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Open Access Mobilities of Architecture in the Global Cold War: From Socialist Poland to Kuwait and Back

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This article discusses the contribution of professionals from socialist countries to architecture and urban planning in Kuwait in the final two decades of the Cold War. In so doing, it historicizes the accelerating circulation of labour, building materials, discourses, images, and affects facilitated by world-wide, regional and local networks. By focusing on a group of Polish architects, this article shows how their work in Kuwait in the 1970s and 1980s responded to the disenchantment with architecture and urbanization processes of the preceding two decades, felt as much in the Gulf as in socialist Poland. In Kuwait, this disenchantment was expressed by a turn towards images, ways of use, and patterns of movement referring to ‘traditional’ urbanism, reinforced by Western debates in postmodernism and often at odds with the social realities of Kuwaiti urbanization. Rather than considering this shift as an architectural ‘mediation’ between (global) technology and (local) culture, this article shows how it was facilitated by re-contextualized expert systems, such as construction technologies or Computer Aided Design software (CAD), and also by the specific portable ‘profile’ of experts from socialist countries. By showing the multilateral knowledge flows of the period between Eastern Europe and the Gulf, this article challenges diffusionist notions of architecture’s globalization as ‘Westernization’ and reconceptualizes the genealogy of architectural practices as these became world-wide.
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Keywords: Gulf architecture; architectural globalization; architectural labour; knowledge transfer; postmodernism; socialist Poland

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Manchester

Publication date: October 1, 2015

More about this publication?
  • The International Journal of Islamic Architecture (IJIA) is intended for those interested in urban design and planning, architecture, and landscape design in the historic Islamic world, encompassing the Middle East and parts of Africa and Asia, but also the more recent geographies of Islam in its global dimensions. The main emphasis is on detailed analysis of the practical, historical and theoretical aspects of architecture, with a focus on both design and its reception. The journal is also specifically interested in contemporary architecture and urban design in relation to social and cultural history, geography, politics, aesthetics, technology, and conservation. Spanning across cultures and disciplines, IJIA seeks to analyze and explain issues related to the built environment throughout the regions covered. The cross-cultural and interdisciplinary nature of this journal will significantly contribute to the knowledge in this field.

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