South of East-West. Post-colonial Planning, Global Technology Transfer, and the Cold War

South of East-West. Post-Colonial Planning, Global Technology Transfer, and the Cold War

Rotterdam, 9-10 November 2010

Deadline: 1 November 2010

The symposium  “South of East-West. Post-Colonial Planning, Global Technology Transfer, and the Cold War”  will address the transfer of knowledge in architecture, urbanism, engineering, and building technology from the socialist East and the capitalist West towards the post-colonial South during the Cold War. Taking place at the Berlage Institute on 9-10 November, 2010, this symposium will be followed by an exhibition at Casco, Utrecht and at the ETH Zurich planned for Summer-Autumn 2011.


Gaining independence since the late 1950s, the former European colonies in Africa and Asia became new actors in the global confrontation between the Soviet Union, the United States, and their allies in the context of the Cold War. Military, economic, and technological modernization became an important means in this confrontation, reflected in the increasing financial commitment allocated to the so-called development aid since the Khrushchev and Kennedy administrations. The addressees’ motivations were as multifold as the donors’ goals were self-referential: besides gaining political and economic influence, the support for modernization processes in the post-colonial countries was incorporated into the ideological discourses of the Soviet Union and the United States, either the Marxist narrative of history inevitably leading to communism; or the alternative story of stages of economic development leading to self-sustained growth, suggested by U.S. economists such as Walt Rostow.  In both versions of the development aid narrative, building could equally be employed as a highly visible expression of modernization efforts and a tangible assertion of engagement-beyond offering an outlet for the respective building industries’ products and a testing ground for planning and construction work.

Until the end of the Cold War, significant means were allocated for the transfer of expertise in engineering, planning and architecture, facilitated by both national and international organizations. They included training and education, but also planning and construction of roads and highways, housing and public buildings like hospitals, schools, or stadiums, waterworks and irrigation structures, factories in almost all branches of industry, prefabricated housing plants, municipal projects, and new towns.

Within the rapidly shifting political conditions of the post-colonial countries, and with the Non-Aligned Movement and China entering the stage, the bipolarity of the Cold War was complicated by an interaction within a complex network of actors. With the competition between the East and the West becoming, since the late 1960s, increasingly complemented by their entanglement in tripartite cooperations in the South, a new global division of labour started to emerge, announcing the post-socialist world.


This symposium will address the practices of architects, urbanists and engineers in this transitory condition, and thus explore the transfer of architectural and urbanist knowledge beyond the modernist dialectics between the metropolis and its colonial “architectural laboratories”.  Special attention needs to be paid to the context and conditions of these practices: a complex entanglement between different cultures and planning approaches, including the heritage of the colonial powers; the objectives of the newly established countries; and the political, technological, economic, and cultural development of the providers of expertise and funding.

This symposium will contribute not only to a clarification of this particularly under-researched topic, but also to an understanding of the current urbanization processes in the Global South, often conditioned by material structures, technologies, and institutions originating from the Cold War. In order to secure the comparative character of the discussion, special attention will be paid to specific locations, situations, projects, and institutions in which the architects, urbanists, and engineers coming from both sides of the Iron Curtain were working. For contributions to the symposium, a focus on particular case studies-realized projects of various scale, ranging from individual buildings to planning proposals and civic infrastructure-is therefore strongly encouraged.


The organizers invite doctoral and postdoctoral researchers to contribute to the poster presentation which will address the transfer of knowledge in architecture, urbanism, engineering, and building technology from the socialist and the capitalist countries towards the post-colonial South during the Cold War. The themes are not limited to a particular scale and they might range from individual buildings to planning proposals and civic infrastructures. Accepted posters will be printed by the organizers and shown at the Berlage Institute during the symposium. Selected contributors will be invited to participate in the exhibition which will take place in Casco, Utrecht and at the ETH Zurich in 2011. The posters should be submitted until November 1st, 2010 to with the use of the template available from Please enclose up to three images to be printed in full color (A3 format).


The organizers of the symposium invite researchers, in particular doctoral and post-doctoral scholars, working on similar themes to participate in the workshop. In order to register, please send an abstract of your research project and a short CV to:


This symposium will consist of a public evening program (November 9, 2010) and of a workshop with a limited number of participants devoted to the discussion of their previously submitted papers (November 10, 2010).

After an introduction by Marion von Osten and Ákos Moravánszky, the contributions to the workshop will include a comparative examination of planning and construction of cities by East-German architects and urbanists in Zanzibar after 1964 (Ludger Wimmelbücker); and an account of the general master-plan of Baghdad drawn by Polish planners in the 1960s, critical to an earlier planning by Costantinos A. Doxiadis, and their overarching General Housing Programme for Iraq in the 1970s (Piotr Bujas, Lukasz Stanek). Other contributions include the export of Soviet and Romanian urban models towards the post-colonial countries in Africa and the Middle East (Elke Beyer, Dana Vais). A biographical focus will be conveyed by contributions about the architectural critic Udo Kultermann working for the German African Society (Tom Avermaete), or architects like Charles Polónyi or Oskar Hansen, who were involved into the institutions of state socialism in Hungary and Poland, while at the same time developing projects in Africa and Latin America, and contributing to the discussions within the Team 10 (Ákos Moravánszky, Lukasz Stanek). This topic will be complemented by the accounts of the export of Soviet and Yugoslav prefabricated building systems to Chile, Cuba, and Africa (Pedro Alonso, Hugo Palmarola Sagredo, Dafne Berc, Dubravka Sekulic); and by a comparative research between the teaching and research programs in “tropical architecture” and “urbanism of developing countries” in Western and Eastern Europe since the 1960s (Judith Hopfengärtner).

Contact: Lukasz Stanek, ETH Zürich (

Emilia Robin

Chercheuse associée à l'UMR SIRICE. Violons d'Ingres : guerre froide, médiation scientifique, logiciels libres

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