The Centre for Comparative Modernities is delighted to announce the second workshop of the Centre’s Autumn Workshop Series on 14 November 2023. Please note all sessions in this series will be online on Zoom at 13:00 UK time.
The Zoom link for all sessions is:
Meeting ID: 948 8192 7692
Incomparable? Regionalist Post-War Modernism in Poland and Switzerland
Kaja Schelker, Leibniz Institute for the History and Culture of Eastern Europe & the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich
Abstract: Is Modernist architecture allowed to be site and time specific? This has been the existential question of Modernism since its rise in the late nineteenth century until Kenneth Frampton incorporated the category of ‘Critical Regionalism’ into his historiography of Modernism in the 1980s, thereby seemingly putting an end to the heated debates. Yet, still until today regionalist architecture remains a marginal subject in the historiography of Modernism, and even more so in the architecture historiography of Eastern Europe under Socialism. In this sense, when writing about post-war architecture in Socialism, historians follow either the entanglements of radically modernist architects between ‘East’ and ‘West’ or they point at their engagement within radically modernist institutions to prove the ‘East’s’ belonging to a global or universal Modernism. However, in doing so, they reinforce an understanding of Modernism in its most narrow sense — coined ‘International Style’ by Hitchcock. While historians have overcome this narrow understanding of Modernism in the ‘West’ by theorizing mainly the oeuvre of western architects from the post-war period, for the ‘East’ it seems, however, that a belonging to an universal Modernism is still only granted when manifested in its most radical way. My phd-thesis therefore focuses on post-war buildings by Anna Górska for the town of Zakopane and the adjacent Tatra National Park in Poland. By comparing them to Bruno Giacometti’s post-war buildings for the valley of Bergell in Switzerland I want to examine, if Górska’s work can be understood as part of a larger shift in Modernism towards peculiarities of time and place — the ‘Stalinist’ architecture doctrine being one of it. In my talk I would like to test my methodology, borrowed from the Global Area Studies and combined with tools of architecture history in analysing two housing projects — one by Bruno Giacometti and one by Anna Górska. The aim is to stimulate a critical discussion on the drafted approach.
‘Su Zhong You Hao’: The Circulation of Soviet Modernity in Chinese Print Media
Huiyu Cara Zhao, Durham University
Abstract: From 1958 to 1960, the Soviet-Sino Friendship Society, a branch of the Soviet VOKS, published a weekly journal entitled ‘su zhong you hao’ (sovetsko-kitaiskaia druzhba, or Soviet-Sino friendship) to introduce the amicable collaboration between the Soviet Union and the PRC. The journal was written in Russian, edited by Soviet editors, translated into Chinese and mailed to Beijing to go to press. The well-illustrated journal ‘su zhong you hao’ carrying articles, photos and graphs with a subtle propagandistic undertone travelled around China to descript the construction in the USSR as a blueprint for the fielding republic. Through its circulation, Chinese readers learned about the ‘solid friendship’ between Soviet and Chinese people while assuring the watchword that ‘the Soviet Union of today is our tomorrow.’ The circulation, however, suggests the Soviet homogenizing attempt of socialist culture in China as well as the Soviet ambition to erase the lure of Western modernity in China. How did the image of the Soviet Union transform from a voracious neighbor into a genial ‘elder brother’ with admirable achievements? How did the perception of a prosperous and modern Soviet society form and circulate around China and finally root into the Chinese mind? And what visual and textual strategies did the Soviet editors use to promote such perception throughout the journal? This article will use ‘su zhong you hao’ as a case study to show how the Soviet cultural authority used print media to penetrate a benign image of the Soviet Union into Chinese readership while transmitting the superiority of Soviet culture, ideology and modernity.