Across The Plaza: The Public Voids Of The Post-Soviet City by Owen Hatherley

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By Owen Hatherley

The massive, proverbially windswept plazas equipped less than “really latest socialism” from the Nineteen Twenties to the Eighties are generally thought of to be lifeless areas, designed to intimidate or not less than galvanize. 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 rebel, architectural glory and horror. alongside the best way he encounters the extra civic squares that changed their authoritarian predecessors and unearths that, satirically, the previous centres of strength are extra conducive to dissent than those new, ostensibly democratic plazas.

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Additional info for Across The Plaza: The Public Voids Of The Post-Soviet City

Sample text

Three massive bronze wings (one for each rising) — their contoured, outstretched membranes pointing out in different directions, like creepily organic, bulging flags — mark the furthest end of a sloping plaza, which juts out towards a roundabout, with pedestrians relegated to a series of underpasses which follow the roundabout’s sweeping curves. The raised plaza on top is rounded off with granite, into a steep artificial hill, a sculptural object in its own right. It is obviously intended for state manifestations of some kind, but it is hard to imagine an improvement on this empty state.

None of them are the result of gradual accretions, few of them were troubled in any significant way by the pressure of land values and individual plots, or even property ownership itself. Spaces that are state-decreed and built as one entity are largely considered to be top-down, devoid of street life, inhuman. But what do you do when history presents you with a legitimate tabula rasa, a cleared space which really was just a waste beforehand? Can you simulate the haphazard emergence of the bourgeois city out of speculation, individual plots and the vagaries of architectural fashion?

Part of it, by being so ornamental, with its hints of Amsterdam School or a rough, proletarian art nouveau, seems to prefigure some of the less annoying elements of postmodernism — but whoever designed the lumpen 90s hat that sits on one of its wings was more literal. The stepped brick structure that faces the main road becomes something straighter, more rectilinear, as it turns towards the square, where it aggressively confronts some 30s luxury apartment blocks. Ravnikar was a former student of Jože Plečnik, the most/only famous Slovenian architect, one of those few twentieth-century classicists who managed to create something genuinely new –a fragmented, dreamlike neoclassicism of randomly arranged stone, columns whose rustication runs out halfway up, sheathing extraordinarily atmospheric interiors.

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