By Owen Hatherley
The monstrous, proverbially windswept plazas outfitted lower than “really latest socialism” from the Twenties to the Nineteen Eighties are commonly thought of to be lifeless areas, designed to intimidate or a minimum of provoke. but in the event that they are just of use to these in energy, why is it they've been used so effectively in protest? From Petrograd in 1917 to Independence sq. in Kiev in the course of the Orange Revolution, those areas became focuses for mass protest. starting in Berlin’s Alexanderplatz, and taking in Warsaw, Ljubljana, Kharkov and Moscow, Owen Hatherley heads looking for insurrection, architectural glory and horror. alongside the way in which he encounters the extra civic squares that changed their authoritarian predecessors and reveals that, ironically, the outdated centres of strength are extra conducive to dissent than those new, ostensibly democratic plazas.
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Extra resources for Across The Plaza: The Public Voids Of The Post-Soviet City
The planning tries to bring back the sense of convulsive ultra-urban congestion the place once had, but open-top buses make up the bulk of the traffic. The live forces in contemporary Berlin urbanism are all based elsewhere — the anarchists, squatters and sundry hipsters of Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain or the young professional gentrifiers of Mitte and Prenzlauer Berg largely re-use Wilhelmine or DDR space. New space, as represented by planner Hans Stimmann’s blank, stone-faced infill apartment and office buildings, is disdained by both of these groups for being still, cold, bland, without the properly Berlinisch spirit of flux.
Caught between the American sector and the Soviet sector, its surviving buildings were mostly demolished, except for the minor Wilhelmine Haus-Huth, and the basement of the Wertheim department store, which was used by the techno club Tresor for most of the 90s. When Berlin’s two parts were rejoined, the city administration packaged it up and sold it to four multinational investors, to much justified protest from Berlin’s vocal far left, who had other hopes for what the post-Wende city might have become.
Unlike the neon light, they have no attraction, no glamour, no futurism to them; they’re another piece of urban waste, a ubiquitous kipple. They invariably represent Western companies and Western products, dispensed from the centre into the periphery, very often simple translations of already existing Western ads, although to be fair the products in question are more likely to be manufactured here — especially in Katowice — than in the West itself. ‘Zenit’, cute as it is, is no masterpiece. Its covering is not a desecration but a mundanity of one sort overlaying the mundanity of another era.
Across The Plaza: The Public Voids Of The Post-Soviet City by Owen Hatherley