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Nicolette Makovicky
Virág Molnár. Building the State: Architecture, Politics, and State Formation in Post-War Central Europe
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Virág Molnár. Building the State: Architecture, Politics, and State Formation in Post-War Central Europe.

London: Routledge, 2013.

Kimberly Elman Zarecor. Manufacturing Socialist Modernity: Housing in Czechoslovakia, 1945–1960.
Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2011.

Nicolette Makovicky. Address for correspondence: School of Interdisciplinary Area

Studies, 12 Bevington Road, OX2 6LH, Oxford, UK. nicolette.makovicky@area.ox.ac.uk.

 

Architecture is one of the living legacies of Communism in contemporary Central and Eastern Europe. From Warsaw to Moscow, Belgrade to Bucharest, the built environment and urban culture continues to be shaped by the visions of socialist modernity developed by postwar architects and engineers. Yet, while popular culture and public intellectuals have celebrated and maligned Communist-era architecture to an equal degree (see Chaubin 2011; Litchfield 2014), historians have only recently begun to regard it as a legitimate object of study. Rather than exploring Communist-era theories and practices of construction and planning, scholars have paid greater attention to how urban space has been reclaimed and reconfigured by urban planners and citizens after 1989 (see Czepczynski 2008; Dmitrieva and Kliems 2009; Hirt 2012; Weszkalnys 2013). Indeed, until very recently the English- language literature on the subject of Communist-era architecture has been restricted to just a handful of volumes on the imposition of socialist realism in architecture (Åman 1992; Paperny 2002), urban histories (Crowley 2003; Pugh 2014), and anthropological studies of Communist-era cultures and ideologies of dwelling (Buchli 1999; Fehérváry 2013). As such, the studies recently published by Kimberly Zarecor and Virág Molnár constitute a welcome addition to what is still a relatively small field of academic scholarship. Presenting two extremely sensitive and nuanced readings of the development of architectural form and practice in the former GDR, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia, they turn a much-needed critical eye on three less studied European architectural traditions. From this peripheral position, they very effectively challenge conventional readings of Communist-era planning and construction as a simple reflection of the ideological goals of the socialist nation state or the stylistic impositions from Moscow.

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