east-centric fluencies

from 7th to 9th of october timisoara (ro) was host to this year’s International Arhitext Festival Fluente / Fluencies. arhitext‘s editor-in-chief arpad zachi and his team managed to squeeze an amazingly intense yet faceted series of lectures, panel discussions, exhibitions, and book launches into three days of architectural frenzy in order to identify and discuss the confluencies that constitute eastern europe’s current architectural identity in the wake of post-socialist modernism.

fellow lecturers, including antonio petrov, svetlana boym, kai vockler and marko sancanin, offered most interesting readings of past and contemporary architectural practice in eastern and central europe, whereas i myself (speaking about “from flexibility to fluidity“) could rather offer somewhat of an outside reflection on the ongoing discussions.

curator bogdan ghiu has set out to assemble a representative selection of 80 projects in an exhibition called Fluencies to investigate whether “it is possible that […] the so rich and diverse speciality of the Central, Eastern and South-Eastern Europe represents today […] a source of resistance to homogenization.” the result is, i think, rather disillusioning.

contemporary east and central european architecture production on the whole seems neither capable of reconstructing a long lost and desired regional identity (as it is totally devoid of any retrospective reasoning), nor of constructively continuing the narrative of regional architectural practice (as it offers no prospective nostalgia). it appears to entirely dissolve within a kind of all-european architectural best practice, unable to provide a critical contribution to what post-socialist modernism could actually mean.

dana vais notes in her essay “Secondary Modernity in Eastern […] Europe” in the exhibition’s catalogue that “the biggest problem raised by architectural modernity in the East has been the fact that its main ingredient, i.e. technology, has never been completely mastered here.” well, it is safe to say that the east caught up, but interestingly enough  it is precisely the very few projects that still lack this “Euro-American technical titanism” (dana vais quoting peter sloterdijk here), like corvin cristian’s bar Atelier Mecanic in bucharest or alexander brodsky’s Vodka Ceremony Pavilion (which delightfully reminds me of project meganom’s barn project in russia, 2006), that suggest the biggest potentials for a productive re-reading of the regional architectural practice.

footnote: austria is represented by Bauchplan, Dietrich/Untertrifaller, Caramel Architekten,  Franz ZT GmbH, LOVE and Synn Architekten.

Fluencies: east and central european architecture. Zachi, Arpad (ed.). Editura Fundatiei Arhitext Design. Bucuresti, 2011. ISBN 978-606-92734-3-2.