By Owen Hatherley
The gigantic, proverbially windswept plazas equipped lower than “really latest socialism” from the Twenties to the Nineteen Eighties are generally thought of to be lifeless areas, designed to intimidate or not less than galvanize. but in the event that they are just of use to these in strength, why is it they've been used so effectively in protest? From Petrograd in 1917 to Independence sq. in Kiev through the Orange Revolution, those areas became focuses for mass protest. starting in Berlin’s Alexanderplatz, and taking in Warsaw, Ljubljana, Kharkov and Moscow, Owen Hatherley heads looking for riot, architectural glory and horror. alongside the best way he encounters the extra civic squares that changed their authoritarian predecessors and reveals that, ironically, the previous centres of strength are extra conducive to dissent than those new, ostensibly democratic plazas.
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Extra resources for Across The Plaza: The Public Voids Of The Post-Soviet City
Not that it ever made much money — by 2008, two of the original four corporations given a parcel of the site, Sony and Daimler, had both sold up, with the whole thing a financial as much as an urbanist failure. For all that, it’s hard not to warm to it, to embrace this attempt to unite the two cities circumventing Mitte yuppies and Kreuzberg ‘creatives’. There is surely a case to be made for Potsdamer Platz. It is the least ‘square’-like of Berlin squares. The area in front of the transport interchange is the only public space of note (there are several private spaces, which we will come to later), and the objects scattered here are telling indeed.
Some effort was made to beautify the process, with folk motifs in yellow and blue tiles marking entrances and walls, but the total lack of maintenance makes it a somewhat intimidating space to negotiate. The already surely bottom-league concrete has rotted so thoroughly that in places you look down to see that what you’re walking across is the grid of steel reinforcement. That little shock is as nothing against the pure intimidation of the square’s central object. The square was originally called Dzerzhinska, and most references to the square on the internet refer to Lybidska (Dzerzhinska) either to avoid confusion or to avoid arguments: the new name simply denotes a local river, uncontroversially resisting the usual temptation to refer to Freedom or Independence in a renaming.
M. F. Sudakov, and unveiled in 1980, when Gagarin himself was long dead; a flailing regime reminding the populace of its former triumphs. The fluted column with the man on top is fairly literal stuff, miming Gagarin’s combustive projection into the cosmos. What makes it exciting is that the whole thing is cast of the same metal, one rising sheer out of the other, the jagged titanium obelisk already a stunning futurist sculpture, with the man himself modelled in such a manner that awe is constantly intermingled with laughter.