Cold War at crossroads: 194X-198X

In 2007 the international research symposium “Cold War Modern: Design 1945-1975” organized by the University of Brighton (whose contents are exposed in the book “Cold War Modern: Design 1945-1970” edited by David Crowley and Jane Pavitt in 2008) attempted possibly for the first time a wide assessment of the impact that the Cold War had on design culture, opening up new paths of inquiry for architectural historians. Since then, a multitude of studies have contributed to enriching the historiography of the Cold War, engaging new fields and addressing the topic through a plurality of disciplinary perspectives.


After 10 years an international seminar named “COLD WAR AT THE CROSSROADS: 194X-198X. Architecture and planning between politics and ideology” took place last June in Milan (organized by the DASTU Department of Architecture and Urban Studies of the Polytechnic University of Milan). Following the goals of the first symposium, the second one has intended to remap/revisit the Cold War and its projections by focusing on its interferences with design culture at different scales. The aim is to reframe accounts and to question established chronologies, individuating decisive moments that marked the interpretation and the perception of the Cold War. Taking into consideration a wide geographic frame, the seminar has encouraged transnational perspectives that investigate the mechanisms, places and vehicles of the transfer. One of the goals has been to map actors, organizations, programs, networks and alliances.


The two-day conference has been exploring the new role played by technology during four decades; the cultural and ideological transfer (propaganda and soft power); historiography over time; competing notions of habitat and their geographical spread; divergent forms of planning.

As for the dissemination of my research-related theme of the thesis regarding great properties (especially the military), in an attempt to build a periodization of the process of construction, emptying and reuse of great properties, I focused my attention on a historic period that occurred in Europe: specifically, I have tried to study the militarization process of Italian north-east border. As a result, I participated in this event in the session II: “Cold War’s spaces and territories: shaping, planning and reuse” by the proposal “Waiting for War in Friuli. Future memories from Cold War Italian border” with the collaboration of the associate professor Luca Maria Francesco Fabris (DASTU of Polytechnic of Milan).


We explained how Cold War has influenced after the Second World War the territory of Friuli Venezia Giulia Region. This region, lying at the North-Eastern border of Italy, was considered by NATO the ‘last’ defense against an ever-possible Communist invasion. This belief transformed its territory into a unique fabric of barracks, full of young soldiers ready for combat in case of invasion. The military population in some cases doubled the number of the inhabitants present in the Friulian communities and the military compounds created a distinctive pattern where social and spatial issues had to be balanced and solved locally. 40 years of Cold War had been the reason to tolerate an extreme military control of the territory that had repercussions on the development of agriculture and industry.


In the context of urbanHIST programme I have thought that my participation in this event would be useful in order to develop a personal point of view about a special kind of great properties and help me to develop the path of my thesis. After the presentation of my proposal and the confrontation of my ideas with the other participants, I would say that my knowledge about Cold War and its effect in the European socio-economic territory (but also American) has definitely improved.


For more information: http://arts.brighton.ac.uk/re/research-events/research-conferences/cold-war-modern-symposium, https://coldwaratcrossroads.wordpress.com/


Author and photo: Federico Camerin


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This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 721933.