By Owen Hatherley
The giant, proverbially windswept plazas outfitted less than “really present socialism” from the Nineteen Twenties to the Nineteen Eighties are largely thought of to be lifeless areas, designed to intimidate or no less than galvanize. but in the event that they are just of use to these in energy, why is it they've been used so effectively in protest? From Petrograd in 1917 to Independence sq. in Kiev in the course of the Orange Revolution, those areas became focuses for mass protest. starting in Berlin’s Alexanderplatz, and taking in Warsaw, Ljubljana, Kharkov and Moscow, Owen Hatherley heads looking for riot, architectural glory and horror. alongside the best way he encounters the extra civic squares that changed their authoritarian predecessors and unearths that, ironically, the outdated centres of strength are extra conducive to dissent than those new, ostensibly democratic plazas.
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Additional resources for Across The Plaza: The Public Voids Of The Post-Soviet City
It is less the monument to a present atrocity, perhaps, than a reminder that the terror was still being kept in reserve as a possible threat, something that could always be returned to, if needed. Square between Cosmos and Chaos Ploshchad Gagarina, Moscow When is a square not a square? A place to answer this conundrum is the baffling landscape of Ploshchad Gagarina (Gagarin Square) in Moscow, a clash of plan and non-plan, futurism and revanchism, imperial dreams and fumbling accidents, one of the eeriest city squares imaginable, a place which would give any urban planner today a coronary.
It is supposed to look like a spaceship, it isn’t an accident of its constructional technologies. Those sculptures are figurative and didactic, however far they might be from the musclebound figures of socialist realism. Their role is to animate, in a straightforward way, the purpose of the building as a scientific institute. There’s nothing mysterious here, nothing inscrutable. This long block joins onto a tall tower, a skyscraper/sphere combination conceivably borrowed from the unbuilt projects of the 1920s avant-gardist Ivan Leonidov, although the lack of maintenance makes it rather more corporeal than Leonidov’s pristine sketches.
The architecture may be secondary. It is really no worse than the DDR ensemble of Alexanderplatz, though it is certainly no better. It’s the product of ‘Europe’s largest building site’, but the second and third largest building sites, in Warsaw and Moscow, can boast nothing of even remotely comparable architectural quality or civic cohesion. The fact the buildings have some overarching plan is preferable to the slap-a-load-of-icons-onto-asquare that would have resulted were, say, Danny Libeskind the overarching presence rather than Hans Kollhoff.
Across The Plaza: The Public Voids Of The Post-Soviet City by Owen Hatherley