What Happened in 1917?: A Century of Revolution in Architecture and Urbanism, 1917–2017

Wednesday 14 June 2017, 7:00pm — 9:00pm

As part of The Future Remains: Revisiting Revolution, Calvert 22 Foundation is hosting a series of lively debates about the lasting impact of the "ten days that shook the world".

What Happened in 1917? will bring together leading UK scholars and theorists with their counterparts from across the New East for critical explorations of the legacy of the Russian Revolution and our shifting views across the last 100 years.

Join us at this dynamic evening for lively discussion and new perspectives on the radical architecture and urbanism of the Revolution, the Soviet avant-garde and beyond.

This event is part of the London Festival of Architecture 2017.

Re-Activating the Social Condenser: A Century of Revolution in Architecture and Urbanism, 1917–2017

"We set the new type of communal dwelling, the new type of club, Palace of Labour, Executive Committee building, factory, which are to become the conductors and condensers of socialist culture, against the pre-revolutionary types of the investment property, the private house, the 'Noble Assembly' building, etc., which resulted from pre-revolutionary social, economic and technological conditions."

– Soviet Organisation of Contemporary Architects Resolution, 1928

In the centenary year of the Russian revolution, this panel discussion is devoted to the idea of the "social condenser" – the most powerful architectural and urban concept produced in response to the earth-shattering events of 1917. Panel members – contributors to a special issue of The Journal of Architecture launching in autumn 2017, edited by Jane Rendell and Michal Murawski – will discuss the significance of the social condenser, and its many permutations and afterlives in architectural theory and practice, not only in the post-October Soviet Union, but also in the Stalin-era Eastern Bloc, in the Paris of 1968, in Rem Koolhaas' late-capitalist New York and in Putin-era Moscow. 

This panel discussion will approach the social condenser as a concept born of the Russian Revolution and Soviet avant-garde, un-anchored from the domain of Soviet modernism's "innocent" years. By subjecting this electrifying idea to a systematic, wide-ranging re-examination, we'll re-charge the social condenser as a vector for radical architectural and urban thought and practice in the 21st century.

The panel members, contributors to the special issue, will present condensed, five minute ‘crystallisations’ of how they understand the social condenser: its history and genesis, its multiple reincarnations and its possible futures.

Their presentations will be followed by short responses from two outside critics: philosopher Nina Power and curator Eszter Steierhoffer.

Roundtable members:

Victor Buchli is Professor of Material Culture in the Material Culture Group within the Department of Anthropology at University College London (UCL). Victor works on architecture, domesticity, the archaeology of the recent past, critical understandings of materiality and new materials and new technologies. His latest book An Archaeology of the Immaterial (Routledge 2015) examines questions surrounding immateriality particularly the significance of material cultures that paradoxically attempt to deny their own physicality. In addition, his An Anthropology of Architecture (Bloomsbury 2013) examines the materiality of built forms from an anthropological perspective. His previous books include An Archaeology of Socialism (Berg 1999) – an ethno-historical study of the Narkomfin constructivist housing block in Moscow.

Owen Hatherley is the author of four books on British architecture, politics and pop culture as well as Across the Plaza, an e-book on public squares in post-communist Europe. He wrote his PhD thesis on Americanism in the Weimar Republic and the USSR. He lives in Woolwich.

Michał Murawski is an anthropologist of architecture and Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow at the Department of Russian, Queen Mary, University of London. He was previously Mellon Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, UCL, and completed his PhD in Social Anthropology at the University of Cambridge in 2014. His book, Palace Complex, will be published by Indiana University Press in 2018. His new project focuses on architectural aesthetics and municipal governance in Putin-era Moscow.

Jane Rendell (BA, DipArch, MSc, PhD) is an academic and writer. She trained and practiced as an architectural designer, before studying for her MSc and PhD in feminist architectural history. Her interdisciplinary work, through which she has developed concepts of "critical spatial practice" and "site-writing", crosses architecture, art, feminism, history and psychoanalysis. Her books include Site-Writing (2010), Art and Architecture (2006), and The Pursuit of Pleasure (2002), and co-edited collections like Pattern (2007), Critical Architecture (2007), Spatial Imagination (2005), The Unknown City (2001), Intersections (2000), Gender, Space, Architecture (1999) and Strangely Familiar (1995). Her new book concerning transitional spaces in architecture and psychoanalysis will be published in late 2015. She is Professor of Architecture and Art at the Bartlett, UCL. 

Andrew Willimott is Lecturer in Modern Russian / Soviet History at the University of Reading. A graduate of the University of East Anglia, and a former Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at the UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies, he is author of Living the Revolution: Urban Communes and Soviet Socialism, 1917-1932 (Oxford University Press).


Nina Power is Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at The University of Roehampton and Tutor on the Critical Writing in Art & Design programme at The Royal College of Art. She has a wide range of interests, including philosophy, film, art, feminism and politics. She is the author of One-Dimensional Woman (Zer0, 2009) and Das kollektive politische Subjekt – Aufsätze zur kritischen Philosophie (Laika, 2015), a collection of her philosophical writings (translated into German). She is currently working on two book-length projects — one on the topic of work and the other on the history of the collective political subject. She is also working on a number of more experimental collaborations with artists and writers.

Eszter Steierhoffer is Curator at the Design Museum in London. Previously she worked as Curator of Contemporary Architecture at the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal. She holds PhD from the Royal College of Art in Critical and Historical Studies, her research interest includes the history of modern and contemporary exhibitions of architecture. She has organised a number of exhibitions and symposia with architectural foci, including Imagine Moscow: Architecture, Propaganda, Revolution (2017); Corner, Block, Neighbourhood, Cities. Álvaro Siza in Berlin and The Hague (2015); Zoo-topia. On zoo architecture as taxonomies of national representation (2012); and Anatomy of a Street (2010).

Organised in partnership with the European University at St Petersburg.


Booking terms & conditions

A deposit of £5 will be taken in lieu of a ticket, which will be fully refunded when you attend the event or send someone else in your place. Not attending the event and not sending anyone else in your place will mean you lose your deposit.

Please allow up to 7 business days for your refund to be processed and show up on your account. If it's past that time, do get in touch with us so we can look into it.

We have a 12-hour cancellation policy, meaning you can cancel your ticket up to 12 hours before the event start time by emailing [email protected] and the deposit will be refunded to your account. For any cancellations made outside this time frame the deposit becomes non-refundable.