- Hardcover: 624 pages
- Publisher: Allen Lane (4 Jun. 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1846147689
- ISBN-13: 978-1846147685
- Product Dimensions: 16.1 x 3.8 x 24.1 cm
- Average Customer Review: 18 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 345,277 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Landscapes of Communism: A History Through Buildings Hardcover – 4 Jun 2015
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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)
About the Author
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. He writes regularly on the political aesthetics of architecture, urbanism and popular culture for a variety of publications, including Building Design, Frieze, the Guardian and the New Statesman.
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The book revolves around different types of structures (or city parts), including the magistrale, the microrayon, public buildings, metros, memorials, etc. and covers pretty muche everything from former Yugoslavia in the West to China in the East. What makes the book much more pleasant to read is definitely the author's first hand travels to all places covered - this adds a personal perspective to the book that makes the architectural analysis that much more compelling.
The author also does not make the mistake of falling either in the camp of ideological opponents, or in the camp of glowing enthusiasts but manages to analyse the overall subject with a good dose of objectivity.
Finally, the one aspect that I found lacking is the photographic material. Sure, some photographs are provided but often only for every fifth or sixth structure described. This simply requires too much of searching through other sources to find out what is being described - more pictures would easily earn the book a fifth star in my opinion.
In any case, if you have at least a passing interest in architecture, and the 'East', the book is an excellent source and will give you a very solid overview of communist architecture in one, relatively compact volume.
The question he aims to answer in his book is: 'What sort of cities did the communists build, what sort of buildings did they expect people to live in, what places to work in, what places to meet, what did they do that was different from the capitalist norm, compared either with the age of social democracy or with the neoliberal era of the last thirty years?'. And he does that in spectacular fashion with in-depth historical, architectural and political analysis. And, when you look at the photographs of housing estates, you will see many similarities in social housing construction in the UK in the second half of the last century. Cold war or not, there was clearly a lot of crossover in certain areas of thought.
This is a very interesting, enjoyable and thought-provoking book. I received a proof copy so I cannot really comment on the photographs except to say that there are many of them, they are very good and illustrative of the text - and I hope very much that at least some of them are in colour in the final, published edition.
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