Workshop: (de)constructing Utopia
Design in Eastern Europe from Thaw to Perestroika

Humanities Research Institute, University of Sheffield, May 2nd–3rd 2014

This two-day workshop will bring together members of academic and cultural institutions from across Europe and Russia in order to discuss key concepts, individuals, organisations and turning points that comprise the history of design in post-war Eastern Europe. In recent years, study of design has emerged as a unique way of understanding socialist culture due to the way it links societal ideals with economics, scientific and technological progress, consumption, the material practises of daily life, the imagined West and broader artistic culture.

While material culture studies have made a significant contribution to historians’ understanding of post-war life in socialist countries, a broader understanding of how the design profession sought to both construct and criticise the material environment of socialism is only just beginning to emerge. Through discussions generated by the workshop, we will consider the main aesthetic turning points of design in socialism in relation to socio-political contexts. By considering various approaches to design across the Eastern Bloc, we would also like to explore commonalities and exchanges among former Eastern Bloc countries. Finally, we would like to consider how museums and collections have presented this history. What role does design heritage play in contemporary post-socialist society?

Preliminary List of Talks (For more information see

KEYNOTE LECTURE: The Other Children of Marx and Coca-Cola: Pop Art and Cinema in Eastern Europe - David Crowley – Royal College of Art, London

History in the Making: Experiment Invalidovna, Prague 1961 - Rebecca Bell – Royal College of Art

Designing for the Socialist Present: Post-Utopian Practice in Soviet Urban Design of the 1970s - Tom Cubbin – University of Sheffield / Royal College of Art

Building up a Design Culture in the German Democratic Republic: Parallels and Differences to Design in the West - Siegfried Gronert – Bauhaus University, Weimar

Modernisation in the Baltic during the 1960s: Curatorial Experience - Lolita Jablonskiene – Lithuanian National Gallery of Art, Vilnius

The Afterlife of Suprematism: Malevich’s legacy in Leningrad applied art and design of the late 1950s-1960s - Yulia Karpova – Central European University, Budapest

Deterritorializing Utopia: “Paper Architecture” in Moscow, 1984 - Andres Kurg - Institute of Art History, Estonian Academy of Arts, Tallinn

Creation of a new professional identity (working title) - Mari Laanemets

From Environment to Milieu via Berlin-Marzahn: The Urbanism of the In-Between in Late Socialist East Germany - Torsten Lange - Institute for the History and Theory of Architecture, Zürich

Things to Use: Desgn Objects in Everyday History - Andreas Ludwig – Centre for Contemporary History, Potsdam

Title TBC - Alexandra Sankova, Moscow Design Museum

Postmodernism Is Almost All Right. Polish Architecture After Socialist Globalization - Łukasz Stanek, University of Manchester

The Hungarian Design in the light of the Zsennye Workshop: 1978-2014 - András Szilágyi – Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest

“Design for Man an Mankind”: VNIITE hosts ICSID’75 Moscow - Margareta Tillberg – Stockholm University

Neither a real artist, nor a designer: art laborers in the Riga Porcelain Factory and their output in the Soviet period - Iliana Veinberga – Art Academy of Latvia, Riga

Design Theory and Self Management in Socialism: The Yugoslav Case in a Panoramic Survey - Fedja Vukić – University of Zagreb

3. März 2014