Post-Colonial Planning, Global Technology Transfer, and the Cold War

The symposium South of East-West. Post-Colonial Planning, Global Technology Transfer, and the Cold War (Berlage Institute on 9-10 November, 2010) addressed the transfer of knowledge in architecture, urbanism, engineering, and building technology from the socialist East and the capitalist West towards the post-colonial South during the Cold War. The results of this symposium were published in the themed volume of The Journal of Architecture (London), Volume 17, Number 3. See table of content and buy the issue here

International Fair Accra (Ghana)
International Trade Fair Accra (Ghana), designers: Jacek Chyrosz & Stanisław Rymaszewski , completed in 1967

Gaining independence since the late 1950s, the former European colonies in Africa and Asia became new actors in the global confrontation between the Soviet Union, the United States, and their allies in the context of the Cold War. Military, economic, and technological modernization became an important means in this confrontation, reflected in the increasing financial commitment allocated to the so-called development aid since the Khrushchev and Kennedy administrations. The addressees’ motivations were as multifold as the donors’ goals were self-referential: besides gaining political and economic influence, the support for modernization processes in the post-colonial countries was incorporated into the ideological discourses of the Soviet Union and the United States, either the Marxist narrative of history inevitably leading to communism; or the alternative story of stages of economic development leading to self-sustained growth, suggested by U.S. economists such as Walt Rostow. In both versions of the development aid narrative, building could equally be employed as a highly visible expression of modernization efforts and a tangible assertion of engagement—beyond offering an outlet for the respective building industries’ products and a testing ground for planning and construction work.

International Fair Accra (Ghana)
International Trade Fair Accra (Ghana), designers: Jacek Chyrosz & Stanisław Rymaszewski, completed in 1967

Until the end of the Cold War, significant means were allocated for the transfer of expertise in engineering, planning and architecture, facilitated by both national and international organizations. They included training and education, but also planning and construction of roads and highways, housing and public buildings like hospitals, schools, or stadiums, waterworks and irrigation structures, factories in almost all branches of industry, prefabricated housing plants, municipal projects, and new towns.

Within the rapidly shifting political conditions of the post-colonial countries, and with the Non-Aligned Movement and China entering the stage, the bipolarity of the Cold War was complicated by an interaction within a complex network of actors. With the competition between the East and the West becoming, since the late 1960s, increasingly complemented by their entanglement in tripartite cooperations in the South, a new global division of labour started to emerge, announcing the post-socialist world.

International Fair Accra (Ghana)
International Trade Fair Accra (Ghana), designers: Jacek Chyrosz & Stanisław Rymaszewski , completed in 1967

This symposium addresses the practices of architects, urbanists and engineers in this transitory condition, and thus explore the transfer of architectural and urbanist knowledge beyond the modernist dialectics between the metropolis and its colonial “architectural laboratories”. Special attention needs to be paid to the context and conditions of these practices: a complex entanglement between different cultures and planning approaches, including the heritage of the colonial powers; the objectives of the newly established countries; and the political, technological, economic, and cultural development of the providers of expertise and funding.

This symposium contributes not only to a clarification of this particularly under-researched topic, but also to an understanding of the current urbanization processes in the Global South, often conditioned by material structures, technologies, and institutions originating from the Cold War. In order to secure the comparative character of the discussion, special attention is paid to specific locations, situations, projects, and institutions in which the architects, urbanists, and engineers coming from both sides of the Iron Curtain were working. For contributions to the symposium, a focus on particular case studies—realized projects of various scale, ranging from individual buildings to planning proposals and civic infrastructure—is therefore strongly encouraged.

International Fair Accra (Ghana)
International Trade Fair Accra (Ghana), designers: Jacek Chyrosz & Stanisław Rymaszewski , completed in 1967

This symposium consists of a public evening program (November 9, 2010) and of a workshop with a limited number of participants devoted to the discussion of their previously submitted papers (November 9—10, 2010).

The evening program focuses on international networks of knowledge distribution in architecture and urbanism during the Cold War. It consists of a lecture by Akos Moravánszky (“Peripheral Vision. Charles Polónyi and the Sources of Socialist Competence”); Duanfang Lu (“Entangled Knowledges: Exporting Chinese Architecture to the Third World”); and Bogdan Wyporek (“How Warsaw architects planned Skopje, Chimbote, and Libya under the auspices of the UN, 1960s—1970s.")

After an introduction by Marion von Osten, the contributions to the workshop include a comparative examination of planning and construction of cities by East-German architects and urbanists in Zanzibar after 1964 (Ludger Wimmelbücker); and an account of the general master-plan of Baghdad drawn by Polish planners in the 1960s, critical to an earlier planning by Costantinos A. Doxiadis, and their overarching General Housing Programme for Iraq in the 1970s (Piotr Bujas, Łukasz Stanek). Other contributions include the export of Soviet and Romanian urban models towards the post-colonial countries in Africa and the Middle East (Elke Beyer, Dana Vais). A biographical focus is conveyed by contributions about the architectural critic Udo Kultermann working for the German African Society (Tom Avermaete), or architects like Charles Polónyi or Oskar Hansen, who were involved into the institutions of state socialism in Hungary and Poland, while at the same time developing projects in Africa and Latin America, and contributing to the discussions within the Team 10 (Ákos Moravánszky, Łukasz Stanek). This topic is complemented by the accounts of the export of Soviet and Yugoslav prefabricated building systems to Chile, Cuba, and Africa (Pedro Alonso, Hugo Palmarola Sagredo, Dafne Berc, Dubravka Sekulić); and by a comparative research between the teaching and research programs in “tropical architecture” and “urbanism of developing countries” in Western and Eastern Europe since the 1960s (Judith Hopfengärtner).


Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

16.00-18.00 Workshop, Panel 1

16.00-16.15 Welcome, Vedran Mimica

16.15-16.35 Dafne Berc, Dubravka Sekulić, Constructing Nonalignment. Yugoslav Construction Industry and Non-Aligned Movement

16.35-16.55 Pedro Ignacio Alonso, Hugo Palmarola, The Soviet Kpd Building System in Cuba and Chile, 1963 – 1973

16.55-17.15 Piotr Bujas, Łukasz Stanek, Miastoprojekt Goes Abroad. Polish Architecture and Planning in Baghdad, 1962-1989

17.15-18.00 Discussion

19.00 - 21.30 Evening Program

19.00-19.15 Introduction Łukasz Stanek

19.15-20.00 Ákos Moravánszky, Peripheral Vision. Charles Polónyi and the Sources of Socialist Competence

20.00-20.45 Duanfang Lu, Entangled Knowledges: Exporting Chinese Architecture to the Third World

20.45-21.30 Bogdan Wyporek, How Warsaw Aarchitects Planned Skopje, Chimbote, and Libya Under the Auspices of the UN, 1960s—1970s.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

9.00-9.45 Introduction by Marion von Osten, The Transculturality of Colonial Modernism in the Era of Decolonization

9:45-11:30 Workshop: Panel 2

9:45-10.05 Elke Beyer, „Competitive Coexistence“ or Planning for Progress in Kabul 1964

10.05-10.25 Ludger Wimmelbücker, Architetcural Projects of the German Democratic Republic in Zanzibar

10:25-10.45 Dana Vais, Peer Colonialism: Construction Projects from Socialist Romania to the Developing World (1965-1989)

10:45-11.30 Discussion

12.00-13:45 Workshop: Panel 3

12.00-12.20 Judith Hopfengärtner, From „Tropical Building“ to „Global Urbanism.“ Courses on Aarchitecture in Developing Countries at European Architecture Schools

12.20-12.40 Tom Avermaete, “Neues Bauen in Afrika”: Cold War Politics and German Architectural Exhibitions in/on Africa.

12.40-13.25 Discussion

13.25-13:45 Summary and outlook, introduced by Binna Choi

International Fair Accra (Ghana)
International Trade Fair Accra (Ghana), designers: Jacek Chyrosz & Stanisław Rymaszewski , completed in 1967

This symposium is organized by Łukasz Stanek (Chair for Architecture Theory, ETH Zurich), in the framework of the project SCALES 1960-2010, in cooperation with the Berlage Institute Rotterdam (state-space program) and Casco-Office for Art, Design and Theory, Utrecht.