Housing Blocs: Ordinary Modernism Across the Atlantic
S. R. Crown Hall Illinois Institute of Technology Chicago, Illinois, USA
May 19-21, 2022.
Recent scholarship on architectural modernism has deepened critical attention to social structures and political economies, while also widening research to include “ordinary” architecture including mass housing. Extensive publication around mass housing in Europe has engaged post-socialist issues in perception, valuation and conservation of mass housing, while similar output concerning the mass housing legacy of United States has strongly focused on race and social othering as well as erasure of high-rise forms. While some surveys of global mass housing exist, there are few concentrated comparative projects that place the mass housing of the United States into dialogue with European programs, beyond repeated narratives of aesthetic influence. Also in the current moment of a global pandemic, internationalism seems crucial as we create narratives of the past, present and future.
Workshop “Mass Housing Across the Soft Iron Curtain: Connecting the US and Yugoslavia” in Belgrade
From October 4th to 6th a workshop was held in Belgrade entitled “Mass Housing Across the Soft Iron Curtain: Connecting the US and Yugoslavia”. The aim was to establish a conversation with young scholars which will lead to comparative study of mass housing projects across the United States of America and the former socialist republic of Yugoslavia. First day was dedicated to a theoretical introduction and an opening discussion about the nature of mass housing in the capitalist and socialist countries. Michael Allan, Dragana Mecanov, Jelica Jovanović and Vladana Putnik Prica held lectures which highlighted certain aspects of mass housing. The afternoon ended with a creative part of the workshop with Jovana Radujko (@brutalizam_i_renesansa). The participants explored their personal relationship with modern architecture through different creative processes. The second day was dedicated to fieldwork. The group visited two newly listed historic areas from postwar period: the Central zone of New Belgrade and Cerak Vinogradi. The third day the group visited two examples of mass housing in a small industrial town Šabac.
August 28, 2021
Housing Blocs – Preserving Ordinary Modernism Across the Atlantic
On July 27, as a part of the “Dismantle Preservation” Conference, Michael R. Allen, Cheryl Johnson, Jelica Jovanović and Vladana Putnik Prica participated a panel discussion “Housing Blocs – Preserving Ordinary Modernism Across the Atlantic”. This panel presented the efforts to preserve modernist mass housing in the United States and the former Yugoslavia, showing that supposed deep cultural and political differences mask a common cause. The remaining mass housing on both sides of the Atlantic face similar problems: public opinions and lack of awareness of modernist architecture, threats to affordability posed by gentrification and lack of government investment in maintenance.