Georgia Project Lecture Series

Angela Wheeler:
Design Across the Iron Curtain: Modern Architecture in Soviet Georgia

Aesthetics, Art, and Architecture in the Caucasus Lecture Series
In cooperation with the George Chubinashvili National Research Centre for Georgian Art History and Heritage Preservation

After decades of neglect, the Soviet Union’s innovative postwar architecture finally seems to be getting its due, becoming a darling of the international design community. Poetic photographs of war memorials, metro stations, and bus stops grace coffee table books and social media feeds. This phenomenon presents buildings from the 1960s-1980s as exciting, rediscovered artifacts, contradicting historically negative stereotypes of Soviet design as either crass monumentalism or drab monotony. But one aspect of Western commentary remains unchanged: the reduction of all socialist architecture to a product of state control, a mere extension of propaganda that may happen, almost accidentally, to pass into the sublime. This narrative of a singular "Soviet modernism" maintains the Cold War ideology of the Iron Curtain, presenting diverse Soviet architectures as a hopelessly alien manifestation of the Communist Party agenda—an interpretation that leaves little room for individual artistic agency, regional differences, distinctive epochs, or global connections. Despite a growing number of publications and exhibitions showcasing the true complexities of socialist design, East European architecture as a whole often appears as an isolated anomaly in contemporary architectural histories, characterized by still-dominant truisms about mass produced uniformity, isolated architects, and overstated top-down control. Soviet Georgian architecture challenges these cliches and stands as a rebuke to the notion of modernist homogeneity. In it, one can see the tensions at the heart of the Soviet (and the modern) project: between individual and collective, standardization and authorship, iconoclastic and traditional, local and global. This talk will explore the work of postwar Georgian architects, demonstrating their connections to international design movements.

Angela Wheeler is an architectural and urban researcher at Harvard University, affiliated with the Graduate School of Design and the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies. Her research examines the development of architectural preservation in the Soviet Union during the postwar period. She has practiced and studied heritage management in the Republic of Georgia since 2010, where her projects have included an architectural guide to Tbilisi (DOM Publishers, forthcoming 2021), an exhibition of wooden mosques, and a national survey of small historic cities. Other interests include preservation pedagogy and its place in design curricula, Soviet postmodernisms, and urban ecology. 


in Kooperation mit

29. Juni 2021, 15:00 Uhr

The event takes place online.

To participate please register in advance via Zoom:
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting. 


Diese Veranstaltung wird durch Fotografien und/oder Videoaufnahmen dokumentiert. Falls es nicht Ihre Zustimmung findet, dass das Kunsthistorische Institut in Florenz Aufnahmen, auf denen Sie erkennbar abgebildet sein könnten, für die Veranstaltungsdokumentation und Öffentlichkeitsarbeit (z.B. Social Media) verwendet, bitten wir um eine entsprechende Rückmeldung.


Unser Newsletter informiert Sie kostenlos über Veranstaltungen, Ausschreibungen, Ausstellungen und Neuerscheinungen des Kunsthistorischen Instituts in Florenz.

Wenn Sie unseren Newsletter beziehen möchten, tragen Sie bitte Ihren Namen und Ihre E-Mail-Adresse ein:


Hinweise zum Versandverfahren

Der Versand der Newsletter erfolgt mittels MailChimp, bei dem Ihre E-Mail-Adresse und Ihr Name zum Versand der Newsletter gespeichert werden.

Nach Ausfüllen des Formulars erhalten Sie eine sog. Double-Opt-In-E-Mail, in der Sie um Bestätigung der Anmeldung gebeten werden. Sie können dem Empfang der Newsletter jederzeit widersprechen (sog. Opt-Out). Einen Abmeldelink finden Sie in jedem Newsletter oder der Double-Opt-In-E-Mail.

Ausführliche Informationen zum Versandverfahren sowie zu Ihren Widerrufsmöglichkeiten erhalten Sie in unserer Datenschutzhinweis.