By Owen Hatherley
The great, proverbially windswept plazas outfitted lower than “really latest socialism” from the Nineteen Twenties to the Eighties are largely thought of to be lifeless areas, designed to intimidate or no less than galvanize. but in the event that they are just of use to these in strength, why is it they've been used so effectively in protest? From Petrograd in 1917 to Independence sq. in Kiev throughout 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he encounters the extra civic squares that changed their authoritarian predecessors and reveals that, mockingly, the outdated centres of energy are extra conducive to dissent than those new, ostensibly democratic plazas.
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Additional resources for Across The Plaza: The Public Voids Of The Post-Soviet City
The desolate charge of it is one of Potsdamer Platz’s most memorable moments. It’s at night that Potsdamer Platz is seen at its strongest, as a modern metropolitan centre that everyone is too provincial to take to their hearts: here, when it is empty but shining, the place is a noble mistake. It’s only in the daytime that its true boredom shows through. That’s especially the case with Richard Rogers’ segment of the Daimler complex, a straggling series of over-friendly yellow-paint and red-tile cylinders and projecting volumes that marks perhaps the exact point where the constructivist-Gothic mania of the Lloyd’s Building declined into the ingratiating ‘features’ of regeneration architecture.
Stary Rynek is very precisely the kind of space that is now advocated by the New Urbanists. This school, led by planners and thinkers such as Andres Duany and James Howard Kunstler, and supported by the likes the Prince of Wales and the Disney Corporation, recognises certain unavoidable truths about the contemporary city: its car-centred sprawl is ecologically destructive; its suburban non-planning discourages community and cohesiveness; its aesthetics are incoherent and obnoxious. What it advocates instead is the walkable district, with work and leisure activities easily reached without motorised transport.
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. It is sadder to see the same process on the building opposite, the Galeria Skarbek, which is draped with exactly the same monumental T-Mobile advertisement as ‘Zenit’.
Across The Plaza: The Public Voids Of The Post-Soviet City by Owen Hatherley
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