Never-never School'18: Urban dialogue with post-socialist city

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Topic

The sites of modernist planning present to this date unfinished images of past utopia. Not just images, for they are lived realities for many. A reality often sympto- matic of malfunctioning transport, poor public spaces or social exclusion.

By revisiting the “Soviet” urban tradition with the concept of utopia, we propose to reconsider the built and the social as well as the problem-solving oriented approach of the past – still all too present today. We try to rethink again the concept of utopia as a form of speculative political action.

Our site of exploration will be a panel suburb (“sídlisko”) Ťahanovce in Košice, Slovakia. The construction of the neighbourhood started in the 80’s but as the regime changed the original plans got never realised. Unfinished structure doesn’t meet the needs of its residents and brought about problems with traffic, crime and non-functional public space.

“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them” – an obvious observation stated by Einstein is at the heart of the Never-never school methodology, although we do not expect to solve any problems either. To address the “Soviet” urban tradition in a novel way, we must free architecture from its philanthropistic striving for the ‘greater good’, from the ‘scientific’ problem-oriented design approach and from the false hope for a single possible future materialised through concrete blocks. We propose instead to use design as a tool for investigation, imagination and as an enabler of dialogue about possible futures.

The concept of Utopia – so strongly present in the modernist planning – will be revisited, but not as a “representation of radical alternatives” but “rather simply [as] the imperative to imagine them” (Fredric Jameson). We will use the form of utopia not as something completely separated from our world, but as a near future radical scenario, imaginable but not probable to happen.

This kind of speculation gives us an opportunity to address important questions of modernist planning:

  • How do socialist sites react to the switch of politics and economics?
  • How can they be a fulfilling places to live, and not just “satellites” for living?
  • Can new utopias meaningfully answer the old ones?

Participants

26 people from the fields of architecture, urban design, sociology, graphic design, art and IT participated in the first year of the summer school.

Among them were also invited experts Nika Dubrovsky, Jana Kočková, Mišo Hudák and Lynda Zein.
Read about them in this mini-slideshow:

Utopias/Dystopias

Support & Funding

We kindly thank EASA.sk for cooperation on the project as well as Tabačka Kulturfabrik for their support. The project was funded by K13 grant.

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