Luxury Infrastructure and Socialism

9 October 2013, 14:30 - 16:30

CRASSH, Seminar room SG2, Ground floor

'Under Communism, we will build latrines with gold’: Luxury Infrastructure and Socialism 

Owen Hatherley (Writer and Journalist)


Abstract
Lenin wrote in the early 1920s that in a communist society, gold would symbolically be used as a cladding material in public toilets, as a fitting fate for a material that had such an appalling historical role. What he hadn't intended, very probably, was to suggest that basic forms of infrastructure should be covered in gold, and other precious materials, not as a way of displaying their worthlessness, but rather their worth. This paper will discuss the Metro systems built in the Soviet Union between the early 30s and the early 90s as an embodiment of this - the elevation and enobling of something seemingly mundane - an underground railway - into a series of public palaces - built, often, and appropriately enough, by forced labour. The paper will start from the famous moment of the Moscow Metro, following the regularly shifting tendencies towards functionality and luxury in the several other systems, until their eventual cancellations and discrediting under Perestroika.' 

Owen Hatherley is a writer and journalist based in London who writes on architecture, politics and culture. He is the author of Militant Modernism (Zero Books, 2009),
A Guide to the New Ruins of Great Britain (Verso, 2010), Uncommon (Zero Books, 2011), Across the Plaza (Strelka, 2012), an e-book, and A New Kind of Bleak (Verso, 2012). He writes regularly for Building Design, The Guardian and Icon. The Guardian described his first book as an "exhilarating manifesto for a reborn socialist modernism". 
He blogs aturbantrawl.blogspot.com and nastybrutalistandshort.blogspot.com. 

 

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Civic Matter: Infrastructure as Politic