01/2008: Kaupunkitutkimuksen talvipäivä: Capital Cities in Postwar Europe: Continuity and Change

Capital Cities in Postwar Europe: Continuity and Change

Keskiviikkona 23.1.2008 Helsingin yliopisto, Pieni juhlasali (Fabianinkatu 33, 4.kerros) Kaikki kiinnostuneet ovat tervetulleita.


13.15 Opening Anja Kervanto Nevanlinna Finnish Society of Urban Studies

13.20 Helsinki: Dreams of a Modern Capital City Professor Laura Kolbe University of Helsinki, Department of History

13.50 London – A Modern Panorama Professor Michael Hebbert University of Manchester, School of Environment and Development

14.20 Discussion 14.45 Coffee

15.10 Moscow and Leningrad: Two Models of Postwar Reconstruction of the Socialist Capital City Dr. Ivan Nevzgodin Delft University of Technology, Department of Architecture

15.40 History, Memory and the Becoming of a Capital in Late Modernity: The Berlin Case Professor Beate Binder University of Hamburg, Department of Anthropology

16.10 Discussion

Closing (-16.45)

Talvipäivän 2008 esitelmien tiivistelmät

Abstracts of presentations on Winter Day 2008

Professor Beate Binder

Institute for Folklore Studies/Cultural Anthropology, University of Hamburg

History, Memory and the Becoming of a Capital in Late Modernity: The Berlin Case

As anthropological and sociological research has shown, the construction of a city is an ongoing process which is powerfully structured by social and political negotiations on questions as to what and who should be visible and what and who should not. Out of this perspective – a city does not have a history which is visible as such, but rather history is made visible and, thus, conflict-ridden. Against this backdrop, my paper focuses on contemporary Berlin : Since the fall of the wall in 1989, German unification in 1990 and the 1991 decision to move the seat of parliament to Berlin , the city is undergoing a transformation process which occurs on both, a material and a symbolic level. Thus, the transformation is a conflict-ridden process, which is framed by the more general question of how to become a national capital and a cosmopolitan metropolis in the 21st century.

The paper deals with the Schlossplatz in Berlin , an inner city square whose future use and design has been discussed for more than a decade. The debate on the Schlossplatz in Berlin sheds light on how historical ideas and the construction of commemoration sites enable different social groups to construe a political self, a social and a local identity, and allow the establishment of a sense of belonging.

See also:

*Beate Binder (2006), National Narratives and Cosmopolitan Dreams: Becoming a Capital in Late Modernity, in Gösta Arvastson, Tim Butler (eds.), Multicultures and Cities. Copenhagen : Museum Tusculanum Press, University of Copenhagen , 129-140.

*Beate Binder (2001), Capital under Construction. History and the Production of Locality in Contemporary Berlin , in Ethnologia Europaea 31:2, 19-40.


Professor Michael Hebbert

School of Environment and Development, University of Manchester

London − A Modern Panorama

The paper begins with S.E. Rasmussen’s celebrated depiction of London, the Unique City (1936), a polycentric low-density metropolis whose pattern of growth springs from the duality between East and West, London and Westminster, port and court, production and consumption – a duality confirmed in maps and paintings of 19C and early 20C London. Through the lens of the Abercrombie plans of 1943-4, the Greater London Development Plans of 1976 and 1984, and the Mayor’s London Plan of 2004 we study the evolution of this distinctive spatial structure over the past fifty years: the successful imposition of a green belt, the abandonment of the urban motorway network, the protection of liveable residential neighbourhoods around central London, the deindustrialisation of the docks and the manufacturing base, the development of a new financial district east of the Tower of London by overseas investors without inherited preconceptions about London’s east-west duality. The paper ends with a shifting panorama as the east-west dichotomy is eroded through infrastructure investment (including the opening up of the river) and east-side expansion projects which allow Mayor Livingstone to grow London demographically and economically inside that sixty-year-old and still-powerful limitation of the green belt.

See also:

*Michael Hebbert (1998), London: More by Fortune than Design, London: John Wiley & Sons.

*Michael Hebbert & A. D. Edge (1994), Dismantlers: The London Residuary Body 1986−1992, London: Suntory-Toyota International Centre for Economics and Related Disciplines.

*Michael Hebbert & Tony Travers, eds. (1988), The London Government Handbook. London: Cassell.

*Michael Hebbert (1992), Governing the Capital, in Andrew Thornley, ed., The Crisis of London, 134−148.

*Michael Hebbert (1991), The Borough Effect in London’s Geography, in D. Green & K. Hoggart, eds., London − A New Metropolitan Geography. London: Edward Arnold, 191−206.


Ivan Nevzgodin

Department of Architecture, Delft University of Technology

Moscow and Leningrad: Two Models of Postwar Reconstruction of the Socialist Capital City

Moscow and Leningrad crowned the hierarchy of Soviet cities. During the postwar period Moscow kept its preeminence and served as the example for capitals in the Socialist world. The idea of the highest building in the world, the Palace of the Soviets, fell gradually in disgrace after the Second World War. Joseph Stalin came with a new idea of eight high-rise buildings, which should form a new silhouette of the World Capital of Communism. After the war the realization of the 1935 Master Plan with its mono-centric form of the city continued. Some historical streets in the inner city of Moscow were widened. This plan had a great impact. Several of its ideas were realized even up till the end of the 1960s.

In contrast with Moscow, the historic core of Leningrad escaped from a radical transformation in the 1940s-1980s. The prewar designs for the Master plan of Leningrad (1935 and 1939) showed the ambitions of the city’s party elite to claim the status of the capital of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR). The repudiation of this idea resulted in the less ambitious spatial enlargement of the city in the Master plan of 1948. The more compact form of the city in this plan was also more realistic. In all these master plans for Leningrad the spatial ideas dominated. The town-planners were not really much aware of socio-economic forces and transport developments, which shaped the city. Nevertheless, the construction of a new city centre along a ten kilometers long boulevard now called Moskovskii (Moscow, also known as International and Stalin), which started before the War, had a very important influence on the further urban development of the city in the twentieth century. Other master plan ideas, as for example the creation of a “face to the sea” for Leningrad, had less impact on the real urban situation. The development of a new linear city centre and the concentration of housing construction in several spots at the periphery of the city saved the appearance of its historic centre.

The reign of Nikita Khrushchev brought important urban transformations both to Moscow and Leningrad. Khrushchev started mass construction of prefabricated concrete housing. The erection of representative buildings along main thoroughfares was replaced by the construction of micro-districts (mikrorayon). At that period a large part of the working population moved from slums to modern apartments. The most famous housing experiment of Khrushchev’s time was the New Cheremushki District in Moscow.

During the whole postwar period the development of urban infrastructure in Leningrad was backward in comparison with Moscow. Thus the metro appeared in Leningrad twenty years later. The maintenance and development of infrastructures and facilities in both capital cities lagged behind the growth of their population. Strong administrative measures as registration were unable to decrease the immigration to Moscow and Leningrad. Citizens without any urban experiences decreased in both cities.

The town-planners and municipal authorities had not enough power to realize master plans and their ideas. This was especially evident in Leningrad. The city had several industrial territories within the city center. These territories were managed by the appropriate ministries in Moscow, while Leningrad authorities were absolutely powerless.

During the post-war period such good ideas as the creation of sub-centers with enough economic and social dynamism, to unburden the historic core, or moving the industries from the centers were not realized.