THE GENESIS OF Berlin as we know it today happened just over a century ago, when, on October 1, 1920, the modern city of Greater Berlin (“Groß-Berlin”) was formed from eight adjacent cities and dozens of outlying districts. The formation of this new super-city doubled Berlin’s population from 1.9 million to what was, at the time, a staggering 3.9 million people, making it the world’s fifth-largest city after Tokyo.
EVEN IN YEARS without worldwide pandemics, visiting Pyongyang is exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, for most of the world’s population. But it could be argued that the Pyongyang Architectural Map, the newest such guide from the UK’s Blue Crow Media, is the perfect map for 2020: with travel being such a fraught prospect for the foreseeable future, the role of travel literature (including physical maps) has shifted from supplementing actual journeys to partially or fully supplanting them.
SPOMENIK MONUMENT DATABASE, out this week from FUEL Publishing, chronicles the massive, brutalist war memorials spread across the former Yugoslavia. While “spomenik” simply means “memorial” in Serbo-Croatian, the word has come to be associated with the particular form these monuments took from the 1960s to the 1980s: wildly asymmetrical abstract constructions of concrete, stone and metal, often placed incongruously in remote, pastoral settings.
AT THE CENTER of the Venn Diagram of Brutalist architecture, spa culture and Communist kitsch lies the Soviet sanatorium. In its heyday, the USSR had a network of hundreds of such centers across dozens of territories, from Estonia to Kazakhstan to the Russian Far East. Though their roots lie in the Russian tradition of curative baths, the sanatoriums of the 20th century shoehorned nicely into Soviet ideals of health and responsible rejuvenation, with workers encouraged to check themselves in yearly for a tune-up of their corporal machinery.
THE ROOTS OF Russian Cosmism lie in the transcendental utopian writings of the 19th-century philosopher Nikolai Fyodorovich Fyodorov, who advocated for, among other things, the exploration of space and a literal overcoming of death. Inextricably tied to the Russian Revolution and the rise of the USSR, Cosmism promoted broad ideals that mirrored the heart of Communism: that humanity should collectively strive to transcend the petty, temporary, and mundane.
DURING THE FINAL decades of the Soviet Union, architects found themselves freer to create unconventional structures than at any point in the country’s history. This was particularly true in the republics outside Russia, where, while cursory tributes still had to be paid to overarching socialist ideals, the structures themselves took on a dizzying array of forms.