Garage 4th International Conference. A Long, Happy Life. Building and Thinking the Soviet City: 1956 to Now


From 30 October 2015 to 31 October 2015


West Gallery


Сonference is focusing on Soviet Modernist architecture and urban planning. Participants include historians of art and architecture, cultural theorists, sociologists, media-studies experts, and practicing architects, who will attempt to overcome the traumatic rupture with the Soviet past and reconnect it to our present culture.  

In the summer of 2015 Garage Museum of Contemporary Art moved to its first permanent home, which was the former Vremena Goda restaurant in Gorky Park designed by Igor Vinogradsky in 1968.  Architect Rem Koolhaas and OMA took a pioneering approach to the renovation of the building by making very little visible intervention into the original concrete structure, as well as preserving a number of Soviet-era elements such as mosaics and brickwork that have, until now, been accorded little architectural value or historic relevance. For Koolhaas, the preservation of such quotidian elements, together with the minimal approach to construction, avoids what he calls “the exaggeration of standards and scale” that he considers as ubiquitous in new art spaces around the world. For Garage, the architect’s approach has not only provided a unique museum space for the 21stcentury, but also the opportunity to develop a program of events and exhibitions that enable a rethinking and unearthing of the experience of Soviet Modernist architecture and culture in an international context.

Garage’s new initiative includes a number of projects with artists, historians, architects, and curators that will take different forms to bring public access to the cultural heritage of the Soviet epoch as a living entity. This fall, new projects include artists Dmitry Gutov and David Riff producing If Our Soup Can Could Speak: Mikhail Lifshitz and the Soviet Sixtiesfor Garage Field Research (from October 13, 2015); and a series of lectures by architectural historian Anna Bronovitskaya (November 12, 2015—March 3, 2016).

The most extensive program to be launched is a three-year exploration of Soviet Modernist architecture and urban planning led by Georg Schöllhammer, Garage International Advisor, starting with a two-day international conference, A Long, Happy Life on Friday 30 and Saturday 31 October.

The conference is inspired by the post-Soviet cities we inhabit today—where many Soviet monuments have changed function, gaining a new life and energy—and by the fact that we are now sufficiently distanced from the Modernist era to attempt an analysis of its complex social and political connotations.

In 1955, the famous State decree, “On elimination of excesses in design and construction” allowed Soviet architects to join the international Modernist movement, and to create the modern cityscape we can see today. The conference recalls and reinterprets Soviet Modernism; its aesthetics and styles; its ideological bias; and the economic views, cultural imagery, and major figures that were the driving forces behind it.

Participants include historians of art and architecture, cultural theorists, sociologists, media-studies experts, and practicing architects, who will explore the traumatic rupture with the Soviet past and reconnect it to our present culture. Each day proceedings will end with a poetic, musical, or theatrical intervention. On the first day—referencing the tradition of poetry readings at the Polytechnic Museum and on Triumphalnaya  Square—Garage Teens Team and the Polytechnic Museum’s SKVT Community will transform Garage Atrium into a space for public performances of poetry by the Soviet poets of the 1960s; the European and American heroes of the revolutions of 1968; and contemporary writers in a similar vein. The second day’s intervention will be dedicated to cinematography—an art form that defined the image of the Soviet 1960s. Especially for this occasion, Oleg Nesterov and Megapolis have created a new version of their performance From the Life of the Planets: Music for Unshot Fims of the 1960s.

Conference concept: Georg Schöllhammer, Garage International Advisor
Garage curators: Katya Inozemtseva, Anastasia Mityushina
Main academic partner: Institute of Modernism, Moscow
Research curator: Ruben Arevshatyan


Curators of poetic intervention: Andrey Rodionov, Ekaterina Troepolskaya

Music intervention: Oleg Nesterov and Megapolis


Richard Anderson, Yuri Avvakumov, Elke Beyer, Alexander Bikbov, Anna Bronovitskaya, Boris Chukhovich, Jean-Louis Cohen, David Crowley, Nikolai Erofeev, Owen Hatherley, Steven E. Harris, Mart Kalm, Olga Kazakova,  Wolfgang Kil, Alessandro De Magistris,  Felix Novikov, Oleksiy Radynski, Alexander Sverdlov, Sergei Sitar. 


Friday 30 October


Guests arrive

14:00 – 14:10

Introduction by Garage Director Anton Belov and Garage Chief Curator Kate Fowle

14:10 – 14:20

Conference introduction by Garage International adviser Georg  Schöllhammer



The Master and the Committee. Norm and Freedom in Late Soviet Architecture

14:25 – 14:30

Session introduction by Olga Kazakova

14:35 – 14:55

Anna Bronovitskaya, The Path of Modernism: Evolution of Soviet Architecture from 1955 to 1991

15:00 – 15:20

Richard Anderson, The Typical and the Singular: On the Dynamics of Late Soviet Architecture

15:25 – 15:45

Nikolay Erofeev,  Architecture of Igor Vinogradsky: From the Modernism of Pavilions to Soviet Brutalism

15:50 – 16:00

Architect talk: Yuri Avvakumov, The Story of One Monument

16:00 – 16:16




Built for Decay? Construction, Life and Afterlife of Soviet Modernism  


Session introduction by Georg Schöllhammer


Sergey Sitar, The Aesthetic Truth of the Soviet Architectural Modernism. Between the Symbolic Order and the Manageable Consensus


David Crowley, The Ghosts of Soviet Modernism in Eastern Europe in the 1960s and 1970s


Alexander Sverdlov, Modernisms: Between Fatigue and Resilience





Domus Sovieticus. On the Ideology and Originality of Late Soviet Architecture 

18:20 – 18:25

Session intro by Anna Bronovitskaya

18:30 – 18:50

Alessandro De Magistris, Towards “Three” culture: modernizing architectural socialist realism in the post-Stalin era


Owen Hatherley, From Bevin Court to Lenin Court to the Lost Vanguads: British Architecture Looks at Soviet Architecture


Discussion: Alessandro De Magistris and Richard Anderson



20:00–20:20  Garage Atrium


20 Minutes about freedom

Garage Teens Team in collaboration with the Polytechnic Museum’s SKVT Teens Initiative 

Saturday 31 October


The Fetish and Realities of the Masterplan and other Forms of Spatial Governance 


Guests arrive


Session introduction by Anna Bronovitskaya


Olga Kazakova,The Perfect Soviet City of 1960s and 70s. Development and Realization of an Idea (the Case of Zelenograd)


Oleksiy Radynski,  Annexation and Architecture: The Crimean Case


Elke Beyer, Exporting Soviet Urbanism as a Development Tool Soviet-Assisted Planning and Building Projects for Kabul in the 1960s





The Late Soviet Empire. Uniformity and Contradiction: Planning the Soviet City between Internationalism, Regionalism, an Colonialism  

15:00 – 15:05

Session introduction by Ruben Arevhatyan

15:10 – 15:30

Boris Chuckhovich, Soviet habitat in the “East”

15:35 – 15:55

Jean-Luis Cohen, Overtake and surpass: Amerikanizm in post-Stalinist architecture and urbanism

16:00 – 16:20

Wolfgang Kil, The work on history as the work for the identity

16:25 – 16:55

Architect talk: Felix Novikov, Architecture of Soviet embassies 





Planned and Lived Reality. Appropriation and Conversion of Public and Private Space  


Session introduction by Olga Kazakova


Mart Kalm, Farmers Practicing Urban Lifestyle: the Architecture of Estonian Collective Farms During the Late-Soviet Period

17:50 – 18:10

Alexander Bikbov,  How the Late Soviet Personal Became the Post-Soviet Private

18:15 – 18:35

Steven Harris, Soviet  Airports: Futuristic Gateways to the Socialist City

18:35 – 20:00


20:00 – 21:30  West  Gallery


From the Planets’ Life. A Musical Homage to Movies of the 1960s That Were Never Made

Oleg Nesterov and  the band Megapolis 



Admission free. Prior registration required


Here we’ve put together materials to help you get ready for a visit to the Museum or to take a deep dive into the current programs at Garage.