Located 1448 km north of Saint Petersburg, it takes a 28-hour-long train ride over the Kirov railway to reach the Murman coast. Winters are long and cold in this part of the world and the nights get longer and longer the further we travel deep into Russia’s north beyond the polar circle into the Arctic’s largest city, Murmansk, in search of the polar lights. Every year around the beginning of December, the polar night begins and the sun doesn’t rise for 40 days. With temperatures between -20 and -40 degrees, everything is covered in ice and snow. The clouds hang low and merge with the steam of the misty landscape and industrial towers. The plain white reflects the colours of the night, giving even abandoned and broken places a numb beauty. In absence of the natural rhythm of day and night the light is lost as a point of orientation. It could be 5pm or 4am; you would not notice the difference. The streets are almost empty and the tiny bars with shiny TV screens are always open. And then, …
During summer in Tbilisi, time seems to stop as people slow down to cope with the heat. Jacopo Miglioranzi shares his impressions of life in the Kommmunalki, where the effects of political and social change are felt, yet modern Georgia feels still far away. “Soviet power plus electrification make no communism.” I had been living for a couple of months in Tbilisi, in the flat of a friend, in a neighborhood on the outskirts of the city. Kommunalki, concrete blocks, house numbers written with spray paint, old block numbers discolored by time. Underwear and bedclothes hanging from the fragile metal supports of the balconies. Stray dogs. Taxi drivers sleeping in their cars. Summer. Men under a canopy. Smoke of cigarettes. Butts scattered around. Ritual sounds and screams. ნარდი, nardi, backgammon. Guys flock around hoping to steal some secret. From the seventh floor, where my apartment is, you can see almost everything in almost the whole quarter. The trees, the stray dogs, the slow suburban life. Women coming with huge shopping bags. Summer. Forty degrees in …
Nesting dolls, drawers, lamps: Prefab panel estates have become an inspiration for designers from Poland or Slovakia. Rachel Ling looks at what is behind this new trend.
Street art scenes from Russia’s northern capital Saint Petersburg – a photo essay by Philipp Brugner.
Can street art act as alternative historical markers to re-imagine the past (and future) of our cities’ spaces, buildings and inhabitants?
Lorena Lombardozzi lived in both capitals for two and half years, as a private tenant of council flats. Being a participant and observer of such realities gives her the rare opportunity to compare them and contribute to the narrative of “what happened behind these doors?”
Wondering around Cuban cities, you occasionally come across murals in bright and warm Caribbean colours. Their ideological messages are reminders of Cuba’s revolutionary past and unique position in the present-day world. But what do they evoke – a past long gone or a possible socialist future?
On the edge of Monte Sant’Angelo sits “the Korea”, the biggest social housing project in the southern Italian town. Originally built under a Communist Party administration, “the Korea” soon gained the reputation of a ghetto and the site is still the subject of much prejudice and stigma today. Maurizio Totaro re-visits his hometown and looks at the housing estate through the lens of the town’s history and his family’s own story.
When visiting an archive you prepare yourself for the usual bureaucracy and strict regulations. Yet it seems there are also those who slip in unnoticed, coming and going as they please. RETROGRAD meets some of the Russian State Archive’s more unusual inhabitants…
If anyone asks you what the major symbol of the USSR is, forget the hammer and sickle. It’s the “queue” (or the “line”). The line of people. All dressed in dark colours with a sad look on their faces. If you have lived in Russia for more than ten years, this image is most likely to be burned into your brain. It’s a part of our culture, and it’s not the best part.
In a corner of Berlin lies an abandoned communist-era landmark, the Ernst Thälmann Park. Giovanni Cadioli takes a trip and finds that the park has found a new identity – as a makeshift skatepark.
A few years ago, an unknown individual with the initials “A. E.” began transforming the facades of Georgia’s capital Tbilisi into canvases of poetry. Around the city, walls were covered with quotes by poets and artists like James Blake, Charles Bukowski, Patti Smith and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Unlike ordinary graffiti, these fragments appeared mysterious and thought-provoking. Who wrote them and why? What was it that they were supposed to communicate?
Susanne Fehlings explores the almost forgotten constructivist heritage of Yerevan’s former working class district.
Megan Lueneburg explores the unique Trakiya neighbourhood in Plovdiv, Bulgaria and documents its history through the eyes of the housing complex.
Rebecca McKeown explores the second youth of a cultured capital and discovers that when searching for the “real Romania”, one need not look beyond Bucharest.
Zofia Bałdyga looks behind the facades of Yerevan’s residentials housing blocks and discovers a world of its own. A photo essay.