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City Seminar: Socialist Prefabricated Housing: From Eastern Europe to Latin America

Jose Hernandez and Iulia Statica
When Feb 18, 2020
from 05:30 PM to 07:00 PM
Where Boardroom, Department of Architecture
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City Seminar is happy to present our first co-presented seminar between Jose Hernandez and Iulia Statica, discussing intercontinental connections of socialist housing prefabrication, between Eastern Europe and Latin America.

José Hernández is guest researcher at the school of architecture at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Stockholm and the content developer of ArkDes' "Flying Panels -- How Concrete Panels Changed the World" exhibition. His research centres on history and theory of digital architecture and how novel technologies change the workflows of architecture production.

Jose will be presenting "System Lineages" -- During the second half of the twentieth century, large panel system-buildings represented the turning point in the modernisation of cities and mass-industrialisation of housing. This technological shift resulted in the development of building systems that spanned over national borders and embraced numerous political, economic and cultural backgrounds across the globe. Although strongly associated with the soviet sphere during the cold war, large panel system-buildings were developed extensively in the west and exported to colonies and non-aligned countries. Contrary to the common notion that concrete panel systems are uniform and repetitive, the extensive mapping of international systems uncovered that the systems in fact showed a great degree of built-in flexibility and potential to adapt to various environmental, political and social contexts. By the analysis and comparison of 60 systems from 35 countries, the presentation explores the connections between industry and politics and the relationships between different instances of these buildings and the dynamics of power that they served to materialise.

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Iulia Statica will be present: "The Politics of Prefabrication in Bucharest and Havana" -- Taking as concrete examples the cases of Bucharest and Havana, this presentation will explore the role of domestic infrastructures in the constitution of socialist subjectivities. The notion of ‘domestic infrastructure’, developed in the anthropology of socialism, refers here to the mass-produced housing districts that the communist state built in Romania and Cuba from the 1960s through the 1980s, using prefabrication technologies. The point of departure for this comparative study is the domestic revolution initiated by Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev in the 1950s, and its relation to the ideas of the Russian avant-gardes in the 1920s. We will consider these material and ideological exports beyond the geographical limits of the USSR, exploring the various ways in which they con-tributed to the socialist state’s ideals of ontological transformation within Romania and Cuba. This manifold archeology of socialist domesticity, which manifested primarily as both an aesthetic and technological project, reveals the centrality of the body in building specific national narratives. It brings to light a political agenda embedded within the sphere of private life, transforming the home into a vehicle through which the body, and thus subjectivity, was politically shaped.

Dr Iulia Statica is Marie Curie Research Fellow at The Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London. Her research interests focus on cities in Eastern Europe and Latin America, specif-ically examining the role of ideologies and their critique in the development and transformation of housing infrastructures and urban landscapes in (post)socialist contexts. She was a Visiting Scholar at the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, Latin American Studies Program, at Cornell University, USA in 2018-19. For her research at Cornell - a comparative investigation of the legacy of socialist mass housing built with Soviet technologies in Havana and Bucharest - she was awarded the Scott Opler Emerging Scholar Fellowship from the Society of Architectural Historians in 2018. She completed her PhD at the Department of Architecture at the University of Rome “La Sa-pienza” in 2016, and was a Visiting Researcher at the University of Toronto (2014-15). She worked in the office of Eric Parry Architects in London (2016-18) and was awarded the Fellowship in Architecture at the Romanian Academy in Rome (2012-14). Her book titled Urban Phantasmagorias: Domesticity, Production and the Politics of Modernity in Communist Bucharest will be published in the Routledge Architext series (forthcoming 2021).