Ukrainian Modernism and the Architecture of Standardization

Speaker: Christina E. Crawford - Assistant Professor, Art History, Emory University

Christina E. Crawford provides historical context to situate present-day destruction of architecturally rich Kharkiv, the first capital of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (1919-34). In the 1920s, buildings designed according to constructivist principles were erected throughout Kharkiv to communicate the city’s role as a new socialist metropolis. Home to intellectuals and a highly skilled workforce, Kharkiv also benefitted from adjacency to the invaluable commodities of coal and grain. A late-breaking decision during Stalin’s first Five-Year Plan for industrialization to construct a tractor factory on Kharkiv’s outskirts pushed Ukrainian modernist architects to embrace intense design standardization not only for the factory, but for its residential sector as well. New Kharkiv, the so-called socialist city designed by Ukrainian architects for tractor factory workers, utilised standardized housing, social service buildings, and even repeatable urban blocks to ensure swift construction. Design innovations developed on the New Kharkiv site were then harnessed by the increasingly centralized Soviet planning regime to quickly construct and colonize far-flung sites across the Eurasian continent. This talk acknowledges the success of design standardization as a system, while questioning the ethics of comprehensive planning writ large. 

Following Prof. Crawford’s lecture, we will be joined by two Ukrainian architectural preservation experts, Olena Mokrousova and Kateryna Kublytska, via Zoom. They will discuss the current architectural situation and preservation efforts on the ground in Kyiv and Kharkiv, sharing their perspective and thoughts on what will be needed to sensitively repair Ukrainian cities in the future.

Christina E. Crawford is an architectural and urban historian, a trained architect, and Assistant Professor of Architectural History at Emory University, whose research focuses on the transnational exchange of ideas about housing and urban form in the twentieth century. Her first book, Spatial Revolution: Architecture and Planning in the Early Soviet Union (Cornell University Press, 2022), explores the foundations of early Soviet urban theory and practice in three seminal industrial sites: Baku, Magnitogorsk, and Kharkiv. She is co-editor with Jean-Louis Cohen and Claire Zimmerman of Detroit-Moscow-Detroit: An Architecture for Industrialization, 1917-1945 (MIT Press, 2023), an investigation of US-USSR technical collaborations between the two world wars. Her new research explores interwar exchanges of worker housing expertise between the US and Europe, using Atlanta, Georgia as a primary node. Crawford’s research and publications have been supported the American Council of Learned Societies, the Getty Foundation, the Graham Foundation, and the College Art Association, among other institutions. She received her PhD and MArch from Harvard University, and her BA from Yale University. She was a Fulbright scholar in Ukraine in 2001-02, and now serves on the board of the Society of Historians of Eastern European, Eurasian and Russian Art and Architecture. 

Kateryna Kublytska is a practicing architect and restorer in Kharkiv. She is Director of architecture and conservation for PORTAL-21 Architectural and Construction, and a member of the NGO Urban Forms Centre. Since 2017 she has been a member of the ‘Save Kharkiv’ initiative group for the protection of cultural heritage; since 2018 she have been a member of the Advisory Council for the Protection of Cultural Heritage at the Department of Urban Planning and Architecture of the Kharkiv Regional State Administration. A laureate of the State Prize of Ukraine in Architecture (2011), she graduated from Kharkiv State Technical University of Civil Engineering and Architecture with a postgraduate degree in History and Theory of Architecture, where she also holds an undergraduate degree in Architecture (specialization: reconstruction and restoration of architectural objects). Kublytska researches architecture of the late 19th – early 20th century, the relationship and evolution of construction of the periods Art Nouveau and interwar modernism. Her architectural preservation advocacy work includes nominations of 20th century Ukrainian architectural monuments which should be included on the UNESCO World Heritage List, participation in the implementation of the project “Law on the Protection of Cultural Heritage,” as well as many media appearances on television and preservation discussion panels.

Olena G. Mokrousova is a Ukrainian architectural historian and preservationist based in Kyiv. She holds a PhD in the fields of museology and cultural heritage, with a thesis on the cultural heritage of Kyiv in the context of the history of 19th and early 20th century architectural competitions. She is a member of the Ukrainian branch of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) and the modern architectural preservation organization, DOCOMOMO. For 25 years she has been engaged in archival and field research of Kyiv’s 19th and 20th century historical buildings. She was part of the team that formed a collection of Kiev’s architectural ceramics — stoves, tiles, building bricks – originating from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Since 1997 she has been the chief specialist of the Monument Accounting Department in the Kyiv Scientific and Methodological Centre for the Protection, Restoration and Use of Monuments. She has authored numerous articles and books, for both an academic and a general audience, on the history of Kyiv’s construction and architecture. She is an active participant in thematic conferences and also gives public lectures in Kyiv. In 2016, she was the curator and academic consultant for a major exhibition in Kyiv on the modern architect, Pavel Aleshin. She has also prepared and published the complete catalogue of Pavel Aleshin’s architectural graphics, which are stored in the archives of the National Assembly in Kyiv.

Organised by Dr Robin Schuldenfrei (The Courtauld)

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25 May 2022

Wednesday 25th May 2022, 5pm - 7pm BST

Free, booking essential

Vernon Square, Lecture Theatre 2