By Owen Hatherley
The substantial, proverbially windswept plazas outfitted lower than “really present socialism” from the Nineteen Twenties to the Eighties are extensively thought of to be lifeless areas, designed to intimidate or at the least provoke. 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 through 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 riot, architectural glory and horror. alongside the best way he encounters the extra civic squares that changed their authoritarian predecessors and unearths that, mockingly, the previous 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
It is partly a quite simple concrete tower, albeit with a hint of bling presaging what would happen in the 1990s and beyond — golden windows, golden curlicues. These patterns are not resolved into some Byzantine or neoclassical motif, but are an abstract tangle, wrought screens without referent. But the star here is very much Gagarin himself. His memorial — the column and the statue that it propels — is not an ‘artwork’, but an industrial product, constructed specially out of titanium from a Moscow factory.
The similarity in nomencla- ture is usually not considered to reflect well on Katowice. The Silesian metropolis is based on coal and steel, much as it ever was; it actually stretches outside Poland altogether into the Czech Republic, where the city of Ostrava provides a similarly sprawling, polycentric, industrial form of urbanism. But walk around the centre of Ostrava on a Saturday and you’ll find something considerably more desolate than Katowice on a Sunday. There’s a short answer to this conundrum — Ostrava closed its mines, Katowice did not, and so maintains a liveliness that is deeply unusual in a Central European industrial city.
Caught between the American sector and the Soviet sector, its surviving buildings were mostly demolished, except for the minor Wilhelmine Haus-Huth, and the basement of the Wertheim department store, which was used by the techno club Tresor for most of the 90s. When Berlin’s two parts were rejoined, the city administration packaged it up and sold it to four multinational investors, to much justified protest from Berlin’s vocal far left, who had other hopes for what the post-Wende city might have become.