cover image Landscapes of Communism: A History Through Buildings

Landscapes of Communism: A History Through Buildings

Owen Hatherley. New Press, $35 (624p) ISBN 978-1-62097-188-8

Hatherley (Militant Modernism), an erudite writer, offers a staggeringly detailed look at the buildings and urban designs of the Soviet Union, its eastern European client states, and, as a bit of an afterthought, China—“the only explorable legacy” of a political system that’s been largely gone for more than 25 years. This hefty, densely researched volume is not for beginners. Hatherley acknowledges up front the inextricable ties of buildings and the economic system under which they are created, and he vows an honest examination of the buildings that remain after the regimes that constructed them have crumbled. The pages are laced with architectural descriptions and the names of architects long consigned to the scrap heap of history. Some of this is fascinating (particularly a chapter devoted to the Moscow metro and a few other East Bloc underground rail systems, highlighting the art, design, and political theory of a Communist society), but the exhaustive examinations of buildings include very little of the human dimension of the society that brought them into being. The chapter on Communist-era memorials and monuments is instructive and interesting, but in taking on these public commemorations in mainly architectural terms, he fails to incorporate newer societies that would help explore the meaning behind them, and the failure of those societies to care for the people who lived in the buildings they built. B&w photos. [em](Mar.) [/em]