A guide to the New East
Special report

Power and architecture


From the gothic might of Stalin’s Seven Sisters skyscrapers in Moscow to Astana’s gleaming Bayterek Tower, giant structures loom over the cities of the former Soviet Union, signifying the grand ambitions of their rulers, past and present. Power and Architecture is a season of art exhibitions, talks and events presented at Calvert 22 Foundation that explores the legacy of the Soviet-era built environment and its use as a device of influence over the lives of the people who live in its shadow.

Across the post-Soviet world, there is a common thread running through architectural styles, from grand monuments and high-rise cathedrals of geometric correctness to homogenised concrete blocks. Today, cities and spaces designed with the futuristic ideologies of socialism in mind, are merging into the landscape of global capitalism.

What effect do these architectural structures have on the people who live with their legacy?
  • Anton Ginzburg, still from Hyperborea (2011)

  • Danila Tkachenko, Headquarters of Communist Party. Bulgaria, Yugoiztochen region, from Restricted Areas Series (2015)

  • Dmitry Lookianov, image from Instant Tomorrow (2013-15)

  • The Church of Our Lady the Queen of Poland, Świdnica, from Architecture of the VII Day (2015) by Kuba Snopek, Iza Cichonska, Karolina Popera

What effect do these architectural structures, designed by one regime and inherited by another, have on the people who live with their legacy? How is public space redefined through external forces such as privatisation and capitalism, or re-used through independent culture and recreation?

The Power and Architecture season seeks to answer these questions, looking at the evolution of the relationship between cities, public space and their citizens throughout contrasting eras and themes.

  • Vahram Aghasyan, from the Ghost City (2005-07).

  • Eric Lusito, Site 131, 2nd Guards Tank Division, Mongolia, from Traces of the Soviet Empire (2009).

  • Kirill Savchankov, still image from Museum of Skateboarding (2015).

  • Aikaterini Gegisian, still from My Pink City essay film (2014). Image: Kelfayan Galleries

Taking place from across four months, from 10 June to 9 October 2016, the season comprises four main interlinked elements:

  • A conference and related talks bringing together leading minds from the worlds of architecture, politics, economics and contemporary art.
  • An exhibition of artworks presented in four parts. In successive themed installments, the shows will explore multiple facets of architecture’s relationship to power, with Part 1 exploring Utopia and Modernity; Part 2, Dead Space and Ruins; Part 3 Citizen Activated Space; Part 4, the Afterlives of Modernity. 
  • A series of architectural workshops connecting London and Prague, staged in partnership with innovative architecture, design and engineering collectives including Assemble, winners of the Turner Prize 2015, the Museum of Architecture and the Prague-based reSITE.
  • Curated digital content on The Calvert Journal expanding on a number of the themes and artistic projects included in the seasonal programme, with reports and photo stories updated throughout the course of the season.