MOSCOW x DETROIT
In 1930, a Detroit-based architect signed a contract with Moscow to oversee Soviet industrialization. By 1932, over five hundred building complexes based upon Albert Kahn, Inc. drawings were under construction throughout the Soviet republics. Just two were “produced” in Detroit; the remaining were drawn and administered by Kahn-Moscow. Similar interwar exchanges of technology and expertise from US industry to Soviet territory vanished in the Cold War, and have only recently been opened to scrutiny.
This research, undertaken in collaboration with architectural historian, Claire Zimmerman, of University of Michigan, examines early twentieth century industrial boomtowns Moscow and Detroit together, through two lenses. First, as specific urban entities through which industrialization unfolded “on the ground” in different ways; and second, as hubs for massive, dispersed modernization / urbanization programs. Moscow’s centrality was political; Detroit’s was economic. Both cities focused national campaigns of factory and infrastructure construction over much larger terrains, two epicenters of a decentralizing distributive network of industrial installations and worker housing. The project considers the linear urbanism that remade Moscow and Detroit, a specific form and process of growth adopted in industrial cities near and far. The linear urbanism of Stalingrad and Magnitogorsk, and of innumerable US cities, here correlate to specific protocols of industrialization, emanating outwards from Moscow and Detroit.
A co-authored article, that emerged from the “kick-off” of the project at the Entangled Urbanisms symposium, held at Northwestern University (May 17-18, 2018), was submitted to Technology and Culture in April 2019, and is in peer-review.
“Moscow x Detroit: Transnational Modernity in the Built Environment,” an international symposium, organized by Zimmerman, Crawford, and Cohen, will be held at the University of Michigan (October 11-12, 2019).