Guest Seminar: Nerma Cridge

Post-Socialist City and Its Negative Casts

Pyongyang Mural.

Date: 10/03/2020
Time: 10:00-13:00
Venue: 37 Bedford Square, 1st Floor, Front Room.

This lecture will compare cities from two communist countries which at first glance, could be seen as the exact opposite from one another. Ex-Yugoslavia which tends to be seen as the most open and least communist, will be juxtaposed with the most defiantly secretive and closed country in the world – North Korea.

Taking Lebbeus Woods’ Sarajevo project in 1993 which dealt with Yugoslavia’s tragic disintegration as a point of departure, we will explore the history, secrets and speculation behind some of the most intriguing architecture in ex-Yugoslavia – including numerous gigantic abstract monuments and hidden military structures.

Counter-posed will be the still officially communist figurative monuments of Pyongyang. The premise behind taking two such different regimes is that by looking at the margins, important traits of the communist architecture as a whole, could be uncovered. Pyongyang’s figurative monuments offer no ambiguity, instead we are confronted with very clear literal meaning. One of the many contradictions of its monumental architecture built on a massive scale with incredible speed, is that even when newly completed most structures appear already out-dated.

There has been a recent surge of interest in both countries lead by photographers. This lecture will seek to redress this imbalance between the large quantities of visual information, which often comes with little explanation of the meaning, history or context.

The concluding parts will seek to define further what could be behind our insatiable yearning for this type of imagery, and argue that, at least in part, it could be attributed to collective nostalgia towards more naïve, simple and innocent times. Towards times when communism appeared to function and even inspire architecture with a true social purpose and responsibility.

Nerma Prnjavorac Cridge grew up in Sarajevo and completed her education in architecture at Birmingham, the Bartlett and the Architectural Association. Since qualifying, she worked for a number of distinguished practitioners including Thomas Heatherwick and art2architecture. Her first monograph Drawing the Unbuildable, based on her PhD thesis at the Architectural Association (supervised by dr Marina Lathouri and Mark Cousins) on the Soviet avant-garde, was published by Routledge in 2015. Nerma currently teaches at the  AA as well as running her small art and design practice Drawing Agency. Forthcoming publications include Restless: Drawn by Zaha Hadid, in Routledge Companion on Women in Architecture edited by Anna Sokolina, and The Politics of Abstraction, Nerma’s second monograph.

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