On July 22–23, Garage Museum of Contemporary Art will be hosting the international conference Modernist Frontiers: Then and Now at the International Specialized Exhibition Astana EXPO–2017.
The two-day international conference has been called to provide a context for discussion on Almaty’s modernist architecture (1960s–1980s), presenting it to the international expert community and launching a conservation campaign for this extremely important part of the former Kazakh capital’s architectural history.
In an effort to bring together different points of view and create an interdisciplinary environment for the study of modernist architecture in Almaty, researchers from a range of countries and different academic communities will speak at the conference. It will present various views on both the history of postwar modernist architecture and on contemporary problems in the restoration of such architecture and its adaptation to new functions.
The first day of the conference, “The Regional Specifics of Soviet Modernism,” will set the historical and theoretical context for the discussion of Soviet architectural heritage in the former republics of the USSR. The first session will contrast shared aspects of Soviet heritage with regionally unique traits in the architecture of the former Soviet republics. Due to uniform standards, and a common technical and industrial base, Soviet design pre-set certain parallels in the architectural production of the various republics. The regions’ relationship with the “center” within the Soviet bloc will be critically examined through investigation of mechanisms of distribution and the mobility of architecture, demonstrating that this process involved multiple “centers”.
The 1997 transfer of the capital of Kazakhstan from Almaty to Astana saved the Soviet capital from reconstruction and has resulted in the preservation of Soviet architecture in a good state of repair. However, the ideological and functional changes of the two decades following independence have influenced attitudes towards the Soviet urban environment in both aesthetic and functional ways. The second session, “Architecture of the 1960s-1980s and the Post-Soviet Transformation,” will consider Soviet architecture in the light of these changes. In addition to the view of Soviet modernism as an artefact of a bygone historical stratum, an alternative approach will be offered in the context of the continuous process of development that has been underway throughout the post-Soviet period, which has determined the logic of urban development to the present day, within the current situation of accelerated urbanization.
The second day of the conference, “Almaty: The Modernist Capital of Kazakhstan,” is dedicated to the history of the capital of Soviet Kazakhstan. Approaches to the historicization of the city’s architectural heritage will be proposed. Papers will cover the local mechanisms through which modernist design was adapted, the role of those figures who directly influenced this process, and the formation of the local architectural school. The final session, “Conservation of Postwar Soviet Architecture,” will touch upon a number of practical issues in dealing with the Soviet legacy today: reconstruction of architectural monuments from the 1960s and approaches to their preservation through conservation or adaptation to new functions.
Besides initiating a dialogue with local experts and architects, the conference will launch a project to further study and preserve Soviet architectural heritage in Kazakhstan. A round-table on the architectural heritage of Almaty will discuss the criteria for evaluating this architecture and mechanisms for its preservation.
The conference is part of a major research program conducted by the Institute of Modernism and devoted to modernist architecture initiated by Garage. Over the course of a year, historians Anna Bronovitskaya and Nikolay Malinin, supported by architects from Archcode, looked for and studied modernist buildings in the city. Their presentation of the project is complemented with photographs of modernist buildings by Yury Palmin. Preserved, destroyed or reconstructed, residential and administrative buildings in the photos will show what Kazakhstan’s former capital looks like today. The exhibition Soviet modernist architecture: Almaty will be in Astana Contemporary Art Centre till September 10. The research project will finish with the release of the second volume of the guidebook on modernist architecture as part of Garage’s publishing program for 2018.
Initiators of the conference: Anton Belov
Conference curators: Anna Bronovitskaya, Nikolai Yerofeyev
Main academic partner: Institute of Modernism (Moscow)
Conference participants: Karen Balyan, Anna Bronovitskaya, Boris Chukhovich, Owen Hatherley, Manuel Herz, Nikolai Lyzlov, Nikolai Malinin, Sergei Martemyanov, Anel Moldakmetova, Yuri Palmin, Adilzhan Psyaev, Nari Shelekpayev, Nariman Skakov, Lukash Stanek.
Garage Museum of Contemporary Art would like to thank the Archcode for its assistance in preparing the conference.