The fall of state socialism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union was arguably the most significant political event of the late 20th century. For many, this dramatic historic shift was symbolized by the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, an iconic emblem of fear and division. Yet only twenty years later, many new walls both physical and imaginary have been erected across Eastern Europe, including redrawn state borders, partitioned cities, and myriad walled–off urban spaces.
Iron Curtains: Gates, Suburbs, and Privatization of Space in the Post–socialist City explores the human dimension of new city–building that has emerged in East Europe. Utilizing firsthand research culled from more than 100 interviews conducted primarily in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia a city whose public spaces have unraveled over the last two decades Sonia Hirt examines the ways people live and experience the new, post–socialist urbanism. Also addressed are what these new spaces tell us about their builders, users, and inhabitants. Embracing an explicitly cultural approach, the author suggests that disappointment with socialist and post–socialist conditions has led to mass skepticism toward the public domain, further resulting in a radical de–construction of public spaces. Iron Curtains offers provocative insights into the complex relationship between society and space during times of fundamental change.
Series Editors Preface xi
1 Introduction 1
2 Public, Private, Privatism 14
3 The Post–socialist City 34
4 Post–modern Urbanism Revisited 60
5 Sofia: Wither the Socialist City 81
6 The Ninth Ring: Suburbanizing Sofia 105
7 Iron Curtains I: Gated Homes 131
8 Iron Curtains II: Gated Complexes 149
9 Architecture of Disunity 170
10 Possibilities 191
Sonia Hirt is Associate Professor of Urban Affairs and Planning at the School of Public and International Affairs and the College of Architecture and Urban Studies at Virginia Tech, and was recently Visiting Associate Professor of Urban Planning at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University. Hirt is the author of over 40 publications on urban forms, planning and design and is co–author of Twenty Years of Transition: The Evolution of Urban Planning in Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union, 1989–2009 (2009; with Kiril Stanilov).