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Ukrainian Modernism and the Architecture of Standardization

Ukrainian Modernism and the Architecture of Standardization

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The Courtauld Institute of Art

Lecture Theatre 2

Vernon Square Campus, Penton Rise

London

WC1X 9EW

United Kingdom

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This event is hosted by The Research Forum at The Courtauld and organised as part of the Modernities: Architecture, Design, Theory series.

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Booking closes 30 minutes before the event start time.

Christina E. Crawford provides historical context to situate present-day destruction of architecturally rich Kharkiv, the first capital of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (1919-34). In the 1920s, buildings designed according to constructivist principles were erected throughout Kharkiv to communicate the city’s role as a new socialist metropolis. Home to intellectuals and a highly skilled workforce, Kharkiv also benefitted from adjacency to the invaluable commodities of coal and grain. A late-breaking decision during Stalin’s first Five-Year Plan for industrialization to construct a tractor factory on Kharkiv’s outskirts pushed Ukrainian modernist architects to embrace intense design standardization not only for the factory, but for its residential sector as well. New Kharkiv, the so-called socialist city designed by Ukrainian architects for tractor factory workers, utilised standardized housing, social service buildings, and even repeatable urban blocks to ensure swift construction. Design innovations developed on the New Kharkiv site were then harnessed by the increasingly centralized Soviet planning regime to quickly construct and colonize far-flung sites across the Eurasian continent. This talk acknowledges the success of design standardization as a system, while questioning the ethics of comprehensive planning writ large.

Christina E. Crawford is an architectural and urban historian, a trained architect, and Assistant Professor of Architectural History at Emory University, whose research focuses on the transnational exchange of ideas about housing and urban form in the twentieth century. Her first book, Spatial Revolution: Architecture and Planning in the Early Soviet Union (Cornell University Press, 2022), explores the foundations of early Soviet urban theory and practice in three seminal industrial sites: Baku, Magnitogorsk, and Kharkiv. She is co-editor with Jean-Louis Cohen and Claire Zimmerman of Detroit-Moscow-Detroit: An Architecture for Industrialization, 1917-1945 (MIT Press, 2023), an investigation of US-USSR technical collaborations between the two world wars. Her new research explores interwar exchanges of worker housing expertise between the US and Europe, using Atlanta, Georgia as a primary node. Crawford’s research and publications have been supported the American Council of Learned Societies, the Getty Foundation, the Graham Foundation, and the College Art Association, among other institutions. She received her PhD and MArch from Harvard University, and her BA from Yale University. She was a Fulbright scholar in Ukraine in 2001-02, and now serves on the board of the Society of Historians of Eastern European, Eurasian and Russian Art and Architecture.

Organised by Dr Robin Schuldenfrei (The Courtauld)

Image: Bird’s eye view of the Phase I zhilkombinat, New Kharkiv sotsgorod, 1930. Architect: Giprograd (Pavel Aleshin, et al.). TsDAMLM Ukrainy, f. 8, po. 1, od. zb. 259, ark. 389.

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Date and time

Location

The Courtauld Institute of Art

Lecture Theatre 2

Vernon Square Campus, Penton Rise

London

WC1X 9EW

United Kingdom

View Map

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