You're viewing an archived page from a previous Festival of Ideas. See this year's festival »
Whatever we want to call the Soviet system – 'Communism', 'real socialism', 'totalitarianism' or 'state capitalism', it resulted in something very unusual. From 1917 until 1991, large swathes of Europe and Asia had an economic system without land ownership, landlords or private investment. For years, the results were ridiculed, first for the stodgy neo-baroque pomposity of Stalin's architecture, and later for the repetition and the monolithic domination of the 1960s and 1970s housing estates. In fact, one of the best ways to discredit both 'Communism' and modern architecture has been this architecture.
Owen Hatherley, author of Landscapes of Communism: A History Through Buildings, explores whether these cities ever managed to create something genuinely different - better or worse - than the cities of capitalism. Did any of it suggest different ways of living in cities, and different ways of building them? And is there anything we can learn from their eventual failure?
Owen Hatherley works as a freelance writer for a variety of publications, but particularly for Architects Journal, Architectural Review, Icon, The Guardian, London Review of Books and New Humanist. He received a PhD in 2011 from Birkbeck College, London for a thesis on 'The Political Aesthetics of Americanism in Weimar Germany and the Soviet Union, 1919-34'. This will be published as The Chaplin Machine – Slapstick, Fordism and the Communist Avant-Garde by Pluto Press in 2016.
He is the author of several books: Militant Modernism (Zero, 2009), A Guide to the New Ruins of Great Britain (Verso, 2010), Uncommon – an essay on Pulp (Zero, 2011), A New Kind of Bleak – Journeys through Urban Britain (Verso 2012), Across the Plaza (Strelka, 2012), Landscapes of Communism: A History through Buildings (Allen Lane, 2015) and The Ministry of Nostalgia (Verso, 2016). He also edited, introduced and updated Ian Nairn's 1965 book Britain's Changing Towns as Nairn's Towns (Notting Hill Editions, 2013).
The book will be available to buy from the Waterstones' stall at this event.