Université de Strasbourg

One of our fellows in the spotlight – Tijana Vujosevic

20 June 2019

Photo DR

Tijana Vujosevic (2018 USIAS Fellow), who is currently working on the project Communism, internationalism, nature - A Cold War history of environmental representation was interviewed for the University of Strasbourg’s L’actualité de la recherche (Research news). In the interview, she describes her passion for Russian architecture, from buildings to subway decor, and talks about her new challenges.


Architecture in the Soviet Union - a way of changing the world

Tijana Vujosevic joined the pluridsiciplinary laboratory Image, City, Environment (LIVE) in December 2018 for two years, mainly to develop her knowledge in geography. This was a challenge for the researcher in architecture who is wanting to broaden her horizons.

Tijana Vujosevic, who adores travelling, was born in Serbia. “I arrived in the USA when I was 20 years old to study architecture and design” recounts the young woman with her infectious enthusiasm. After 15 years spent in the land of Uncle Sam, and her doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) finished, she decided to make her way to Australia where her family had very recently settled. “I was assistant professor of architecture, the equivalent of senior lecturer, at the University of Western Australia in Perth, the most isolated part of the country”, says Tijana Vujosevic, smiling.

What is her subject? The history and theories of Russian architecture in the 19th and 20th centuries, mainly chosen for practical reasons: “In the United States, where I began my research, there was no literature on Russian architecture since so few people speak the language. I was advised to fill that gap.” From her research she produced a book, “Modernism and the making of the Soviet New Man”, published by Manchester University Press in a paperback edition in January 2019.

Liberate and change Russian society

The researcher retraces the ambition of modernism to reverse the capitalist system and thus liberate and help Russian society progress via the architecture of buildings as daily objects. “One of my first questions was to ask myself what architecture is: can one give the same importance to a chair as to a city?” Her survey starts with the Moscow of the 1930s and the project by Russian architect, Vladimir Tatline, to produce wings to help his fellow citizens in their daily lives by enabling them to fly to work.

She also studied the work of stage director, Vsevolod Meyerhol, who looked into the relationship between machines and movement, not forgetting how architecture is used so that people may live more “efficiently” through the creation of evolutionary equipment or compact kitchens. Pleasure and the “Bania”, the public baths where Russian people meet to relax, are in total harmony. “I went to Moscow and St Petersburg to try them, and the aim of their architecture is to show how the state can make the lives of its people comfortable.” One of the baths studied was round, a true replica of the universe in the spirit of communion advocated by communism.

The Russian architect, Vladimir Tatine’s, project, was to produce wings to enable people to fly to workThe metro, symbol of power and unity of the Soviet Union

“I also looked into how women took part in architecture”, emphasised the researcher, noting that their contribution was often limited to decoration. The metro, the largest monument in Moscow and a symbol of power and unity with its marble imported from the different republics that made up the Soviet Union, is also the subject of a special chapter.

In joining the Image, City, Environment laboratory in December 2018 as a Usias Fellow, Tijana Vujosevic decided to leave her comfort zone by launching into a new chapter of her research. After man and architecture, she is now looking into the place of animals in modern architecture and their relationship with space. This is a subject she wants to address by focusing on the discipline of geography, one that she does not know well. “The idea of cartography interests me particularly. It is a real challenge for me, I am here to learn!”

Marion Riegert, 28/05/2019

The interview in French can be found here

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