Architectural History and Theory Seminar series: Andres Kurg


  • Tuesday, October 18, 2016 - 17:15 to 18:30

This seminar, entitled ‘Against Stagnation: Estonian Collective Farms and Postmodern Architecture in the Soviet Union’ is led by Dr Andres Kurg.

It is the third in the Architectural History and Theory Seminar Series 2016-17.

Andres is an architectural historian and Senior Researcher at the Institute of Art History, Estonian Academy of Arts, in Tallinn. His research explores architectural and art practices in the Soviet Union from the late 1960s to 1980s in relation to technological transformations and changes in everyday life and values.

He has published widely and has received grants from the Graham Foundation and EU “Culture” program. In 2015 he was a Guest Scholar at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles.

Against Stagnation: Estonian Collective Farms and Postmodern Architecture in the Soviet Union

The 1970s and the beginning of the 1980s have in the Soviet history retrospectively been termed as the “era of stagnation”: a period of stalling economy, lack of reforms and repression of democratic initiative. This sense of stasis has been further underlined by frequent representations of the era’s building production that show uniform mass housing areas, filling the entire country with same-looking prefabricated panel structures.

The paper will counter this stereotype by focusing on Estonian rural communal farms – kolkhozy and sovkhozy – that maintained their economic efficiency in these years and reused their profits to build large-scale culture houses, office buildings, kindergartens, schools and recreational sanatoria on the seaside resorts. New architecture, often in dialogue with the emerging postmodernism in the West, became for these collectives an important means for self-representation and differentiation; some kolkhozy even opened their own design offices, providing work places for radical young architects.

By tracing the changing significance of postmodern architecture for collective farm construction through the decade, the paper concludes by discussing relationship that this architecture had to the politics of the late 1980s independence movement in Estonia and the so-called rectifying revolution (Habermas): a return in the socialist block countires to democratic governments and inter-war national symbols but also previous property relations and social hierarchies.

The event is free, and all are welcome to attend, from the University and beyond.

If you do not have a University swipe card, please be at the entrance to Minto House (20 Chambers Street) at 5.05pm to be taken to the room in which the seminar will take place.

If you have any special access requirements, please get in touch with the seminar convenors, Dr Richard Anderson and Dr Alistair Fair.

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