Brutal Bloc PostcardsPrevious project Next project
Foreword by Jonathan Meades
165x205 mm hardback
Published in 2018
Brutal concrete hotels, futurist TV towers, heroic statues of workers—this collection of Soviet-era postcards documents the uncompromising landscape of the Eastern Bloc through its buildings and monuments. These are interspersed with quotes from prominent figures of the time, which both support and confound the ideologies presented in the images.
In contrast to the photographs of a ruined and abandoned Soviet empire we are accustomed to seeing today, the scenes depicted here publicize the bright future of communism: social housing blocks, palaces of culture and monuments to comradeship. Dating from the 1960s to the 1980s, they offer a nostalgic yet revealing insight into social and architectural values of the time, acting as a window through which we can examine cars, people and of course, buildings. These postcards are at once sinister, funny, poignant and surreal.
Postcards From Big Brother: The Curious Propaganda of a Brutal Soviet Era
A surreal insight into a time when the Soviet empire’s characteristic architecture was a symbol of optimism for the years ahead.
A vital compilation of perverse nostalgia.
Showcasing brutalist hotels, futurist TV towers, and bold concrete tower blocks, each image is a snapshot of the transformative decades between 1960 and 1990: from the endless optimism of Khrushchev's Thaw, to the closing years of the Cold War... it lets readers glimpse some of the former Eastern Bloc’s iconic landmarks at a time when they were prized and cherished.
They are visible indicators of the Soviet state’s capacity to change its environment but also, when viewed now in the slightly faux-colours of their postcard reproductions, monuments not to its success but to its eventual failure. The grand hotels, apartment blocks, cultural centres, and heroic statuary can look to a modern reader like the topography of a doomed utopian project.
Mundanity is exactly the quality these postcards wanted to give out. The idea of an architectural landscape built for the many was, (while) boring, still very much able to mesmerize. [...] They aren't aimed at design enthusiasts or architects, but at regular individuals. They are all the more convincing in their message because of that. [...] It might look quite surreal and strange today, but it's also an invaluable insight of the economic, social, even technological ambitions of the Eastern Bloc at the time. These are posters of a utopian totalitarianism. […] To me, they seem to say 'Look at the marvel of our collective buildings! This is progress, and we are part of it.'