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Old Architecture
April 27, 2011 12:23 PM   Subscribe

Images of times past: abandoned monuments in the former Yugoslavia and Soviet era architecture in Bulgaria.

Tangentially related: Construction on the Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang (previously 1 2) has resumed.
posted by kmz (49 comments total) 71 users marked this as a favorite

 
These are awesome. Thanks.
posted by rocket88 at 12:48 PM on April 27, 2011


Damn. Why didn't this brand of brutalism make it into the mainstream? I might not hate it as much if it was all completely and utterly insane (like this stuff)...
posted by schmod at 12:50 PM on April 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Okay (tried to link to it) but the third picture down on the second link is seriously creepy. The rest of it is just "wow, weird futuristic architecture," but that one? The sylvan glade where you suddenly notice OHJEEZUSNO THE ROCKS ARE ALIVE?

Yikes.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:56 PM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Some of these are definitely gonna have to get built on my Minecraft server.
posted by echo target at 12:58 PM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


speaking of which, is there a MeFi minecraft server?
posted by lemuring at 1:00 PM on April 27, 2011


(Yes, there is.)
posted by neckro23 at 1:06 PM on April 27, 2011


Fantastic. Thank.s
posted by Amity at 1:09 PM on April 27, 2011


So the Yugoslavian pieces - are these modernist or postmodernist? Seriously asking here.
posted by GuyZero at 1:13 PM on April 27, 2011


Aside from being obviously brutalist.
posted by GuyZero at 1:13 PM on April 27, 2011


the third picture down on the second link is seriously creepy

It looks like the set of The Lord of The Rings - so cool!
posted by Neekee at 1:14 PM on April 27, 2011


How come so many of the concrete structures look like they're covered with mold? What went wrong exactly? Do these monuments require periodic scrubbing or some sort? Do they require a sealant? Did they start out with an inferior grade of concrete that led to this problem? Inquiring minds want to know.
posted by crapmatic at 1:23 PM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Crapmatic - lichens, just like on bare rock just about anywhere, I'd imagine.
posted by notsnot at 1:26 PM on April 27, 2011


It's a pitty that the Yugoslavia monuments have fallen into neglect - there were all sorts of things wrong with the Soviet Bloc, but shooting Nazis should never go out of style.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 1:34 PM on April 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


The future was so bright, once.
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 1:38 PM on April 27, 2011 [6 favorites]


One looks like the shrine of clavicus vile.
there is like half a movie of FX for a SF film there.
posted by clavdivs at 1:43 PM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


How come so many of the concrete structures look like they're covered with mold? What went wrong exactly? Do these monuments require periodic scrubbing or some sort? Do they require a sealant? Did they start out with an inferior grade of concrete that led to this problem? Inquiring minds want to know.

Um, that's what bare concrete in temperate regions looks like when it's been up longer than a month or two.
posted by kersplunk at 1:44 PM on April 27, 2011


Looks like out takes from this book, Cosmic Communist Constructions Photographed, featured on the blue previously.
posted by doobiedoo at 1:53 PM on April 27, 2011


What's particularly beautiful about these monuments is the treatment of reinforced concrete on its own terms to serve the purpose of embodying culture and narrative. You'll find similarities between these works and those of Carlo Scarpa, who was very interested in creating works that interacted with Venetian culture and history.

This is in complete contrast with the platonic ideals of Louis Kahn or the hardcore modernist works of Erno Goldfinger and Chamberlin, Powell, and Bon, or even the structurally obsessive Pier Luigi Nervi and Felix Candela.

Brutalism is unfortunately a catch-all term that doesn't really do justice to the subtleties and versatility of reinforced concrete, and how differently it has been used by different architects. It is also unfortunate that, for all its possibilities, it's also very easy to screw things up.
posted by lemuring at 1:53 PM on April 27, 2011 [7 favorites]


Don't you be talking smack about Robarts Library!
posted by stinkycheese at 2:01 PM on April 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Seconded! Robarts is awesome. Our own little pseudo-Soviet concrete extravaganza.
posted by Go Banana at 2:08 PM on April 27, 2011


It's a peacock! Who makes a brutalist peacock? WHO?
posted by mendel at 2:09 PM on April 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


smackety smack :D

I'm sure their collections are nice, but the building's a bit of a turkey... literally it looks the monument to the turkey overlord.
posted by lemuring at 2:09 PM on April 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


I keep expecting to see a colony of Eloi lounging in the background.
posted by Alt F4 at 2:15 PM on April 27, 2011


My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!
posted by Deflagro at 2:17 PM on April 27, 2011 [5 favorites]


Lemuring, I can see where you're going with the Soviet stuff and Scarpa both having more detail in their construction, but Scarpa works on a more intimate scale and his detailing is typically additive and layered whereas the Soviet detail has obviously been cast or chiselled. The latter is also quite figural whilst Scarpa's use of geometry is more abstract. Not sure who would make a good point of comparison, but Gottfried Bohm's church comes to mind as something which uses more explicit, cast figures.
posted by doobiedoo at 2:24 PM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's a peacock! Who makes a brutalist peacock? WHO?

A brutalist turkey though...
posted by GuyZero at 2:33 PM on April 27, 2011


I think if the cold war has been fought through monuments then we'd all be speaking Russian right now.
posted by codacorolla at 2:35 PM on April 27, 2011 [7 favorites]


doobiedoo,

The relationship that interested me was the motivation behind the Yugoslavian works in the first link and those of Scarpa. Both are attempting to explore culture and narrative through the expressiveness of reinforced concrete; they're trying to tell stories and represent abstract ideas.

It's something that you generally don't see in the works that employ (unfinished) reinforced concrete as a primary material, and I feel like having that cultural/narrative motivation, along with the restriction of primarily using that one material, brings out a different character to reinforced concrete than when it's placed in the hands of Louis Kahn or Nervi.
posted by lemuring at 2:47 PM on April 27, 2011


Those Yugoslavian monuments are very striking and oddly mute. Perhaps they have plaques explaining what they're about, but you can't tell just from the shapes that they commemorate battles or concentration camps. I wonder why they opted not to do the standard bronze statue of soldiers, eternal flame, or whatever. They're sort of eerie in their silence.

But thanks for the link - I have some Yugoslavian postage stamps with pictures of these monuments, but no inscriptions. I guess every Yugoslav knew what they were but it was a mystery to me. Solved!
posted by Quietgal at 2:52 PM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


So the Yugoslavian pieces - are these modernist or postmodernist? Seriously asking here.

I would say that this is 'Modernism'.

(But possibly with some aspects of 'Post-Modernism' implied... but it really depends on how you define the words...)
posted by ovvl at 2:57 PM on April 27, 2011


It's always tricky for me, but wouldn't modernism imply a centered, fact based, and results oriented approach to life? These monuments are relics of communism, which is an ideology centered around class, often calls itself a science, and has very strict rules on good and evil, and sells itself as a solution to the problems of men. These monuments imply a meta-narrative of the class war, and the objective truth of a political system.

That seems modernist to me. I think that our viewing of them is a postmodern act, especially since they've been stripped of any context, and we're (or at least I) am viewing them as a sort of abstract art without really being aware of what they're monuments to, while the monuments themselves are objects born out of a modernist ideology.
posted by codacorolla at 3:19 PM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Coming up next on Neon Genesis Evangelion...
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:36 PM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


They wouldn't be postmodern mainly due to the general timeframe that they were created in. The Jasenovac monument was erected in 1966, and the others look like the modernist works of the 50's, 60's, and 70's. Le Corbusier's Ronchamp Chapel was built in the fifties, for example.

Postmodern architecture, which only really gets going in the late 70's and 80's, generally sees the reintroduction and conflation of historical forms of representations in architecture, as in the work of Aldo Rossi or James Stirling.

An easy way to differentiate between modernism and postmodernism in architecture, is the adamantly ahistorical approach of modernist works; the architectural language is self-referential and doesn't rely on a language inherited from the 19th century.
posted by lemuring at 3:51 PM on April 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Now I want to start a prog rock band, because the album cover is essentially done.
posted by hydrophonic at 3:53 PM on April 27, 2011 [6 favorites]


I guess I don't think of Scarpa as an architect of concrete! If I remember correctly a lot of his story telling comes from using a mix of materials - marble, wood, metal, water - across particular spatial sequences to embody different things, and the dominance of concrete in the brion cemetery that you link to isn't typical of his work. The narratives in the soviet monuments on the other hand are told through monolithic forms.

If I were to tag it with a movement it'd something like a late soviet development of expressionist architecture. Formal experimentation with early industrial materials embodying romantic, utopian imagery. The TWA terminal by Eero Saarinen might offer an American example.
posted by doobiedoo at 3:58 PM on April 27, 2011


Obviously romancing different utopias
posted by doobiedoo at 4:00 PM on April 27, 2011


They look the badly damage remains of a failed Planetary Defense Grid.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:20 PM on April 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


It's not abandoned (or concrete) but surely Батьківщина-Мати counts for something.
posted by boo_radley at 4:37 PM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


I will never understand why the 20th Century architects had such fascination with concrete. It was used to perpetrate the ugliest buildings imaginable, on scales vastly inhuman and in styles that ranged from the chilling to the oppressively weighty.

It's hard to imagine a cozy cottage or even swank office space executed in concrete (sans vast expanses of sheet glass in the latter case, of course).
posted by sonic meat machine at 4:54 PM on April 27, 2011


Whoa! Those Yugoslav monuments are incredible! I really, really like a lot of those. Thanks for the post, kmz!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:55 PM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Kruševo: raddest motherfucker out there.
posted by Beardman at 5:13 PM on April 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


what made brutalism what it is today was always the "experimental" HVAC systems these buildings tended to have...
posted by ennui.bz at 6:28 PM on April 27, 2011


Reminds me of Šumarice Memorial Park in Kragujevac, Serbia.

Brutal, indeed.
posted by swift at 9:50 PM on April 27, 2011


The green stuff on the monuments is moss, not lichens. It grows on any neglected structure. These monuments are neglected because the government which built them no longer exists. There is no budget for them.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 12:36 AM on April 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Try the Pantheon of National Revival Heros in Rousse, Bulgaria. More of a building, but the gold dome is really striking compared to the surroundings.

I found the (now-abandoned) Partisan Memorial in Mostar, Bosnia bewildering, especially with its clock-workengravings.

I came across this weird hold-over from the soviet era travelling the Georgian Military Highway; the blurry photo (not my blog) doesn't do it justice; there are giant iron spikes at the top, and stone men seemingly plastered to not only the outside of the structure but also the inside. I liked it a lot more than the blog's owner did, I guess.

Much more plain ugly, in my opinion, is the Monument of the 50th Anniversary of Soviet Armenia still up in Yerevan, with its tiny gold leaf emerging from a giant crab claw.
posted by Theiform at 1:45 AM on April 28, 2011


The thing about those "brutalist" buildings is that concrete became the default construction medium for remote locations due to heat, cold and humidity. In many cases, here were no other durableconstruction materials.

The preponderance of modernist, poured concrete buildings in S.America, W. Africa, E. Europe and India exist because the local stock of weight-bearing lumber is nil-to-zero and colonizing Westerners needed to create infrastructure buildings -- post offices, banks and rail-stations -- in places without trees.
posted by vhsiv at 9:58 AM on April 28, 2011


Is it me, or do a lot of the monuments in the first link look like crashed spaceships?

I would say the Planetary Defense Grid is working fine and dandy ...
posted by djrock3k at 1:56 PM on April 28, 2011


I will never understand why the 20th Century architects had such fascination with concrete.
As vhsiv mentions, "[t]here were no other durable construction materials" - see also 'EASTMODERN Architecture of the 1960s and 1970s in Eastern Europe'
The marked contrast of mono-materiality and roughness on the outside - often due to the limited choice of building materials - and the carefully detailled [sic] warm elegance of the cosy interiors is rather typical for Eastern European post-war architecture.
which incidentally, also has some nice examples in their gallery.
posted by unliteral at 8:57 PM on April 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


The second link - third picture down....

Creepy! There's faces in the rocks in the forest!

What is THAT supposed to memorialize? *shudder*
posted by jillithd at 7:30 AM on April 29, 2011


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