Abstracts + Biographies

Andres Kurg, Estonian Academy of Art
The global design crisis and the multimedia programme for the ICSID ’75 international design congress in Moscow.On 13-16 October 1975, the ninth congress of the international council for industrial design (ICSID) took place in Moscow, working under the general title “Design for man and society”. A multimedia programme with projections of slides and motion-film onto a special system of screens was to introduce each of the five thematic groups of the congress presentations. Devised under the guidance of artist Juri Sobolev and director Juri Reshetnikov, it criticised design’s proximity to consumerism and symbolised saturation with things and commodities by the particular selection of images and by immersive projection onto multiple screens. Following an official inspection of the multimedia programme just a few days before the congress began, the Committee for Science and Technology of the Soviet Council of Ministers prohibited its demonstration at the congress.This paper will view the programme and its critique on the background of discussions in design profession in the 1970s, including debates over the effects of modernisation, over alienation and the future of the environment. I will also attempt to unpack the position of the authors, who in their comments on design and its surrounding system seemed to refuse to conform to the dominant geopolitical polarisations.  This paper is part of a research and exhibition project, co-funded by the EU “Culture” programme and Estonian Cultural Endowment, that included the restoration and digitalisation of the original ICSID ’75 multimedia programme.

Andres Kurg is an architectural historian and researcher at the Institute of Art History of Estonian Academy of Arts in Tallinn. His research looks at architecture and design in Soviet Union in the late 1960s and 1970s in relation to technological transformations and changes in everyday life, as well as in its intersections with alternative art practices. He has published articles in Journal of Architecture, Interiors, A Prior Magazine, Kunstiteaduslikke Uurimusi – Studies on Art and Architecture and contributed to exhibition catalogues on post-Socialist urban transformations and spatial conflicts. Together with Mari Laanemets he has coedited and authored Environment, Projects, Concepts. Architects of the Tallinn School 1972–1985 (Estonian Museum of Architecture, 2008) and curated “Our Metamorphic Futures. Design, Technical Aesthetics and Experimental Architecture in the Soviet Union 1960-1980” in Vilnius National Gallery (2011-2012).

CANCELLED please see change in programme
[Iliana Veinberga, Art Academy of Latvia 
Herbert Dubin and formulation of design theory in Soviet Socialist republic of Latvia.
Art historian and critic Herbert Dubin (b. 1919) was dubbed ‘the most well-read Jew in Latvia’ during the Soviet period. He was a senior lecturer at Latvia State Academy of Art (now the Art Academy of Latvia) in the department of Marxism-Leninism, and a lecturer at the department of Art Theory and History where he lectured on history of culture, art history of socialist countries, and technical aesthetics.

From the early 1960s onwards he became the central figure responsible for introducting the notion of 'design' into the vocabulary of academic elite, as well as amongst lay people and furthering the understanding of design. From 1978, he worked also as a reporter for the East German design journal, Form und Zweck.

This paper will focus on his most seminal works on the subject of design, introducing his key ideas and working principles, pointing out the shifts in his position that occurred in line with shifts in broader social and political history over the 1960s, 70s and 80s, and discussing the ambiguities of his legacy.

Iliana Veinberga (mag.art) is an art historian, curator, critic and currently a PhD student at Art Academy of Latvia. Her academic interests include design history and various aspects of culture and industry of Soviet Latvia (lately expanding geographical margins to the scope of Baltic states). Previously she has researched design education in Latvia in the 1990s and the design of industrially produced vehicles in Latvia during Soviet occupation.

In 2011 in collaboration with Lolita Jablonskiene (LT) and Kai Lobjakas (EE) she co-curated the exhibition „Modernization. Baltic Art, Architecture and Design in the 1960s-1970s” at National Gallery of Art, Vilnius. The exhibition will be brought to the Estonian Museum of Applied Art and Design in the second half of 2012. Iliana also gives advices to Ekaterina Shapiro-Obermeir (Architekturzentrum Wien) on history of Latvian architecture in terms of the project „Soviet Modernism 1955-1991. Unknown stories”.]

Tom Cubbin

The Domestic Information Machine as a "Deartifactualised" Object of the Soviet Future 1969-1974

After a gap of over thirty years since the dissolution of the Constructivist school of design VKHUTEMAS, it fell to the All-Union Scientific Research Institute for Technical Aesthetics [VNIITE] to set about reconfiguring design for an era of rapid modernisation. From 1962, VNIITE led the way in almost all areas of design in the USSR – graphics, ergonomics and anthropometrics, machine building, electronics and product design. Inspired by scientific-rationalist design theories, VNIITE tried to create an industrial design methodology appropriate to socialism. It was hoped that ‘technical aesthetics’ would free design the uncoordinated ‘chaos’ of the free market.
This paper details the work of a group of futurologists who worked at VNIITE. They attempted to broaden the methodological framework for design by looking into the future. Inspired by Western avant-garde architects such as Archigram, they investigated what types of changes might occur as a result of the rapid technological development and social transformations which were to occur as a result of the ‘scientific-technological revolution.' Their work forms a critique of mainstream architectural practice in the Soviet Union and constitutes an attempt to conceptualise the material environment of the ‘post-industrial’ socialist future.

Tom Cubbin is currently completing his MA in History of Design at the V&A/RCA and will go on to start a PhD at the University of Sheffield this coming Autumn. He is interested in Soviet industrial design during the 1960s and 1970s, with a particular focus on its relationship to science and to Western movements in design of the period.

Blazej Brzostek, University of Warsaw

Public space and social history in Post-War Poland

In Post-War Poland, the public space of the cities has undergone numerous changes. It was initially related to the massive destructions of war and to the possession of the new western provinces with German material and cultural heritage. After 1948 these changes have gained a new meaning. The public space had become a field of intensive political action. Great public expenses have been assigned on the organiziation of the representative urban areas and on visual propaganda. Some great urban projects have emerged, like the monumental Warsaw city-centre or the new industrial (plant) city of Nowa Huta. A specific trait of these project was the temptation to create a new aesthetic totality inspired by the "greatest epoch" of national art, Renaissance and Classicism. In this attempt, the modernist stylistics was dismissed as cosmopolitan and politically incorrect, and substituted by some historical references and eclectic variations. It is important to underline the visible care to exercise some elements of detail and small architecture in these big compositions. It was connected with the idea of the street and square, as a planned totality and not as an effect of the spontaneous market phenomena. On the other hand, these projects was considered as a political measure of consolidation of the new urban society. The socrealist style accompagned the mass migration from the country into the big cities. The new plastic forms of the urban environnement was prepared as an incarnation of the "new epoch" of social and cultural development of Poland.

Błażej Brzostek (PhD) works at Warsaw University. He is interested in the social history of 20th century, he published several books concerning the everyday life in Warsaw in the '50 and '60, and social history of eating in Post-War Poland. Currently he works on a comparative history of Polish and Romanian capitals - Warsaw and Bucharest - in 20th century.

Ines Weizman, London Metropolitan University

Prison, operative dossiers and other risks taken by architects in the GDR.

This paper will trace the articulation of dissidence not as a form of political action, but rather its possible manifestation in the most unlikely of practices — architecture. Could a “dissident-architect,” almost a contradiction in terms, have existed? The question will be addressed through an analysis that will show how in the former Soviet Bloc countries architects engaged very critically and creatively with their urban and material culture (even with the very problem of how to secretly exhibit, or wrap, smuggle and hide their drawings) in order to communicate a political and institutional critique.

Ines Weizman (PhD) is an architect and theorist based in London. She was trained as an architect at the Bauhaus University Weimar, the Ecole d’Architecture de Belleville in Paris, Cambridge University and the Architectural Association where she completed her doctoral thesis. She taught design and history and theory at the Architectural Association, Goldsmiths College London, the Berlage Institute of Architecture in Rotterdam and currently at London Metropolitan University and the Architectural Association. She researches and publishes on the ideological spectacles enacted by Soviet-era architecture, particularly on the urban historiography of what was East Germany. Attempting to understand figures and practices of dissidence in architecture, she is currently organizing an international conference Architecture and the Paradox of Dissidence that will take place in London in November 2012. http://www.dissidence.org.uk Research and exhibition projects include “Celltexts. Books and other works produced in prison” (together with Eyal Weizman) first exhibited in Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Turino (2008) http://celltexts.org/. Her recent project (together with Andreas Thiele) for an architectural re-enactment of Adolf Loos’ 1928 ‘House for Josephine Baker’ in Paris is conceived as an excise in critical appropriation, and radical copying.

Nicolette Makovicky, University of Oxford

Furniture of the Mind: The domestication of socialism after the Prague Spring.

Late socialism in Czechoslovakia was marked by the abandonment of utopian ideals extolled through the standard mythologies of socialist ideology. Instead, every day life came under scrutiny as the Communist Party struggled to maintain hegemonic power. An explosion of state-authored popular culture, ranging from the obligatory May Day parades to gymnastics galas, special interest magazines, and folkloric events, were meant to convey ideological messages to a population weary of slogans and the Party controlled news media. The reforms of the Normalization period aimed to define and locate communist citizenship in a publicly shared private life, promoting national(ist)-oriented popular culture and sanctioning the consumerist pursuit of a ‘normal, socialist life’. As such, the domestic sphere - seen as particularly problematic in terms of its ability to facilitate social and political change – came under renewed scrutiny as the site of newly endorsed material accumulation and ideologically rubber-stamped ‘active leisure’. Examining popular publications and magazines, this talk describes the efforts made to promote a particularly socialist form of domesticity through the notion of ‘cultured living’ (kultúrné bývanie). I argue that it was to be realised through the adoption of a broadly modernist aesthetic that worked against the notion of the home as a material expression of inner life. Kulturnosť (‘culturedness’), I argue, was thus not simply a form of ‘aesthetic education’, but can be seen as a form of socialist ethics in Foucauldian sense, in that it delivered a framework through which the individual could understand and improve himself or herself while simultaneously contributing to the building of socialist society. The ideal socialist domestic, in short, was to mirror socialist society in miniature; a home without the traces of bourgeois sentimentality, characterized by the flexibility, adaptability, change, and movement of society as a whole. 

Susan E. Reid, University of Sheffield

This is tomorrow: Becoming Consumers in the Soviet Sixties

Cold-war polarities have been projected conceptually onto goods and materials, supposing a first and second world of artefacts. According to this binary model, while true ‘Sixties’ (capitalist) commodities embodied excess, superfluity, redundancy, the creation of desires for unnecessary things, the nature, circulation and meanings of socialist goods were defined by shortage and the bare satisfaction of basic need. In this context the motivations for the attention to image and styling in the West were surely absent. This paper is a preliminary attempt to unsettle these secure binaries and open up questions about Soviet styling and marketing, the attention to surface design and image of consumer goods that makes them ‘objects of desire.’ It will consider the creation of a need for domestic appliances as an aspect of the production of the Soviet consumer. 

Susan E. Reid is Professor of Russian Visual Culture in the Department of Russian and Slavonic Studies, University of Sheffield. She has published widely on painting, visual and material culture, gender and consumption in the Soviet Union, especially in the 1950s–60s. Recent publications include Pleasures in Socialism: Leisure and Luxury in the Eastern Bloc edited with David Crowley (Northwestern University Press, 2010);  “Who Will Beat Whom? Soviet Popular Reception of the American National Exhibition in Moscow, 1959,” Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History 9, no. 4 (2008);  ‘The Soviet Pavilion at Brussels ’58: Convergence, Conversion, Critical Assimilation, or Transculturation?’  Cold War International History Project Working Paper No. 62 (December 2010); ‘Communist Comfort: Socialist Modernism and the Making of Cosy Homes in the Khrushchev-Era Soviet Union,’ Gender and History 21, no. 3 (Autumn
 2009): 465-98. She is currently completing a book on everyday aesthetics, socialist modernity and consumption in the Khrushchev-era standard apartment, provisionally entitled Khrushchev Modern: Making Oneself at Home in the Soviet 1960s.

session one moderator:
Torsten Lange, PhD candidate, Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL, London
Torsten studied architecture at the Bauhaus University Weimar, Germany. He worked as an architect at ZMMA Architects in London from 2005 to 2009. In 2008 he completed a Masters in Architectural History at the Bartlett/ UCL with a thesis about public debates in architectural magazines in the GDR in the 1970s and 1980s. Since 2009 he has been carrying out his doctoral research, exploring theoretical concepts underpinning the production of the built environment in socialist East Germany and investigating the relationship between architecture and art in the design of public spaces in East Berlin’s mass-housing districts. Torsten is visiting lecturer in History and Theory in Spatial Design at the University of Brighton since 2008.

session two moderator:
Professor Florian Urban, Glasgow School of Art
Born and raised in Munich, Florian graduated with a Master of Fine Arts from the University of the Arts Berlin and an Masters in Urban Planning from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). He completed his PhD in History and Theory of Architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2006.

Before joining the Glasgow School of Art in 2010, Florian taught at the Center for Metropolitan Studies, Berlin Technical University, and worked for the German Federal Institute for Research on Construction, Urban Affairs and Spatial Development (BBSR). He is also the book review editor-in-chief for the journal Planning Perspectives.

Florian's research interests centre on the shift of urban paradigms in Europe and North America in the late twentieth century. This includes the criticism against tower block housing and the modernist, functionally separated city since the 1960s as well as the genesis of post-modern concepts and typologies such as the compact city, the post-industrial city, place marketing, urban design, neo-historical architecture, or New Urbanism. He is also interested in the theories that influenced architects in the twentieth century, including the Frankfurt School, postcolonial theory, and post-structualist philosophy. 

session three moderator:

PhD, Archaeology, Cambridge University, 1996

General Interests
The material culture of socialism and post-socialism
Modernist architecture and Urbanism in Russia and Kazakhstan
The archaeology of the recent past
Theoretical understandings of material culture and materiality
Ethnography of new materials and new technologies

Current Research

Victor is Reader in Material Culture within the Material Culture Group at UCL and works on architecture, domesticity, the archaeology of the recent past, critical understandings of materiality and new technologies and the anthropology of sustainability and design. He also teaches on the UCL Urban Studies MSc and supervises on the Mphil/PhD programme at the Bartlett and serves on the Board of theVictoria and Albert/Royal College of Art MA History of Design Programme. He has conducted fieldwork in Russia, Britain and Kazakhstan. He is currently writing on questions surrounding immateriality particularly the significance of material cultures that paradoxically attempt to deny their own physicality. In addition, he is writing a book entitled The Anthropology of Architecture (Berg 2012) which examines the materiality of built forms from an anthropological perspective. 
Victor’s previous books include An Archaeology of Socialism (Berg 1999) – an ethno-historical study of a constructivist housing block in Moscow, Archaeologies of the Contemporary Past (Routledge 2001) with Gavin Lucas an examination of the critical issues which arise when the archaeological method is applied to the study of contemporary material culture, and Interpreting Archaeology(Routledge 1995) co-edited with Ian Hodder et. al..  He has also edited The Material Culture Reader (Berg 2002), the five volume Material Culture: Critical Concepts in the Social Sciences for the Major Works Series, Routledge Publishers (2004) and with C. Alexander and C. Humphrey,  Urban life in  Post Soviet Asia (Routledge 2007).