Political Postmodernisms: Architecture in Chile and Poland, 1970-1990

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“Political Postmodernisms” argues that postmodern architecture can be radically rethought by examining its manifestations in Chile and Poland in the 1970s and 1980s. Postmodern architecture tends to be understood as politically indifferent and devoid of the progressive agenda embedded in modernist architecture – a view typically rooted in the analyses of North America and Western Europe. By investigating the cases of Chile during the neoliberal dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet and Poland during the late socialist Polish People’s Republic, my project unfolds a less acknowledged narrative—one in which postmodernism is profoundly entangled with the political. Drawing from interviews I conducted with a range of Chilean and Polish architects, as well as analyses of physical buildings, urban development plans, and architectural journals from Santiago and Warsaw, I show how these South American and Eastern European sites reveal an altogether different dynamic between capitalism, democracy, and architecture.

The dissertation is composed of an introduction, four chapters, and a conclusion. The Introduction discusses the current revivalism of postmodernism and its critique, tracing the roots of this criticism in foundational scholarship on postmodern architecture, and analyzing how postmodernism is defined in architectural scholarship. It also discusses why Chile and Poland are chosen as case studies. The first chapter, “Postmodernism and the State: Chile,” discusses propagandistic uses of postmodern architecture by Pinochet’s regime in Chile, using two case studies – the Plaza de la Constitución in Santiago de Chile (1980) and the Congreso de Chile in Valparaíso (1987). The second chapter, “Postmodernism Against the State: Chile,” examines the practices of architects who were members of CEDLA, an independent collective of Chilean architects established in 1977 in Santiago, who promoted a version of politically and socially engaged postmodernism that could counter Pinochet’s neoliberal agenda. Chapter Three, “Postmodernism and the State: Poland,” analyzes how the Polish Socialist Party first appropriated postmodernism as a Soviet invention and then used it as a means to appease social tensions in times of increasing unrest. It focuses specifically on state-sanctioned architectural discourse and the Na Skarpie housing estate in Kraków (1985). The final chapter, “Postmodernism Against the State: Poland,” discusses Polish architects organized under the Dom i Miasto group (1980–1984), which united postmodern inspirations with agendas that opposed the vision of society imposed by the Polish People’s Republic. It also discusses the work of Marek Budzyński, for whom postmodernism created a “third way” beyond socialism and capitalism.

Across these chapters, I argue that Chilean and Polish architecture between 1970 and 1990 complicate the generally accepted view of postmodern architecture as politically disengaged and as an exclusively neoliberal phenomenon, disinterested in any progressive social agenda. In both countries, postmodern currents were appropriated by the regimes for propagandistic purposes and used to oppose the agendas of the State.





Klein, Lidia (2018). Political Postmodernisms: Architecture in Chile and Poland, 1970-1990. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/17505.


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