Convergences and Divergences. Modernism beyond East and West

SAVE-THE-DATE: 16.11.2023–18.11.2023

The international conference with partners from different parts of Europe critically rethinks and analyzes the history of European modern architecture with reference to Central and Eastern Europe. It has been organized by the Pilecki-Institute in cooperation with the initiative for a "European Triennial of Modernism (ETOM)".

The conference in English language addresses the history of modern architecture from a horizontal and non-hierarchical perspective, overcoming outdated and simplistic categories such as East and West. It will focus not only on design and urban planning issues, but also on questions related to the transformation of societies, the exchange of ideas, the building of relationships between people or the struggle for a better future. The conference approaches architecture from a broader perspective - presenting it as a "seismograph" of the visionary and at the same time ambivalent experience of Modernism, which has much to say not only about the particular moment in history but also about the present.

For too long, theoretical and political constructs have contributed to a territorial or thematic marginalization of Central and Eastern Europe in European architectural historiography. Instead, the conference encourages a closer look at the dynamics between and beyond the political, geographical and cultural borders of Europe in the 20th and 21st century. The aim is not only to analyze the differences, but also to write a history of connections in modern architecture, employing a range of scales and approaches: focusing on timeframes and milestones, exploring cities, regions and borders where histories and memories meet, as well as examining architecture from the perspective of individual stories - those behind biographies or those behind particular architectural objects and ideas of Modernism.

The conference brings together various perspectives and areas of expertise represented by researchers, architects, designers, architectural historians, urban activists and civic society actors. Most of them have been selected based on the submissions of an Open Call for Participation. The main goal is to critically rethink the legacy of Modernism and its associated transformations in Central and Eastern Europe in the context of international relations, dependencies, influence, and power. The conference builds on the five-year experience of the "Exercising Modernity" program - an interdisciplinary intellectual exchange on art and architecture in a broader sense, exploring how ideas of modernity were reflected in various social and political spheres - and is being organized in cooperation with the initiative for a "European Triennial of Modernism (ETOM)". The conference is featured by the "Triangle for Modernism" as a cooperation between ETOM, DOCOMOMO International and ICOMOS, to support and promote projects and events on the topic of Modernism.

The conference program

includes two keynote-lectures (in the evenings 16.+17.11.2023) and is shaped along five sessions with up to five panelists from Central Europe who are presenting and discussing their projects and concerns:


Please note: The program is also available as PDF flyer with just the schedule (DIN A4 portrait) or in the context of a full brochure with abstracts and short biographies (DIN A4 upright) of all panelists. Some parts might be subject to minor changes - so make sure to check for updates ...

Impressions from the conference © Pilecki Institute, Photos: Grzegorz Karkoszka (edited by

DAY I: 16 Nov 2023 - SESSION / PANEL 1:
Contested architectural heritage
across Central and Eastern Europe 

Objects, sites or typologies of compromised or ambivalent history are often referred to as contested, difficult or problematic heritage. All these terms attempt to capture the social resonance of or responsibility for our cultural legacy. This often results in that heritage being excluded from social circulation and appreciation, because from today's perspective, it is perceived as evidence of a shameful or painful past that has been successfully overcome.

Both rejection of a fragment of the past and the abandonment of care can lead to a gradual decay or even invite active processes of aesthetic devaluation or de facto destruction. The reason may be that such heritage is judged unsuitable by a majority society, a defined group, or the political administration to tell a positive, unifying story about itself or is perceived as "alien".

The call-section asks for examples of such ambivalent heritage and for contemporary socio-cultural practices in dealing with it - in particular as regards current challenges of post-Soviet traces in modern architecture in Central and Eastern Europe.

  • 08:45 - 9:30 Registration
  • 09:30 - 10:00 Welcome speeches
    • Dr. Christoph Rauhut, Berlin Monument Authority, State Conservator
    • Hanna Radziejowska, Director of the Pilecki Institute Berlin
    • Małgorzata Jędrzejczyk, Ph.D., Pilecki Institute Berlin, Head of Exercising Modernity Program
    • Robert K. Huber & Ben Buschfeld, ETOM - European Triennial of Modernism, TDM-Berlin
  • 10:00 - 12:00 Session I -
    Contested architectural heritage across Central and Eastern Europe
    Moderator: Ingrid Ruudi, Ph.D., Estonian Academy of Arts in Tallinn
    • Dr. Christoph Rauhut, Berlin Monument Authority, State Conservator: Karl-Marx-Allee and Interbau 1957. Architecture and Urbanism in Postwar Modernism (working title)
    • Marii Laanemets, Ph.D., Institute of Art History, Estonian Academy of Arts in Tallinn: The intertwined history of the Linnahall. Reflections on modernity and society
    • Prof. Andrzej Leśniak, Institute of Literary Research, Polish Academy of Sciences: The Parade Square between modernization and globalization: the controversies and entangled histories on the site of the future Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw
    • Iryna Matsevko, Ph.D., Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the Kharkiv School of Architecture: Is the Soviet Built Heritage Ukrainian? Challenges and Perspectives of the Legacy of Modernism in Shaping Postwar Ukrainian Identity
    • Aleksandra Sumorok, Ph.D., Academy of Fine Arts W. Strzemiński in Łodź: Socialist Realist Monuments in Poland. A "difficult" heritage?
  • 12:00 - 13:30 Lunch break

DAY I: 16 Nov 2023 - SESSION / PANEL 2:
Iron curtain(s) of the 20th century.
Modernism beyond the binary of East and West 

This section explores the reception and migration of designs and ideas across various divisions that accompanied the Iron Curtain. Rather than focusing on a one-way flow from the center to the periphery, the interest is on a 'moving map'. Vectors of exchange between West and East are oriented in many ways and directions. The goal is to challenge unidirectional or vertical historical architectural narratives that are often based on the principle of subordination of Central and Eastern European architecture.

The panel aims to trace disconnected histories and obscure biographies. Particular attention will be given to the question, how did ideological and geopolitical rifts and tensions reinforce the demarcation between the notions of Eastern and Western European Modernism? How did they contribute to the suppression or neglect of certain narratives, design principles, and individual stories? How may ideologically motivated exacerbations have hindered or re-channeled the transfer of ideas?

The call asks for examples of biographies or activities that, despite political or ideological barriers, facilitated the flow of ideas and concepts between East and West or West and East - with a particular focus on countries of Central and Eastern Europe and East and West Germany.

  • 13:30 - 15:30 Session II -
    Iron curtain(s) of the 20th century. Modernism beyond the binary of East and West
    Moderator: Prof. Dr. Jörg Haspel, ICOMOS, former State Conservator of Berlin
    • Błażej Ciarkowski, Ph.D., University of Łódź: Looking through "a nylon curtain". How do architects describe their international experiences in the times of socialism
    • Dr. des. Helena Huber-Doudová, National Gallery Prague: The Typology of Architecture Practice between the East and the West in the 20th century
    • Vaidas Petrulis, Ph.D., Institute of Architecture and Constructon. Kaunas University of Technology: National Narrative without Borders: Architecture of the Lithuanian Diaspora in the USA after World War II
    • Denada Veizaj, Ph.D. / Georgij Islami, Ph.D., Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism, Department of Architecture, Polytechnic University of Tirana: Modernity without modernism. The particular path of architecture in Albania from 1975 to 1990
    • Miłosz Gortyński, Łódź University of Technology: Open Form and Open Society in the Architecture
    • Ana Ivanovska, Continuo, Faculty of Architecture, University Ss. Cyril and Methodius, Skopje: Building the City of Solidarity, the case of Skopje
  • 15:30 - 16:00 Coffee break

DAY I: 16 Nov 2023 - SESSION / PANEL 3:
Built narratives.
Multilayered identities of modern architecture

Architectural heritage is often used to tell stories about particular versions of the past. In geographical and cultural areas where multiple groups have lived together and various political spheres have intersected, built heritage may consist of numerous historical layers and witness many deliberate aesthetic redesigns. For various reasons, these are not - or have not been made - equally visible. 

The call asks for examples of architectural heritage that bear witness to multicultural and multilingual histories, as well as for examples of successful policies and practices. How can plurality be expressed and made accessible through conservation, storytelling, activism, and artistic intervention?

  • 16:00 - 18:00 Session III -
    Built narratives. Multilayered identities of modern architecture
    Moderator: Aleksandra Janus, Ph.D., Pilecki Institute Berlin, Exercising Modernity Program Curator
    • Marija Drėmaitė, Ph.D., Faculty of History, Vilnius University: Is there East Central European Modernism? The multifaceted case of Kaunas Modernism (1919-1939)
    • Prof. Dr. Jasna Galjer, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Zagreb: Lost or found? Utopia and reality of modernism in the Croatian architecture of the socialist and post-socialist period
    • Prof. Almantas Samalavičius, Department of Architectural Fundamentals, Theory and Art, Vilnius Giediminas Technical University: Behind the Curtain - Reception and Integration of Modernism(s) in Lithuanian Architectural Discourse During the Later Soviet Era (1970-1990)
    • Prof. Dr. Svitlana Smolenska, Department of Construction, Architecture and Design, Kherson State Agrarian and Economic University, visiting researcher at TH OWL: International competition 1930 in Kharkiv, Ukraine - Modernism beyond the binary of East and West
    • Katarzyna Solińska, Voivodeship Monuments Protection Office in Krosno: Tracing papers. Lost archives and forgotten narratives - hidden and silenced microhistory of the "Deaf German" architect, his Trans-Olza opponent and Modernism beyond Subcarpathian Region
  • 18:00 - 18:30 Coffee break

  • 18:30 - 20:30 Keynote lecture 1 - with talk and Q&A
    Moderator: Robert K. Huber, BHROX bauhaus reuse / zukunftsgeraeusche GbR, ETOM, TDM-Berlin
    Prof. em. Dr. Ákos Moravánszky, Theorist and Historian, ETH Zurich, Institute for the History and Theory of Architecture: Shifting Grounds - Re-Mapping the Historiography of Architectural Modernism in Europe
  • 20:30 - 22:30 Get together

DAY II: 17 Nov 2023 - SESSION / PANEL 4:
Shared heritage.
Points of contact and best practices

The notion of shared built heritage unveils the hidden networks and the potential for sharing (architectural) history by various communities, nations, regions and countries.

On the other hand, this concept revives sources and risks of tension, as a result of which joint or in-depth exploration is sometimes neglected.

This section is dedicated to strategies for making the public, local communities, authorities and professionals aware of the importance of shared modern history. This includes the same or similar guiding principles, roots, characteristics and design features in modern architecture in Central and Eastern Europe.

The call asks for examples of practices of revitalization, rehabilitation, conservation, documentation, communication and management pertaining to common architectural heritage, with a special focus on the collaboration between various actors involved.

  • 09:30 - 10:00 Registration
  • 10:30 - 12:30 Session IV -
    Shared heritage. Points of contact and best practices
    Moderation: Prof. Dr. Uta Pottgiesser, Docomomo International, TH-OWL, TU Delft Heritage & Technology
    • Alex Bykov, Architect and activist, Kyiv: SAVEKYIVACTIVISM
    • Prof. Marcin Lachowski, Institute of Art History, University of Warsaw: The history and utopia of modernism in the narratives of contemporary Polish artists
    • Louis Volkmann and Ben Kaden: Isn't the new post office beautiful? Picture postcards as visual and textual testimonies of Eastern Modernism
    • Julia Bojaryn, Stiftung Haus Schminke, Löbau: TOPOMOMO - Experiments of modernism.
    • Daniel Kovács, Hungarian Museum of Architecture and Monuments Protection Documentation Center / The Hungarian Contemporary Architecture Centre (KÉK), Budapest: Promoting Modernism, with Women's Stories
  • 12:30 - 14:00 Lunch break

DAY II: 16 Nov 2023 - SESSION / PANEL 5:
New Communities, New Buildings, New People:
the notion of the "new" in Central and Eastern European modern architecture 

Housing is an important part of architectural history, but it also plays a major role in the history of political, social and spatial changes of a particular era. Especially the ideas of social and communal living were labeled "new" at the beginning of the 20th century, when they began to shape cities and social life in various parts of the continent. How did these ideas develop in the first and second half of the 20th century in both East and West?

The panel focuses on centers of change that show diverse developments and layers based on their political history, shifts of borders, migrations and cultures of exile, to examine individual traces, shared models and differences that need to be addressed.

Based on selected case studies, the section discusses examples from polycultural cities such as Berlin, Prague, Kharkiv, Kyiv, Warsaw, Tallinn and Vilnius. Of special interest are significant examples of modern housing settlements for which the initial ideas can be juxtaposed with the present situation and contemporary challenges.

  • 14:00 - 16:00 Session V - New Communities, New Buildings, New People: the notion of the "new" in Central and Eastern European modern architecture
    Moderator: Ben Buschfeld,, ETOM, TDM-Berlin
    • Nadiia Antonenko, Ph.D., Department of Information Technologies in Architecture, Kyiv National University of Construction and Architecture: Large-scale housing estates in Ukrainian cities of the 1960s-1980s - A new look at value in the context of the war
    • Małgorzata Burkot, Independent researcher: 100 schools in the Vilnius region
    • Kateryna Didenko, Ph.D., Department of Architecture, Vilnius Technical University: Laboratory for the information of a new soviet man. The case study early-modern architecture of residential complexes in the metropolitan Kharkiv
    • Piotr Woliński, Łódź University of Technology:
      Transfer of modernism and planning of post-war Warsaw and Singapore. Relationships and circumstances of building "new" states, cities, societies.
    • Michal Wisniewski, Ph.D., Institute of Architecture Foundation (FAI) and International Culture Center Krakow: Wehen the new is becoming old - the case of postwar housing in Poland
  • 16:00 - 17:00 Coffee break

  • 17:00 - 18:30 Keynote lecture 2 - with talk and Q&A
    Moderator: Robert K. Huber, BHROX bauhaus reuse / zukunftsgeraeusche GbR, ETOM, TDM-Berlin
    Prof. Dr. Henrieta Moravčíková, STU Bratislava, Slovak Academy of Science, Docomomo Slovakia: Tests of perspective - architectural histories of a vague country
  • 18:30 - 19:00 Coffee break


  • 18:30 - 20:30 Lessons learned - Panel discussion
    Moderators: Małgorzata Jędrzejczyk, Ph.D., Pilecki-Institute Berlin,
    Ben Buschfeld and/or Robert K. Huber, ETOM, TDM-Berlin
  • Special-Input I: Dr. Tino Mager, Ph.D., ICOMOS Germany, History and Theory of Architecture and Urbanism, University of Groningen: Contentious Spaces - Uncovering the Hidden Narratives of Socialist Built Heritage
  • Special Input II: Prof. Edward Denison, The Bartlett School of Architecture: Modern Heritage in the Anthropocene and the need for the Cape Town Document on Modern Heritage
    • Maja Babić, Ph.D., Theory of Architecture and Urbanism at the University of Groningen
    • Prof. Dr. Franziska Bollerey, TU-Delft, Institute of History of Art, Architecture and Urbanism, Delft-Berlin
    • Kacper Kepinski, National Institute of Architecture and Urban Planning, Warsaw

Recordings of the conference sessions will be released on YouTube:

German summary and press invitation

The international English-language conference in Berlin will examine, reflect on and discuss the history of the architecture of Modernism , focusing in particular on the situation in Central and Eastern Europe. Conventional, simplistic and outdated categories such as East and West will be critically scrutinized. Instead, the development of modern architecture and urban planning is viewed from a broader and non-hierarchical perspective, in which they take on the role of "seismographs" of a visionary and at the same time ambivalent experience of Modernism . This perspective also emphasizes the struggle for a better future - fought in parallel and similarly in many countries - and for the implementation of new models of social coexistence - aspects that are part of the foundation of European values and whose significance still concerns us today. 

Accompanied by two introductory lectures, the conference will bring together different perspectives and areas of expertise in five discussion rounds, represented by researchers, designers, historians and urban and civil society actors from various nations. The aim is to critically rethink the legacy of Modernism and the associated changes in Central and Eastern Europe in the context of international relations, power, influence and dependencies.

The conference was organized by the Pilecki Institute in cooperation with the initiative for a "European Triennial of Modernism (ETOM)". Other partners are the Foundation for German-Polish Cooperation and the Embassy of the Republic of Lithuania in Germany.

Note for architects and planners: Attendance at the event is officially recognized as further training by the Berlin Chamber of Architects.  

The contribution is (after the project "Modernism in Ukraine" in 2022) the second joint presentation as part of the triangular cooperation between ETOM, DOCOMOMO International and ICOMOS.

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Conference venue and dates

Pilecki Institute, Paris Square

Conference Venue
Pilecki-Institute Berlin,
Pariser-Platz 4a, 10117 Berlin

- Thu, 11/16/2023, 9:30 am - 8:30 pm
- Fri, 11/17/2023, 10:00 am - 8:00 pm

Contact / Press contact

- Download Flyer
- Full Brochure
- Press images

Project Framework

  • Organized as part of the Initiative for a "European Triennial of Modernism (ETOM)"

- Pilecki-Institut Berlin / Exercising Modernity

- ETOM - European Triennial of Modernism
- BHROX bauhaus reuse /
zukunftsgeraeusche GbR (BHROX / zkg)
- (Ben Buschfeld)

- Foundation for German-Polish Cooperation
- Embassy of the Republic of Lithuania

Credited education content
Participation in the conference is officially recognized by the Architektenkammer Berlin
and assessed with a total of 16 teaching units
(1 UE = 45 minutes - 8 teaching units on
Nov 16 and 8 units on Nov 17)

Recommended site events

- Sat, 18.11.2023, 11:30 - 12:30 h:
- Sat, 24.11.2023, 18:30 - 19:30 h:
Tours with the artists / curators though the exhibition "Soft Ground" (additional venue at BHROX bauhaus reuse - details see below)

- Sat, 11/18/2023, 12:30 - 1:30 pm:
Exhibition by Prof. Svitlana Smolenska:
Hans Poelzig's Project for Ukraine. The International Competition 1930 for the State Ukrainian Theatre in Kharkiv
venue: TU Berlin | more info

- Sat, 18.11.2023, ca. 13:00 - 20:00 h:
Additional event (and venue) by the Hermann-Henselmann-Foundation (in GERMAN language): Colloquium - Bruno Flierl - Planning and Arguing for Berlin's Mitte
venue: Rosa-Luxemburg Foundation | more info

- Sat, 18.11.2023, 14:00 - 16:15 h:
Optional Side Event (in ENGLISH language, only for participants of the conference):
Architectural tour by Ben Buschfeld through the UNESCO-listed "Hufeisensiedlung" in Neukölln-Britz, including a visit of the rentable 1920s museum Tautes Heim
Venue: meeting at 14:00 at BHROX bauhaus reuse (tour starts 14:45 at subway U7 station "Blaschkoallee", exit "Fritz-Reuter-Allee")
more info (via Facebook)

Associated exhibition

Soft Ground -
5 Years of Excercising Modernity

BHROX bauhaus reuse 

More information

Exhibition venue
BHROX bauhaus reuse
Ernst-Reuter-Platz (on central traffic island)

25 October 2023, 19:00 h

Exhibition dates
25 October - 25 November 2023

- Pilecki-Institut Berlin / Exercising Modernity

- zukunftsgeraeusche GbR (zkg)
- BHROX bauhaus reuse

Supported by
- Ministry of Culture and National Heritage - Republic of Poland
- - Adam Mickiewicz Institute
- Co-financed by the Minister of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland

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