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Session Overview
RS08_02a_H: Urban Space and Memory
Wednesday, 30/Aug/2017:
4:00pm - 5:30pm

Session Chair: Linda Haapajärvi, École des hautes études en sciences sociales
Location: HA.2.7
HAROKOPIO University 70 El. Venizelou Street 17671 Athens, Greece Building: A, Level: 2.

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Cracovia: Ghost of the Local Past or Part of a World-Class Architecture?

Apolonia Sejkova

Masaryk University, Czech Republic

Modernist architecture in the Eastern Block has been mostly labeled as boring, ugly or uninteresting for the past decades. After the fall of communist monopoly on creating urban spaces, the pool of actors with access to shaping the face of cities has been enlarged, which also brought other kinds of “ugly buildings”. This experience, together with a gradual change in the plurality of evaluations of the communist era legacies in the collective memory of East-Central European countries has made it possible to spread the expert discourse on value of (socialist-)modernist architecture.

Based on cultural sociological theories of meaning shifts and collective memory in connection with French pragmatic sociology, I want to offer a way to understand the process of reevaluation the meaning of a specific building in Cracow, Poland. Hotel Cracovia, just across the street from Polish National Museum, was built in the 60’s according to plans of architect Witold Ceckiewicz. It had already been planned for demolition, however an intervention by a group of architecture theoreticians in cooperation with activists brought a temporary halt of demolition. Subsequent negotiations didn’t bring much hope to conservationists, until a deus ex machina moment, when the ministry of culture bought the building to make it into a museum of Polish design. But still, the socilaist-modernist architecture critique and justification in a anti-communist discourse continues…

Bridging the boundary: Imagined city – imagined community

Elzbieta Joanna Opilowska

University of Wroclaw, Poland

Over the past centuries borders have continuously changed their functions, shaped by historical events, political powers, and social and cultural forces. Therefore borders should be understood as dynamic social spaces that appear and disappear and are constantly negotiated and contested in public discourses. Urban reality is created through the content and the way its residents talk about a city. The city is created and lived (meanings are awarded to what happens in the city, how it transforms and generates urban space) precisely in the narratives.

Imaginaries that can be conceptualised as coherent sets of ideas, images, symbols, emotions, beliefs and convictions are often used to legitimise political projects, and everyday projects pursued by individual agents.

The aim of the paper is to discuss the artistic imaginary project of Slubfurt that was implemented in the divided city Frankfurt (Oder) and Słubice at the German-Polish border in order to facilitate cross-border integration and to create common identity. Can the artistic performance bring the two border communities closer together? Based on the analysis of project documents and expert interviews I will try to explore the role of the artistic projects in overcoming historical trauma by creating of a new city narrative.

Live Archive: Animating Memories of Post-Industrial Spaces

Oleksandra Nenko

ITMO University, Russian Federation

The ‘grey belt’ or industrial belt is a massive territory around the historic centre of St.Petersburg and an urban representation of Soviet Petrograd. After the fall of Soviet Union the industries were closed down and nowadays are 80% underused. The industrial belt was subject to numerous foresight sessions and architectural projects, but they stayed on paper. New projects for the territory such as creative clusters were left unaccomplished due to the lack of investments. Being a blind spot for the majority of citizens, architects, investors, the ‘grey’ territory has a great cultural memory of the now neglected epoch as well as hosts a bunch of new residents and practices - sporadic craftsmen workshops, unregistered ethnical minorities doing unskilled labour, rehearsal and design studios. The area is full of stories that no foresighter or architect will ever know unless we let them speak through arts.

‘Live Archive’ is an art-science project aimed at creating a transformable archive of memories of this appealing area. It is focused on the ‘Red Triangle’ factory, which used to be the greatest manufacturer of rubber in Soviet Union. The research part of the project comprises mental mapping, video-recording of personal stories of former workers and current residents, and collecting artifacts symbolizing different times and lifestyles. The artistic part is dedicated to creating site-specific games and walks, as well as visual and sound installations in the factory. In our paper we present ‘Live Archive’ as an approach to animating memories of neglected post-industrial areas with sociological and artistic means.

GULAG History Museum in Moscow as a reflection of traumatic experience

Ekaterina Postnaia

National Research University "Higher School of Economics", Russian Federation

The research represents the case of GULAG History Museum in Moscow, which belongs to the category of “museums of conscience”. This type of museums functions in order not only to preserve memory, but also to reinterpret tragic events of the past. The GULAG Museum sets the mission to admit the past and turn to compassion and conception by creating “the site of memory”, constructing space for public discussion and involvement into socially important activities. The methodology is based on the descriptive case-study. Empirical data was collected from February to April of 2015 in museum building in the centre of Moscow, including interviewing, participant observation, analysis of visitors’ books and questionnaires. The data shows a variety of ways for grasping the museum idea: such social practices as “edutainment” – obtaining knowledge using interactive technologies and “time machine” – possibility to feel authentic experience of repressed people were marked. The museum is visited by different types of people, such as professionals, students, relatives of repressed, foreigners and occasional visitors. The results show that museum is perceived as the controversial place, both sacral and public, where individuals obtain knowledge, actively communicate and experience authentic emotions of repressed people. The goal of the museum resides in bringing memory of Soviet repressions to public discussion and actualize this theme in modern Russian discourse.

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