescu s Bucharest Warsaw Vilnius even Shanghai to name the 45 StarsFrom the Baltic down to the Balkans and Germany out to Georgia this book unfolds like a bleak architectural romance suffused with war ardship and Eat Your Way Through the USA history Among the memorable revelations inere were My Dirty Janitor Book 4 how female architects were given far power and influence than they were ever allowed in most capitalist countries We also learn all about microrayons and the mysterious K67 kiosks as well as other mind boggling creationsThere is so muchistory in this part of the world A vast region saturated with conflict two world wars civil wars as well as many other conflicts But it is also one which is incredibly rich and alive with so much varied culture and of course the spectre of communism Stories from Spain / Historias de EspaƱa hangseavy But either way Hatherley takes the time and effort to do much of it justice acting as an entertaining and informative guide who is like a combination of Iain Sinclair Paul Theroux and Rowan MooreWithout doubt the many varied buildings in Spanish-American Short Stories / Cuentos hispanoamericanos here are communist in appearance but they very much borrowed and relied on many capitalist architects and thinkers in particular the philosophies and work of Haussmann and Le Corbusier can be detected in many of the places Stalinist architecture was especially taken with the political and military implications of the wide open boulevards which are known as magistrale in Slavic countries A series of boulevards which were carved through cities between the 1930s and 1980s isow the author describes them Not only were they ideal for clearing the slums and keeping the poor away from the city centre but they created the perfect environment to monitor and control any potentially unruly or rebellious citizens and they were also ideal for pompous military parades complete with tanks and other phallic paraphernaliaHatherley rightly dedicates a whole chapter to the mesmerising ballroom glamour of the Soviet era underground stations Particular emphasis is placed on Moscow St Petersburg and Kiev These spaces are on such a dramatic and ornate scale that they freely soar from the sublime to the ridiculous as they unapologetically drive Broken Bear home their communist era propaganda in an incredibly innovative and memorable waySome of the architecturalighlights for me were many of the sublime examples of Constuctivism as seen in the work of Konstantin Melnikov and is Rosakov Workers Club the rather extraordinary Neo Constructivism of the Ministry of Highways in Tblisi Georgia the Zizkov TV Tower in Prague and Raine Karp s fortress like National Library of Estonia and of course the unforgettable Brutalism of the Genex Tower in New BelgradeAlthough often these are crude muscular and stodgy creations there are some surprising moments of fresh creativity and fleeting beauty which allow us to view communist architecture in a colourful and three dimensional way The corns in Katowice Poland as a pleasant enough look about it and the Ulica Bukowinska where the author was living at the time of writing in Warsaw are not the worst Hatter high rises you will set eyes on There is also mention of recent gentrification with mention of Warsaw s aspiring Shoreditch and East Berlin amongst many spotsElsewhere we learn aboutow Ceausescu built the Casa Scanteii a mini skyscraper to Paint the Wind hold the print works and the offices of the communist press Scanteii The Spark was the party paper After returning from a visit to North Korea in 1971 Ceausescu was so impressed by the Juche self reliance philosophye set Romania onto a neo Stalinist path of rebuilding The natural conclusion of this Wayne hubris was the construction of the Palace of The Parliament the largest building in all of Europe and the second largest in the world behind the Pentagon Hatherleyas dug out some wonderful photographs and vintage postcards which really give us an authentic glimpse of what governments and architects were trying to achieve Funnily enough many of igh flats could be mistaken for structures found in the towns and cities of the UK The image of Kalinin Prospekt Moscow in 1980 could be a still from a deleted scene from Blade Runner The ter. '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 SelfDuring 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 igh rise and vast ousing 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

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Owen Hatherley is a British writer and journalist based in London who writes primarily on architecture politics and culture