Landscapes of Communism A History Through Buildings by Owen Hatherley
One of the most common ways of dismissing "communism" is to point to its monolithic modern architecture, and one of the most common ways of dismissing modern architecture is to point to its association with Soviet communism.
In the UK, for instance, blocks are habitually described as "Soviet" if they are repetitious and use reinforced concrete. Meanwhile, in the USSR beautiful historic cities like Tallinn were surrounded by what are now "museums to the mistreatment of the proletariat" (as the historian Norman Davies recently put it); and it is probably these blocks, seen on the way from the airport en route to a holiday in Prague, Kraków or Riga, that people mean when they talk about "commieblocks." ... It is ironic that these "inhuman" structures, barely even recognizable as "architecture," are usually the result of what was one of the Soviet empire's most humane policies -- the provision of decent housing at such a subsidy that it was virtually free -- rents for this housing was usually pegged at between 3 and 5 per cent of income.
So what went wrong?
The projects always look magnificent from the model, and superb from above: there, the patterns of the blocks are clear, the parkland and the lakes look genuinely verdant -- abstract images of modern luxury.
But the ground is -- at least in the conventional view -- illegible. Instead, slabs are surrounded by scrubland, without viable public space or coherence.