SOCIALIST AND POST-SOCIALIST URBANIZATIONS: ARCHITECTURE, LAND AND PROPERTY RIGHTS

Urban and Landscape Days XI

Tallinn, Estonia

May 08 2014 - May 11 2014

The conference aims to explore histories and geographies of socialism and post-socialism in relation to three themes: 1) architecture and urban planning, 2) land use and landscape, and 3) property rights.

Please send your abstract (300 words) and short bio (60 words) by Dec 2, 2013 to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Although most European cities both in the 'East' and in the 'West' grew rapidly in the post-war decades, the important questions regarding the difference between urbanization under the two conflicting political regimes has never been deeply analysed and resolved in the urban studies. Thus, the post-1989 success and current renaissance of the notion of 'post-socialism' seems surprising. At the same time, however, the number of critical voices has been growing. Still, can we seriously talk about post-socialism, lacking not only a fully developed definition and understanding of ‘post-socialist city’ but also what is 'the socialist city'?

 

The missing or poor definition of ‘socialism’ is one of the key weaknesses of the concept of post-socialism. Socialism comes into the question of post-socialism in different ways: What are the 'socialist' origins of 'post-socialist' practices? What importance did the imagined return to 'pre-socialist' capitalism play in building the 'post-socialist' capitalism? Is negation of socialism (the 'anti-socialism') an important aspect of post-socialism? Whereas socialism could be seen both as a political idea and as an actual historical experience, post-socialism appears to be a societal condition only that is, furthermore, primarily restricted to a region of former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.

 

The existence of different socialisms—such as Soviet, Czechoslovakian, Yugoslavian, Chinese and Vietnamese— however, problematizes the regional bias of the term post-socialism. Would it be possible to talk about the common 'post-socialist' experience facing such different historical and geographical contexts? Would China be comprehensible as post-socialist similarly as Hungary or Estonia? Does it need downplaying historical and cultural particularities of China (but of course other contexts as well) that unquestionably are present? Would property regimes or ‘urban villages’ in China be comprehensible from the perspective of Eastern Europe?

 

In this context, we wish to initiate a fresh debate regarding the future of (the concepts of) socialism and post-socialism through engagements with different geographical contexts such as Eastern Europe, Asia, South America, and elsewhere. We would like to engage ‘post-socialism’ with ongoing debates of comparative urbanism but also seek ways to re-develop and conceptualise ‘socialism’ and ‘post-socialism’ themselves.

 

The conference aims to explore histories and geographies of socialism and post-socialism in relation to three themes: 1) architecture and urban planning, 2) land use and landscape, and 3) property rights.

 

1) ARCHITECTURE AND URBAN PLANNING: Many seeds of today's architectural and planning thinking have been planted in the socialist period. Historically, modernism and socialism developed hand in hand. Yet the roots of “post-socialist post-modernism”, to take one example, can be traced back to 1980s, if not earlier. This raises the questions about the relation between the architectural dissent under socialism and post-socialist architecture mainstream. In some instances, the value of buildings and urban plans from socialist period is being rediscovered today. Which aspects of socialist urban planning and architecture persist and what is to be learned from (which?) discarded ideas of socialist urban planning?

 

2) LAND USE AND LANDSCAPE: Suburbanization and rediscovery of historic city centres: these processes are portrayed as almost 'natural' to East European post-socialist experience. Yet, is it so simple? A similar enquiry about the socialist roots of these processes could be made. Individual construction of family houses was allowed, if not encouraged, in many countries during socialist periods. Similar questions emerge in relation to historical cores whereby the notion of heritage and the idea of international image-making clearly existed during the socialist period. Could we draw parallels between socialism and what happens today? What are the origins of today's prominence that we assign to urban leisure function, of the idea that cities should be beautiful and enjoyable, of our sense for 'landscaping' of urban space? Furthermore, looking at landscapes raises questions of different modes of production and ways of representations. What are the relations between socialist ideas and landscapes? How post-socialism manifests itself in various aspects of land use and landscape?

 

3) PROPERTY RIGHTS: The transfer from state ownership to private ownership (privatizations, special economic zones) is a well-known account of the post-socialist transformation. However, can we observe counter-tendencies (social, political, legal) at play: that is, from private to state, public, or common? Can one note only neo-liberal privatisation or also alternative forms of collective and public property? Has state withdrawn from property market or found different roles in regulating and practising it? Although new generation of activism has appeared on the horizon, the privatism is challenged predominantly at the level of use, access and life-style. The value of community and public spaces is accepted by wide array of actors, but the more controversial issue of ownership and property rights is often left untouched. Perhaps the value of ‘private property’ is widely accepted and the critique is not only difficult to make but also counter-intuitive. We welcome critical empirical and theoretical engagements that reflect on the different forms of property—ranging from private to variously organised common, collective and public ownership—and the notion of post-socialism.

 

We welcome theoretically informed presentations and case studies from a variety of fields including urban studies, architecture, landscape studies, art history, sociology, anthropology, organizational studies and urban economics. Historically oriented presentations are welcome and authors are encouraged to highlight historical connections between the past, the present, and the future: unexpected genealogies, continuities and rediscoveries of ideas, forms and practices. We welcome oral and poster presentation of urban and architectural projects, artistic research and research through design that work with the questions above. We also encourage other non-standard forms of presentation.

 

Please send your abstract (300 words) and short bio (60 words) by Dec 2, 2013 to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

 

The conference is organized by the Faculty of Architecture, Estonian Academy of Arts. It is the eleventh installment of the now-traditional Urban and Landscape Days.

 

Keynote speakers include Lukasz Stanek (Harvard GSD / The Manchester University) and Stefan Rettich (KARO Architects, Leipzig).

 

Please find more info on http://www.artun.ee/uld or contact us at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).