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  • Architecture of Totalitarian Regimes in Urban Managements - ATRIUM

    The Architecture of Totalitarian Regimes in Urban Managements is an ambitious project which aims to put into greater focus a key element of twentieth-century European history, heritage and memory.

    ATRIUM is ambitious in its scope but also in the extent and nature of the partnership. The project is made up of 18 partners from the area of south-east Europe, from university departments and national ministries, to governmental organisations and city administrations, bringing different skills and experiences to the project. The partners come from 11 different countries (Italy, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Slovakia, Roumania, Croatia, Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia and Greece) which share a desire to focus on the architectural heritage of the different totalitarian regimes which they have experienced in the twentieth century from a cultural and historical point of view. One of the key objectives of the financing of European projects is that of encouraging a shared view of historical and cultural identity. The broad nature of the partnership is an example of a common recognition of the importance of twentieth-century architectural heritage and its complex, contradictory and sometimes uncomfortable relation to certain periods of European history.

    The starting point of the project is architecture. All of the countries involved in the project contain examples of major architectural heritage – buildings, urban landscapes etc.- realised during a period of political regimes which were to different degrees “totalitarian”, although this term has fallen somewhat into disuse. The moment and historical context of the examples vary – from the 1920s and 1930s in Fascist Italy to the 1950s and 1960s in the Communist societies of Eastern Europe. But the project recognizes a common cultural heritage here, and thus constitutes an opportunity: to focus on and give value to examples of architecture which have a common theoretical and cultural background to the extent that they are highly sought-after amongst the circle of experts in architecture on a world level. Our objective, as is made clear in the proposal itself is to give greater visibility to these examples of rationalist architecture to the extent of linking them together as part of a cultural route which celebrates these specific architectural traces.

    Another common characteristic of the architectural heritage which we are together is their shared historical origin in political regimes which the present repudiates unequivocally. A characteristic of authoritarian regimes is that they rule from the centre, and such a method of government from above may favour major architectural and urban intervention in three distinct but related ways.

    First, as architects are well aware, all projects depend on commissioning and financing, and this is even more true for large projects, which can only be commissioned by important public or private institutions. The particular power structures of regimes simplify this aspect of the commissioning of major architectural work. (A subsidiary aspect here is the consensus that political power may wish to obtain through patronage and investment in public works.)

    Second, having downgraded the symbolic importance of sites of political participation, in particular parliaments, authoritarian or totalitarian regimes may desire to give themselves a concrete visibility through material realisations: real, tangible and incontrovertible presences on urban landscapes.

    Third, as specifically totalitarian regimes, there may be an impulse to “totalise” lived experience, to standardize and regulate the behaviour of political subjects in institutions (schools, offices, institutions, leisure centres). This constitutes a specific cultural and sociological input to the architectural projects themselves.

    These three conditioning elements will vary from place to place and according to the specific political context, but we hope that they may provide a common basis for fruitful comparison.

    Architectural and urban heritage is often locally valorised, in its historical as well as its urban importance. This project aims to bring these experiences together in order to trace common features underlying a necessary diversity but also to focus on their shared overall historical context. It is hoped that the cultural route which will emerge will constitute a pathway for Europeans to explore the traumatic twentieth century through the urban landscapes fully visible on the streets of its cities.

    Patrick Leech

    City Councillor for International Relations

    Municipality of Forli

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Official web page of the South-East Europe Programme

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Official web page of Romanian Ministry of Regional Development and Tourism

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