Ukrainian Modernism and the Architecture of Standardization



The Courtauld Institute of Art, Lecture Theatre 2, Vernon Square Campus, Penton Rise, WC1X 9EW, External



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Christina E. Crawford provides historical context to situate present-day destruction of architecturally rich Kharkiv, the first capital of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (1919-34). In the 1920s, buildings designed according to constructivist principles were erected throughout Kharkiv to communicate the city’s role as a new socialist metropolis. Home to intellectuals and a highly skilled workforce, Kharkiv also benefitted from adjacency to the invaluable commodities of coal and grain. A late-breaking decision during Stalin’s first Five-Year Plan for industrialization to construct a tractor factory on Kharkiv’s outskirts pushed Ukrainian modernist architects to embrace intense design standardization not only for the factory, but for its residential sector as well. New Kharkiv, the so-called socialist city designed by Ukrainian architects for tractor factory workers, utilised standardized housing, social service buildings, and even repeatable urban blocks to ensure swift construction. Design innovations developed on the New Kharkiv site were then harnessed by the increasingly centralized Soviet planning regime to quickly construct and colonize far-flung sites across the Eurasian continent. This talk acknowledges the success of design standardization as a system, while questioning the ethics of comprehensive planning writ large. 

This is an externally hosted event and inclusion on KUextra does not constitute an endorsement or approval by Kingston University