Landscapes of Communism

A History Through Buildings

An intimate and richly illustrated history of twentieth-century Communist Europe told through its buildings, by “the angry young man of British architectural criticism” (The Guardian)

When communism took power in Eastern Europe, it remade cities in its own image, transforming everyday life and creating sweeping boulevards and vast, epic housing estates in an emphatic declaration of a noncapitalist idea. The regimes that built them are now dead and long gone, but from Warsaw to Berlin, Moscow to postrevolutionary Kiev, the buildings remain, often populated by people whose lives were scattered by the collapse of communism.

Landscapes of Communism is a journey of historical discovery, plunging us into the lost world of socialist architecture. Owen Hatherley, a brilliant and witty young urban critic, shows how power was wielded in these societies by tracing the sharp, sudden zigzags of official communist architectural style: the superstitious, despotic rococo of high Stalinism, with its jingoistic memorials, palaces, and secret policemen’s castles; East Germany’s obsession with prefabricated concrete panels; and the metro systems of Moscow and Prague, a spectacular vindication of public space that went further than any avant-garde ever dared. Throughout his journeys across the former Soviet empire, Hatherley asks what, if anything, can be reclaimed from the ruins of communism—what residue can inform our contemporary ideas of urban life?

Praise

“Hatherley takes us on an extraordinary tour of architecture in what could loosely be called the ex–Iron Curtain countries.”
The Independent
“Owen Hatherley’s Landscapes of Communism hit my soft spot for East European townscapes, and sent me off on a charming holiday, going from the Stalinallee in Berlin. An architectural historian with an excellent eye and ludicrous politics.”
—Philip Hensher, The Spectator
“Owen Hatherley’s eye is so acute, his architectural expertise so lightly deployed, his sympathies so wide and generous, that reading Landscapes of Communism is like a tour of a whole world of unsuspected curiosities and richnesses conducted by a guide whose wit is as refreshing as his knowledge is profound. . . . I loved it, and I’ll go back to it again and again.”
—Philip Pullman
“Hatherley’s grasp of 20th century social and cultural history is impressive, and he has created a witty, intimate and insightful book.”
Sunday Times (London)

News and Reviews

Los Angeles Review of Books

The New Yorker

Landscapes of Communism is featured in the New Yorker's Briefly Noted section

Publishers Weekly

Publishers Weekly reviews Landscapes of Communism

Kirkus

Kirkus reviews Owen Hatherley's "erudite and surprising" Landscapes of Communism