Garage is temporarily closed. Keep in touch with our project Garage. Self-Isolation via social media and our newsletters

Find out how to support us here.

The Topology of Nowhere. Architecture and Life in Closed Atomic Cities. A lecture by Sergei Kulikov

Public program accompanying Taryn Simon’s exhibition Action Research / The Stagecraft of Power
14 May 2016
4:00–5:30 pm


As with any secret project, the study of nuclear power calls for spaces that are alienated from the world. In this session, the critic Sergei Kulikov will describe an original study of Soviet generic projects of closed cities.

The first "closed" cities appeared in the USSR between 1946 and 1953, after work began on the atomic bomb project under the direction of secret police chief Lavrenty Beria. They were essentially "invisible" cities, with reference numbers instead of names and with a nonexistent population which was statistically ascribed to district centers. Access to the cities was controlled by the secret services, while their locations were kept secret. Many atomic cities were built from scratch; due to the special status of the atomic bomb project, architects had the opportunity to fully realize the idea of the Stalinist socialist city. The cities were well supplied, and their inhabitants got 20% salary bonuses for living there. One can say that they were utopias in the literal sense of the word (from the Ancient Greek ou, or “not,” and topos, or “place”): socialist societies built behind barbed-wire fences in places that did not officially exist. Closed cities are officially known as "closed administrative-territorial formations." In 1992, the list of these cities was declassified. There are about 40 of them in the Russian Federation today: ten are managed by ROSATOM, while the others are managed by the Ministry of Defense and ROSCOSMOS.


Sergei Kulikov is an architectural historian, arts and architecture observer and analyst, and an expert in sociocultural programming and urban and rural development. He studied the theory of urban planning at Moscow State University, focusing on the concept of the ideal city in Italian Renaissance. A contributing author and editor to Wallpaper*DomusArt NewspaperInterniArt+Auction, and Project Russia, in 2011 he was a teacher and supervisor at Strelka Institute’s Thinning Project devoted to the problem of territories with declining population, and in particular to Russian monotowns. Later, he joined the Strelka team, preparing international urban planning competitions and working in strategic consulting. 


Free for visitors with an exhibition ticket

Free admission for online broadcasting in Garage Glass Room

Priority booking for GARAGE cardholders. Please send requests to

Mailing List

Subscribe to our mailing list and get the latest news from Garage