This talk revisits Łukasz Stanek’s research on the collaboration between architects, planners, and construction companies from socialist Eastern Europe and their counterparts in West Africa and the Middle East during the Cold War. He will argue that central for this collaboration were various, competing, and sometimes antagonistic visions of solidarity on a global scale. Building upon the writings of several thinkers, notably Henri Lefebvre and Edouard Glissant, Stanek will theorise this global dimension by means of the concept of socialist worldmaking. He will then revisit his recent book, Architecture in Global Socialism (2020), and show how the concept of socialist worldmaking allows to make sense of historically specific, multiple, and evolving ways of practicing the world by institutions and individuals from socialist and the postcolonial countries during decolonization and the Cold War.
Addis Ababa, a young city in an old nation is an administrative and a business capital of Ethiopia. During 136 years of its existence, successive governments initiated some sort of urban renewal that affected the central parts of the city. The first was the renewal after the complete destruction of the city center during a power vacuum immediately before Italian occupation in 1936. The Italians had to later reinvent a large swathe of the city center. The second one came in the 60s when Emperor Haile Selassie tried to make Addis Ababa the center of assembly for the newly liberated African states, changing its perceived image of an enigmatic medieval state into a modern one that could accommodate Africa and the world.
The third renewal started in the mid-2000s accompanying an economic boom and continues to happen unabated until the present. What makes the Ethiopian experience different is that land belongs to the government and one can only lease it for a specified time and the government has the right to plan the land in a way it deems it right. A lot of low rise historical buildings exist in the city center that has a huge development demand from both the government and developers. It is in this scenario that heritage buildings are destroyed and scheduled for destruction by the day. A lack of understanding of what is a heritage building complicates the process. A case by case confrontation amongst institutions has been the modus operandi that didn’t help the preservation of many of the heritage structures, that most of the times get demolished.