(Urban) Landscape: Session at the European Association for Urban History Conference: Cities in Motion 2020

The state-socialist housing has been intensely studied in recent years and it also became subject of political controversies (Moscow’s “Khrushchevka” flats). The aim of this panel is to re-evaluate this surge in interest in prefabricated panel-housing and locate the phenomena in much broader framework of urban renewal and state-socialist vision of the city.

State-socialist era prefabricated panel-housing has recently gained considerable academic attention  not only from urban historians, but also from art historians, sociologists or social anthropologists. They also became a focus of a number of political conflicts, most notably in the case of large-scale demolitions of Moscow’s “Khrushchevka” flats. This new political and academic interest in socialist era panel housing, merits revisiting some of the old historiographical questions of socialist cities, such as: What makes a socialist city socialist? Does socialist city equal the Soviet city? Is socialist city inhabited by socialist citizens?

Iconic panel buildings with their specific state-socialist aesthetics, however, do not represent the entirety of a much broader field of state-socialist housing, which aimed at the complex redesign of entire cities. Besides the spectacular panel-developments, we should also look at state socialist urban redevelopment and renewal projects, which had to cope with the heritage of pre-communist industrial-era housing. These moments, when modernist urbanism had to relate to heritage values and the ‘genius loci’, are especially good examples to analyse the different periods of state socialist urbanism and housing issues. Thus the main aim of the panel is to overcome the usual Cold War binaries through departing from the issues of state-socialist urbanism, housing and its archetypical physical manifestation of the prefab panel building, and then rewrite the history of these into the global economic, social, cultural and intellectual history of the era.

We especially welcome papers that address the following broad themes:

  • State-socialist panel housing estates as part of broader global post-war urban development.
  • Socialist housing as part of dynamic field of urban planning expertise.
  • Socialist housing as an export to the “Third World”.
  • Heritage preservation efforts and socialist housing.
  • History of urban regeneration during and after state socialism
  • Resilience of socialist housing during and after the state-socialist era.
  • Socialist housing as part of history of architecture (incl. current regimes of heritage protection)
  • Comparative studies of ‘socialist’ and ‘non-socialist’ urbanism

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  • Spokesperson: Petr Roubal, Czech Academy of Sciences
  • Co-organizer(s): Csaba Jelinek, Hungarian Academy of Science
  • Keywords: Housing | Urban renewal | State socialism
  • Time period: Modern period
  • Topic(s): Architecture and urbanism | Social
  • Study area: More than one continent