Friday, February 7, 2014

Studying socialist architecture and the post-socialist built environment ... a new book ...

*Virág Molnár's* new book, Building the State: Architecture, Politics, and
State Formation in Postwar Central Europe (Routledge, 2013).

A sociologist by training, Molnár offers an innovative approach to studying socialist architecture and the post-socialist built environment bridging political science, sociology, and the history of architecture. She suggests viewing architecture as a “strategic sight” and an “instrument” of political and social change, and the architectural profession as a key player in the process of state formation. One of the aims of the SWU project is to reflect on the methodological approaches we use for our investigations on socialist and post-socialist urbanity, and we hope that this book discussion will trigger further debate on these questions and the place of our sub-field vis-à-vis other disciplines. *Agata Lisiak* (Institute for Human Sciences, Vienna) and *Elidor Mëhilli* (Hunter College, New York City) will begin the discussion with their reviews of Molnár's book. Readers are invited to submit comments to any of the posts in this discussion.

"Architects as State-Builders in Post-War Central Europe" By Agata Lisiak

For a surprisingly long time Central European cities have been perceived, both in the West and in the region itself, as gray, homogenous, and generally uninteresting. Predominantly associated with
prefabricated housing and monumental social realist architecture, they have been often analyzed wholesale, without acknowledging their unique local aspects and the various, sometimes diametrically different, ways of implementing Soviet guidelines and policies. Continue reading:

"Tulips and Concrete" By Elidor Mëhilli

Virág Molnár’s *Building the State* is compelling, and it aptly demonstrates why there has been such a high degree of academic interest in the built environment and material culture of the former socialist world. Like the best works on the subject, Molnár’s work is firmly situated in distinct locales (East Germany and Hungary, in this case) but it also takes seriously international dynamics that go beyond the Eastern bloc. Continue reading:

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