Landscapes of Communism - A History Through Buildings
In Landscapes of Communism, Owen Hatherley embarks on an evocative historical journey through Eastern Europe. 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 Vienne, 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 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. An intimate history of twentieth-century communist Europe, Landscapes of Communism 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 these cities reflect with disconcerting transparency the development of the Soviet idea, with its sharp, sudden zigzags of official style: from the superstitious despotic rococo of high Stalinism, with its jingoistic memorials, palaces and secret policemen's castles, to 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? 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 the The Architect's Journal, ICON, the Guardian and New Humanist. "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).
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 [Praise for 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 Intensely passionate... I was reminded at times of the thunderous laments of the Victorian sage Thomas Carlyle -- Rupert Christiansen Daily Telegraph