Events And Opportunities

CFP: Roundtable: Who (Still) Needs Eastern Europe? (EAHN Session) (Tallinn, 13-16 Jun 2018)

  • Dates: 07 – 30 Sep, 2017
  • Location: Tallinn, Estonia
Carmen Popescu,
Ecole Normale Supérieure d’Architecture de Bretagne, Rennes,

Eastern Europe made a late appearance in the architectural
historiography. Ironically, among the rare surveys to mention
the region figures the series of Sir Banister Fletcher’s A History
of Architecture, whose original edition in 1896 proposed
to distinguish between “historical” and “non-historical”
architecture. Though not specified as such in the more recent
enlarged editions of the text, the briefness and the type of
comments implicitly indicated that Eastern Europe would
rather belong to a non-history of architecture.
The reframing of the global geopolitics engendered by the
dismantling of the Communist bloc (1989/ 1991) triggered a
remapping of the territories of art and architectural history.
Eastern Europe managed to integrate the changing discourse
of architectural historiography through two different
narratives. On the one hand, emulating the prolific studies in
Nationalism and Identity, scholars interested in this region
turned to their advantage its marginality by analysing its
architecture in terms of idiosyncrasy. On the other hand, there
emerged the powerful field of the study of the Cold War, which
came to be seen, in the following years, as the most relevant
perspective for looking at the region. Hence, Eastern Europe
was assimilated to its recent history – as a significant part of
the Communist bloc – and its architecture was studied as a
by-product of the latter: starting with the Stalinist mechanics
and continuing with topics like politisation, prefabrication,
ordinariness. More recently, the Spatial turn added new
angles to these topics – of their (geo)political, ideological,
technological and aesthetic implications –, giving more and
more place to comparative approach, stimulated by questions
of transfers and circulation between the two blocs. This
culminated with the expansion of the Cold War geography by
introducing the Third World in the analysis of the polarised
After this progressive (and disputable) integration of the
current historiographical discourse, the operativeness of
the concept of Eastern Europe seems to have reached a
dilemmatic point: its relative success has been accompanied
by a distancing from the very use of the concept. If such a
withdrawal is justifiable – the fear of the limitation inherent to
all area studies, the belief in a “global” history, etc. –, it shows
also a certain methodological turn.
This round-table aims to debate this withdrawal, proposing to
analyse its causes and consequences. Is it still useful to refer
to a geo-historical concept in writing an architectural history
that aspires more and more to be transversal and inclusive?
And if so, how is it possible to make such a concept recover
both its sedimental dimension and its particularities? By taking
Eastern Europe as a (valid) pretext, the round-table invites
scholars from all geographical/ thematic fields to explore what
is at stake in forging a renewed historiographical discourse.
SAH thanks The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Fund at The Chicago Community Foundation for its operating support.
Society of Architectural Historians
1365 N. Astor Street
Chicago, Illinois 60610
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