Urbanism and Dictatorship. A European Perspective, the new book of the renowned Bauwelt Fundamente series, is out. The volume has been edited by Max Welch Guerra, Harald Bodenschatz and Piero Sassi, and includes theoretical essays and case studies from Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal and the former USSR. The material is an excellent opportunity for comparative analysis and the reconceptualization of the sociospatial experience of cities and urbanization under dictatorial regimes.
In the first half of the twentieth century, urban design under the influence of European dictatorships not only served to support the rulers in their own country, but also to gain the recognition of the democratic states. After the National Socialist regime came to power in Germany, urban design increasingly became the trump card in the competition amongst the large dictatorships in Europe – almost as in the time of absolutism. Irrespective of all conflicts and political orientations, there was an intense exchange of ideas amongst the states in Europe.
It is therefore not adequate to make an assessment just from the point of view of the dictatorships. The overarching view helps to understand the special characteristics of each dictatorship and also disproves some simplified interpretations of their respective approaches to urban design. That is not just of historic interest; the discussion of the issue of dictatorships is always also an expression of our social condition, our commemorative culture, our ability to recognize old and new forms of dictatorship – even today. The book discusses the state of research into urban design under five dictatorships during the first half of the twentieth century, and presents new research results based on examples.
More information about the book and the Bauwelt Fundamente series on the publisher’s website, and about the research project behind the book on the UEDXX network site. You can also read some reflections about my own contribution to the book here.