Park of Memory (Crematorium), Kiev/Ukraine, 1968–1980
Architects: A. Miletskyi, V. Melnichenko, A. Rybachuk


Long Happy Life. Building and Thinking the Soviet City: 1956 to Now
West Gallery

As if it would be just a parenthesis in history, still little is known about one of Modernisms longest hegemonies: Soviet post-war architecture and urbanism. Its realized and utopian projects still survive in the built environment of the former Soviet republics and in the collective imaginary. And most recently we witness a new and global, often nostalgic, interest in them. For understanding the late Soviet empire, the insoluble contradiction between the imaginary space of power dramatization and the real space of everyday life enfolding in its capitals and cities is crucial. They likewise have been the glue of the Unions coherence as they contributed to sounding the death knell of the empire. A three years leading project at GARAGE, including a conference, a book, and finally an exhibition aims at telling this story.
Long Happy Life conference looks at the Soviet culture, focusing on architecture, urbanism and town planning. This focus has been suggested by the post-Soviet urban space we still inhabit as much as by the fact that we can finally look back at the Soviet modernist architecture from a distance allowing us to approach the analysis of this complex, synthetic phenomenon – with all its social and political connotations – scientifically. Moreover, today we can see many Soviet monuments changing their function, and gaining a new life, a new energy, carrying new ideas.

In 1955, the famous decree “On liquidation of excesses in architecture and construction” gave Soviet architects an opportunity to join the worldwide modernist movement, and create the modern cityscape that’s unity we still can see before our eyes 25 years after the USSR ceased to exist. This conference recalls and reinterprets Soviet modernism, its aesthetics and styles, its ideological bias and the economic ideas, the cultural images, and the social actors that have been the driving forces behind it. Art and architecture historians, cultural theorists, thinkers, sociologists, media studies experts and practicing architects taking part in the conference will broach the historical rupture and reconnect the present culture with the relatively recent past. Centered around several general subjects (The Norm Against Creative Freedom; The Fantasy and Reality of the General Plan, Internationalism/Colonialism/Localism, and others), the talks will cover a wide range of issues related to the Soviet modernist architecture and town planning, as well as to their analysis and the future of its legacy.

Long Happy Life is part of Garage’s three-year project dedicated to Soviet Modernism, devised by Garage International Advisor Georg Schöllhammer.

A Long Happy Life is an international conference curated by Georg Schöllhammer, as part of Garage’s three-year project dedicated to Soviet Modernism in architecture and urban planning.  Special guest speakers include Richard Anderson (US), Yuri Avvakumov (RU), Elke Beyer (DE), Alexander Bikbov (RU), Anna Bronovitskaya (RU), Boris Chukhovich (UZ), Jean-Louis Cohen (FR), David Crowley (UK), Nikolai Erofeev  (RU), Steven E. Harris (US), Owen Hatherley (UK), Mart Kalm (EE), Olga Kazakova (RU),  Wolfgang Kil (DE), Alessandro De Magistris (IT),  Felix Novikov (RU), Oleksiy Radynski (UA), Alexander Sverdlov (RU), Sergei Sitar (RU).  Other participants include historians of art and architecture, cultural theorists, sociologists, media-studies experts, and practicing architects, who will attempt to overcome the traumatic rupture with the Soviet past and reconnect it to our present culture.

Admission free
Prior registration required

Posted 29 October 2015

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The conference is focusing on Soviet Modernist architecture and urban planning. Participants include historians of art and architecture, cultural theorists, sociologists, media-studies experts, and practicing architects, who will attempt to overcome the traumatic rupture with the Soviet past and reconnect it to our present culture.  

In the summer of 2015 Garage Museum of Contemporary Art moved to its first permanent home, which was the former Vremena Goda restaurant in Gorky Park designed by Igor Vinogradsky in 1968.  Architect Rem Koolhaas and OMA took a pioneering approach to the renovation of the building by making very little visible intervention into the original concrete structure, as well as preserving a number of Soviet-era elements such as mosaics and brickwork that have, until now, been accorded little architectural value or historic relevance. For Koolhaas, the preservation of such quotidian elements, together with the minimal approach to construction, avoids what he calls “the exaggeration of standards and scale” that he considers as ubiquitous in new art spaces around the world. For Garage, the architect’s approach has not only provided a unique museum space for the 21st century, but also the opportunity to develop a program of events and exhibitions that enable a rethinking and unearthing of the experience of Soviet Modernist architecture and culture in an international context.

Garage’s new initiative includes a number of projects with artists, historians, architects, and curators that will take different forms to bring public access to the cultural heritage of the Soviet epoch as a living entity. This fall, new projects include artists Dmitry Gutov and David Riff producing If Our Soup Can Could Speak: Mikhail Lifshitz and the Soviet Sixties for Garage Field Research (from October 13, 2015); and a series of lectures by architectural historian Anna Bronovitskaya (November 12, 2015—March 3, 2016).

The most extensive program to be launched is a three-year exploration of Soviet Modernist architecture and urban planning led by Georg Schöllhammer, Garage International Advisor, starting with a two-day international conference, A Long, Happy Life on Friday 30 and Saturday 31 October.

The conference is inspired by the post-Soviet cities we inhabit today—where many Soviet monuments have changed function, gaining a new life and energy—and by the fact that we are now sufficiently distanced from the Modernist era to attempt an analysis of its complex social and political connotations.

In 1955, the famous State decree, “On elimination of excesses in design and construction” allowed Soviet architects to join the international Modernist movement, and to create the modern cityscape we can see today. The conference recalls and reinterprets Soviet Modernism; its aesthetics and styles; its ideological bias; and the economic views, cultural imagery, and major figures that were the driving forces behind it.

Participants include historians of art and architecture, cultural theorists, sociologists, media-studies experts, and practicing architects, who will explore the traumatic rupture with the Soviet past and reconnect it to our present culture. Each day proceedings will end with a poetic, musical, or theatrical intervention. On the first day—referencing the tradition of poetry readings at the Polytechnic Museum and on Triumphalnaya  Square—Garage Teens Team and the Polytechnic Museum’s SKVT Community will transform Garage Atrium into a space for public performances of poetry by the Soviet poets of the 1960s; the European and American heroes of the revolutions of 1968; and contemporary writers in a similar vein. The second day’s intervention will be dedicated to cinematography—an art form that defined the image of the Soviet 1960s. Especially for this occasion, Oleg Nesterov and Megapolis have created a new version of their performance From the Life of the Planets: Music for Unshot Fims of the 1960s.
Friday 30 October, 2015 
14:00 – 20:20
13:30 Guests arrive
14:00 – 14:10 Introduction by Garage Director Anton Belov and Garage Chief Curator Kate Fowle
14:10 – 14:20 Conference introduction by Garage International adviser Georg  Schöllhammer
Session 1: The Master and the Committee. Norm and Freedom in Late Soviet Architecture
14:25–14:30 Session introduction by Olga Kazakova
14:35 – 14:55 Anna Bronovitskaya, The Path of Modernism: Evolution of Soviet Architecture from 1955 to 1991
15:00 – 15:20 Richard Anderson, The Typical and the Singular: On the Dynamics of Late Soviet Architecture
15:25–15:45 Nikolay Erofeev,  Architecture of Igor Vinogradsky: From the Modernism of Pavilions to Soviet Brutalism
15:50–16:00 Architect talk: Yuri Avvakumov, The Story of One Monument
16:00-16:16 Break
Session 2: Session 2: Built for Decay? Construction, Life and Afterlife of Soviet Modernism
16:15–16:20 Session introduction by Georg Schöllhammer
16:25–16:45 Sergey Sitar, The Aesthetic Truth of the Soviet Architectural Modernism. Between the Symbolic Order and the Manageable Consensus
16:50–17:10 David Crowley, The Ghosts of Soviet Modernism in Eastern Europe in the 1960s and 1970s
17:15–17:35 Alexander Sverdlov, Modernisms: Between Fatigue and Resilience
17:35–18:20 Break
Session 3: Domus Sovieticus. On the Ideology and Originality of Late Soviet Architecture
18:20 – 18:25 Session intro by Anna Bronovitskaya
18:30 – 18:50 Alessandro De Magistris, Towards “Three” culture: modernizing architectural socialist realism in the post-Stalin era
18:55–19:15 Owen Hatherley, From Bevin Court to Lenin Court to the Lost Vanguads: British Architecture Looks at Soviet Architecture
19:20–19:40 Discussion: Alessandro De Magistris and Richard Anderson
19:40-20:00 Break
20:00–20:20 Intervention #1, Garage Atrium
20 Minutes about freedom, Garage Teens Team in collaboration with the Polytechnic Museum’s SKVT Teens Initiative
Saturday 31 October, 2015
13:00 – 21:30
Session 1: The Fetish and Realities of the Masterplan and other Forms of Spatial Governance
12:30 Guests arrive
13:00–13:05 Session introduction by Anna Bronovitskaya
13:10–13:30 Olga Kazakova,The Perfect Soviet City of 1960s and 70s. Development and Realization of an Idea (the Case of Zelenograd)
13:35–13:55 Oleksiy Radynski,  Annexation and Architecture: The Crimean Case
14:00–14:20 Elke Beyer, Exporting Soviet Urbanism as a Development Tool Soviet-Assisted Planning and Building Projects for Kabul in the 1960s
14:20–15:00 Break
Session 2: The Late Soviet Empire. Uniformity and Contradiction: Planning the Soviet City between Internationalism, Regionalism, an Colonialism
15:00 – 15:05 Session introduction by Ruben Arevhatyan
15:10 – 15:30 Boris Chuckhovich, Soviet habitat in the “East”
15:35 – 15:55 Jean-Luis Cohen, Overtake and surpass: Amerikanizm in post-Stalinist architecture and urbanism
16:00 – 16:20 Wolfgang Kil, The work on history as the work for the identity
16:25– 16:55 Architect talk: Felix Novikov, Architecture of Soviet embassies 
16:55-17:15 Break 
Session 3: Planned and Lived Reality. Appropriation and Conversion of Public and Private Space
17:15–17:20 Session introduction by Olga Kazakova
17:25–17:45 Mart Kalm, Farmers Practicing Urban Lifestyle: the Architecture of Estonian Collective Farms During the Late-Soviet Period
17:50 – 18:10 Alexander Bikbov,  How the Late Soviet Personal Became the Post-Soviet Private
18:15 – 18:35 Steven Harris, Soviet  Airports: Futuristic Gateways to the Socialist City
18:35-20:00 Break
20:00 – 21:30 Intervention #2, West  Gallery
From the Planets’ Life. A Musical Homage to Movies of the 1960s That Were Never Made, Oleg Nesterov and  the band Megapolis 
Adress: 9/32 Krimsky Val st., 119049, Moscow, Russia

Spa Pavilion, Borjomi/Georgia, 1965
Architect: G. Jabua  

Project for Underground Urbanization of Abovyan street, Yerevan/Armenia, late 1970s
Architect: S. Kyurkchyan

Sketch for Hotel on the Krestovyj Pass, Georgia, early 1980s
Architect: G. Chakhava 

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