Conference: The Gift of Architecture: Spaces of Global Socialism and their Afterlives

Online and In-Person Event: June 13-14, 2022…

During the Cold War, the gifting of architecture was among the most visible manifestations of global socialism, or the multiple, evolving and often contradictory exchanges between the socialist countries and the decolonising world. In collaboration with local actors, Soviet, Eastern European and Chinese institutions designed, constructed and equipped hundreds of buildings for education, health, culture, industry and habitation in Ethiopia, Guinea, Indonesia, Kenya, Mali, Mongolia, Tanzania, Vietnam and elsewhere. This conference will gather architectural historians and anthropologists who will discuss the ways in which the dynamics of gift-giving impacted the design, construction and the afterlives of these buildings. Scholars will debate whether the generosity and violence specific for gift-giving, the principle of reciprocity and the changing geopolitics and foreign trade in the Cold War facilitated the production and everyday uses of gifted buildings. By focusing on their continuous appropriation by inhabitants and users in Africa and Asia, this conference and the resulting publication will offer a more differentiated genealogy of global urbanisation and its architecture.

For online participation, please register here:
Day 1:
Day 2:


June 13

10.00-10.20 Welcome and introduction

Session 1: Co-production. Chair: Huda Tayob
10.20-10.40, Ruth Prince, Afterlives of Soviet Gifts in East Africa: The “Russia” hospital in Kenya
10.40-11.00, Ana Ivanovska Deskova, Jovan Ivanovski, Vladimir Deskov, Building the City of Solidarity: The Museum of Contemporary Art in Skopje
11.00-11.20, Miruna Stroe, The Parliament of Khartoum, Sudan: Cezar Lăzărescu and the Design Institute Carpați, 1972-1978
11.20-11.40, Ksenia Litvinenko, Accepting the Gift of Darkhan Youth Palace of Culture, 1971-1978
11.40-12.50, Response by Chair and discussion

Session 2: Temporalities. Chair: Albena Yaneva
14.30-14.50, Nikolai Ssorin-Chaikov, Given Time and the Time of the Gift at the Aswan Dam Construction, 1960-1970
14.50-15.10, Ke Song, China’s Architectural Gifts from the 1950s to 1970s
15.10-15.30, Taoufik Souami, The International of Architectures and Urban Planning between “Brother Countries”: Modernity as a Gift? The case of Algeria.
15.30-15.50, Hannah Le Roux, Housing for all: South Africa’s Immanent Gift, 1937-2022
15.50-17.00, Response by Chair & discussion

June 14

Session 3: Reciprocity. Chair Ksenia Litvinenko
9.30-9.50, Łukasz Stanek, From Imperial to Socialist Gift: The Campus of the University of Science and Technology in Kumasi.
9.50-10.10, Duanfang Lu, Gifts and Aid Projects in China’s Diplomatic Discourse, 1949-1965
10.10-10.30, Anna Bronovitskaya, Complexities of Soviet Architectural Policies in Central Asia: The Cases of Alma-Ata (Kazakhstan) and Tashkent (Uzbekistan)
10.30-10.50, Fantahun Ayele, The Gift of Architecture: The Case of the Polytechnic Institute in Ethiopia
10.50-11.10, Michał Murawski, Violence, Hierarchy and Public Spirit: The Economic Aesthetics of the (Architectural) Gift, from High Stalinism to Wild Capitalism
11.00-12.00, Response by Chair & discussion

Session 4: Appropriation. Chair: Ola Uduku
13.30-13.50, Kuukuwa Manful, The Multifarious Gifts of School Building(s) in Ghana
13.50-14.10, Kojo Derban, Joseph Oduro-Frimpong, The National Theatre of Ghana and the Politics of Reciprocity
14.10-14.30, Thuc Linh Nguyen Vu, Many Gifts in One: Polish Architecture in Vietnam as a Resource in the Post-’89 World
14.30-14.50, Christina Schwenkel, Unplanned Obsolescence: The Capitalist Dilemma of Decayed Buildings as Solidarity Gifts in Vietnam
14.50-16.00, Response by Chair & discussion

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