New from DOM publishers:
A Soviet Microrayon on its Way to the UNESCO List
Preservation is ordinarily reserved for architecture that is unique. So how would we go about preserving buildings that are utterly generic? This is the question the author Kuba Snopek poses in relation to Belyayevo, the residential district in Moscow, in the volume from the Basics series by DOM publishers, Belyayevo Forever. A Soviet Microrayon on its Way to the UNESCO List.
Belyayevo is a typical microrayon – the standardised neighbourhood system that successive Soviet regimes laid out across the USSR. It is part of the most expansive programme of industrialised construction the world has ever seen and for many is the epitome of a lack of charm, of endless monotony. Even Belyayevo’s buildings and the desolate spaces between them are identical to thousands of others. Why then should this microrayon of all places be preserved? Why not the “prototype” or another architecturally outstanding residential neighbourhood among the numerous dormitory cities? What is different here than anywhere else? The book, which was initiated by Rem Koolhaas at the Strelka Institute, establishes a link with the activities and performances of the conceptual artist Dmitry Prigov. Belyayevo is home to many of the artists of Moscow Conceptualism, a Soviet art movement critical of the regime. For the occupants, each individual building – each piece of wasteland in the monotonous neighbourhood – has since been given an individual appearance laden with meaning. Such cultural, intangible heritage is indeed stipulated in the UNESCO catalogue of criteria, in addition to tangible heritage such as architecture.
Snopek argues that Belyayevo is worthy of protection precisely because of this interrelationship between intangible and real existing heritage. In this volume he not only recounts the special history of Belyayevo, but touches very sensitively on issues related to dealing with late modern post-war architecture and fundamentally re-examines the methods of architectural preservation. He calls for new criteria for this radically commonplace mass architecture and brings entirely new elements to the debate on what is unique and thus deserving of being preserved – and what not.
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