Secret Soviet Bunker Office, Ligatne, Latvia. ©Ken Eckert, used under Creative Commons

Now open at Berlin’s Kunstgewerbemuseum, Retrotopia: Design for Socialist Spaces is “a collaborative exhibition project that looks at the role and influence of design in the countries of the former Eastern Bloc and former Yugoslavia between the 1950s and the 1980s.” The exhibit features photographs, objects, and recreations of designed spaces from throughout the Soviet bloc, and includes many designs that never made it past the concepting and drafting phases.

Poster the first Soviet airplane, the AK-1 1924 Andrei Shelutto designer. Theme of poster is Soviet Industrial Design between 1920 and 1930. © Maryellen McFadden, licensed under Creative Commons

While a large number of the included designs are for shared spaces such as conference halls, schools, and airports, the curators use a broader Lefebvrian definition of space as “a mental, physical and symbolic construct”. As such, the works on display also include designs not only for private spaces such as apartments, but also numerous large-scale fabulist designs that were likely never meant to be built, and exist instead as utopian proposals for some future point in time.

Retrotopia runs through July 16 at the Kunstgewerbemuseum in Berlin’s Kulturforum.

Retrotopia. Design for Socialist Spaces
25 March – 16 July 2023
A special exhibition of the Kunstgewerbemuseum – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin