Sites of Conflict + Innovation: At the Center of the New Europe

Prerequisites: GSD 4201-4206 or equivalent or postprofessional degree status (MArch II, MDesS, PhD, etc)This course is concerned with understanding the dynamics of change and innovation in the context of cities in a region of Central Europe that has undergone enormous political, social, and cultural changes and dislocations since the beginning of the 20th century. Historically, this part of Europe began the century in the multinational Habsburg Empire and ended it in the ruins of the Communist Bloc. Today, the independent states of Central Europe are negotiating another series of transitions: from East Bloc and postcommunist marginality to centrality and full membership in the European Union. Central Europe is an illusive territory. As Milan Kundera pointed out in The New Yorker on January 8 of this year, there is still little consensus regarding its identity or constituent parts. \”Central Europe: What is it? The whole collection of small nations between two powers, Russia and Germany. The easternmost edge of the West. All right, but which nations do we mean? …Is it true that the borders of Central Europe are impossible to trace in any exact, lasting way? Indeed it is.\” In fact – and this is one of the reasons this region is interesting to architecture and urbanism – Central Europe is a relational rather than a determinate space. It is a region in which political borders and affiliations have shifted radically and repeatedly over the last 100+ years, and where political frontiers and national divisions have almost never coincided. Because of the Iron Curtain, which effectively erased Central Europe from the political map of Europe and created the bipolar power structure of the Cold War, architecture and urbanism in Central European cities followed a very different trajectory from that of Western European cities. At the same time, it is impossible to generalize in any meaningful way about the dynamics of transition in Central European cities – before, during, or after state Socialism. Urban and architectural formations in Communist Europe were as different from one another as were their political, economic, and administrative structures, their institutions, cultures, and of course their \”presocialist\” histories. Those are clearly determining factors in the trajectories that their \”transitions\” from socialism will follow.In order to understand both the socialist legacy and the postsocialist potential in terms of the city and architectural culture, research needs to be grounded in the specificity of place and time. We need to develop new methodologies for understanding change and difference, methodologies that make it possible to chart continuities and discontinuities, to map relationships between the local and translocal, and especially to understand how urban architectural practices evolve and innovate in relation to the evolution of the city itself.These are the objectives of this course. We will explore four time periods and transitions: the years preceding World War I (1890-1914); interwar (1918-1940); Cold War (1945-1989); postsocialism/today (1990>). Our focus will be on the city and architecture, and ways in which transition and (what has been theorized in Central Europe as) the freedom of the periphery have enabled innovation and a performative role for architecture in generating the city as a whole. We will examine these themes at the scale of the territory/region, city, and individual intervention. We will employ a range of analytical tools: mapping (spatial, cultural, temporal), diagramming, layering, and other techniques that make it possible to visualize synchronous and nonsynchronous transformations occurring at different rates and in different sectors. Structure and Assignments:The course will consist of lectures and discussions. In addition to weekly readings and discussions there will be three assignments. Two gr