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10 Antique Home Decor Ideas

This desire to create a spectacle that was intelligible to the masses had certain implications for urban planning. For one, it explains the importance placed on preserving the existence of a nucleus in the city as well as high den-sity, which were seen as important organizing principles. In the German Dem- ocratic Republic, the “Sixteen Principles of Urban Development” emphasized what its creators saw as the differences between functionalist and truly socialist planning. Rejecting the creation of peripheral, spread-out garden cities, they mandated the creation of compact high-rise urban centers that would be redefined as the center of administration and culture rather than commerce. The principles identified the city square as the basic urban planning unit, echoing Camillo Sitte, and highlighted the importance of creating a distinctive cityscape grounded in local history.43

The idea of city as spectacle also determined the organization of space in new towns. One of the more popular models for a new town plan was the ba-roque city, in which broad avenues radiated from a central focal point that rep-resented the power of the ruler. In the case of Nowa Huta, near Krakow, Po-land, the ruler’s palace was replaced by a pentagonal square that was supposed to feature “a patterned carpet of green, crowned by an Obelisk,” flanked by “a magnificent theater” and “the impressive buildings of the Palace of Culture.”44 According to Katherine Ann Lebow, the Stalinist city of Komsomolsk in the So-viet Union served as a model for Nowa Huta. Plans for Eisenhuttenstadt, in the GDR, took this basic plan one step further. Rather than articulating the town around a civic and commercial center and banishing industrial activities to the periphery, planner Kurt W. Leucht gave the factory the place of honor. Thus, while Stalinism had rejected Nikolai Miliutin’s idea of a linear city, where life was organized parallel to an industrial assembly line, Leucht was able to apply the basic premise that production should be the organizing principle of the city. But rather than celebrate the primacy of production by privileging functional-ity, he endowed the factory with a symbolic function, placing it at the apex of what was otherwise essentially a replica of a baroque city. Between the radiat-ing avenues, Leucht and Tadeusz Ptaszycki (Nowa Huta’s designer) applied the principle of the neighborhood unit in crafting the cities’ residential neighbor-hoods, reminding us of essential similarities with the functional city.45

Another less ubiquitous narrative that Stalinist town planning tried to con-vey—predominantly deployed in peripheral areas—was the power of the new socialist order as demonstrated through mastery over nature. In Tashkent, located in the desert, this meant “altering the city’s ‘micro-climate’ through the development of extensive green-space (Komsomol Park) and the creation of elaborate fountains, canals and lakes.”46 In the Northern climes of Estonia, the magical ability of the new order to overpower nature was illustrated by dec-orating the city center of the new town of Sillamae with palm trees (which needed to be moved indoors in the winter).47

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The situation changed dramatically in 1954, when Khrushchev famously delivered a speech at the Conference for the Building Industry, which condemned socialist realism for its obsession with superficial decoration and its wasteful-ness and called on Soviet architects to learn from practices in the capitalist West.48 In essence, the new leader embraced the Western European welfare state model and the spatial forms associated with it. Following this abrupt change in direction, the Soviet Union launched an aggressive drive to provide every family with an apartment, an ambitious task that it sought to accomplish by focusing on a small number of housing types, using interchangeable or pre-fabricated elements and industrializing construction sites. This concept of pro-viding quality housing to the masses by harnessing the power of mass produc-tion was central to the Athens Charter and brought the Soviet Union back into the modernist fold. In urban planning, Soviet planners abandoned the kvartal in favor of the microraion. Instead of placing buildings along the perimeter of blocks, they now disposed them in more varied patterns. New urban planning realizations clearly sought to replicate current accomplishments in the West.49 As with the Stalinist turn, Eastern Bloc countries quickly followed suit.50

Here again, we should not exaggerate the rupture with the previous era. As Zarecor has shown, work on typification and standardization had already been undertaken in Czechoslovakia during the Stalinist era, which itself built on the achievements of interwar Czechoslovak architects in Zlin. These strategies were considered useful in the struggle to build affordably. Jay Rowell has made essentially the same point for the GDR, where architects were able to make the transition to mass-produced housing developments only because they had begun to invest in new prefabrication technologies in 1952, long before Khrushchev announced that every family should have an apartment. Other continuities are discernible in particular national contexts, such as the contin-ued reliance on the interwar institution of the housing cooperative in socialist Poland. 51

Curiously, even though the Soviet Union was supposedly lagging behind and learning from the capitalist West, its turn toward the mass production of housing in functionalist neighborhood units occurred at roughly the same time as its takeoff in Western Europe. Historian Annie Fourcaut has noted the near simultaneous timing of the massive wave of construction in France and Eastern Europe, starting in the mid-1950s.52 This parallel points to some significant commonalities: the beginning of an era of prosperity after the austere

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