Imagined and Experienced: Planned Districts in Late Socialism and Beyond


Typical bedroom communities, built in Soviet times are mostly associated with monotony, grayness, and often with danger, is where many city inhabitants live. We do not often think of them when we talk or think about the city: these areas are large white spots, faceless clots of urban fabric. But this is only at first glance, because in fact these neighborhoods are full of life. Created in 1960-1980, they lived through decades of change: from the embodiment of the ideal socialist future and the attempt to finally solve the "housing problem" to the faceless "other major" cities or highly desirable residences. Stable and predictable exteriors, they are full of contradictions. Developers, city officials, architects, churches, businesses, local communities, ordinary citizens created their vision of space and the areas connected to its (re)creation.

In these communities a diffusion of once planned features and the appearance of new, not previously anticipated ones is taking place. In this study, we seek to answer the question of how assimilation occurs and how changes in public (streets, squares), semi-public (courtyards, and yards), and private (apartments) spaces are changed by human practices. We are interested in the evolution of the image invented by planners to its actual and final existence and people living in a concrete place, and the relationship between the architectural environment and social structures. Besides this, the project aims to identify the particular relationship of planned areas and the city as a whole (on infrastructure, political, economic, cultural and everyday levels); content and strength of emotional involvement of people in the urban landscape; structure, design elements and features imagined within the space. With this project we develop a scheme for interdisciplinary research of planned neighborhoods, which would unite the approachs from the field of urban planning, architecture, anthropology and sociology.

We will examine the evolution of the physical, bodily, symbolic living space using the example of a number of planned areas in the Ukrainian cities of Lviv's Sykhiv (start of construction - 1979, actively erected in 1980), Kharkiv's Saltovka (mass building took place in 1970's) and Dnipro(petro)vska Pobeda (construction began in 1969). Understanding past and present communities and using local context, we will try to raise some global issues for the future of planned districts.

The study is conducted by Natalya Otrishchenko, Natalia Mysak, and Yevhenia Hubkina. Planned implementation period: 2016-2018.