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Germans Share Ideas on Renovating Soviet Buildings

Published: April 17, 2009 (Issue # 1466)



  • Pre-fabricated panel buildings were unpopular after reunification in Germany, since they had come to be regarded as a symbol of typical Soviet architecture.
    Photo: For The St. Petersburg Times

  • Techniques for modernizing panel buildings include the addition of balconies to create space in often cramped apartments.
    Photo: For The St. Petersburg Times

The ubiquitous pre-fabricated panel buildings that sprang up around the Soviet Union have become one of the calling cards of the former Eastern Bloc. Considered unattractive and outdated at best, and at worst in a poor state of repair and barely conforming to modern standards of living, the question of what to do with the buildings is a burning one, not least for their inhabitants.

The solution may lie partly in the experience of Germany, which faces the same problem in federal districts of former East Germany, and during the past 15 years has actively worked on renovating its panel buildings. Architects from Germany and Russia will gather to discuss the issue of modernization and exchange ideas at a conference next week entitled “Modernizing Pre-Fabricated Panel Buildings,” followed by an exhibition entitled “Modernizing Pre-Fabricated Panel Buildings. Germany’s Experience” organized within the framework of the Week of Germany in St. Petersburg.

A TARNISHED IMAGE

“The concept of pre-fabricated panel buildings is in Germany primarily associated with the former German Democratic Republic,” said Christina Grawe, the exhibition’s curator in Germany.

“After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the image of such buildings rapidly deteriorated. Many consider them to be the embodiment of standard, unappealing East German architecture, but this is a false conception. There were such constructions in West Germany too. In Berlin, there are apartments as well as clubs and other entertainment venues in pre-fabricated panel buildings that remain popular even after reunification,” she said.

Having gradually overcome their reputation as architectural pariahs, the potential of such buildings is now recognized in Germany and they are continuously modernized in a variety of ways that will be showcased at the exhibition.

“The exhibition will present the most successful examples of how, during the past 15 years in Germany, panel buildings and their surrounding territory have been transformed, along with the architectural and design methods used to make them more attractive” said Grawe.

Home Sweet Home

The German projects on display will include residential buildings, public buildings and infrastructure, some of which were realized as part of large-scale city reconstruction programs.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Jan. 30 through Wednesday, Feb. 4



A retrospective of the films of Roman Polanski starts today at Loft-Project Etagi, 74 Ligovsky Prospekt, with a screening of ‘Repulsion’ at 7 p.m. and ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ at 9:15 p.m. The series runs through Feb. 4 and will include Polanski's eminently creepy ‘The Tenant,’ the cult comedy ‘The Fearless Vampire Killers’ and ‘Cul-de-sac’ among others. Tickets are 150-200 rubles and the complete schedule is available at www.vk.com/artpokaz/



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