Utopia & Collapse
Rethinking Metsamor: The Armenian Atomic City
What happens when destiny and reality override plans and utopias, and when a dwelling is bereaved its actual purpose?
1st edition, 2018
Text in English
236 pages, 229 color and 82 b/w illustrations
22 x 29.5 cm
Built in 1969, Metsamor, Armenia (then the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic), was intended as a settlement for employees of a nearby nuclear power plant to be completed between 1976 and 1980. But the power plant would never realize the ambitions of its creators. In 1988, an earthquake caused the facility to be shut down. In 1989, the collapse of the Soviet Union prompted a complete construction freeze. The symbol of the dream of a technologically advanced nation, Metsamor remained incomplete and fell into decay undiminished by the recommissioning of the power plant in 1995.
Utopia and Collapse documents the rise and fall of Metsamor. The book brings together an oral history of the place and a photographic research by Katharina Roters with essays by Jorg H. Gleiter, Ievgeniia Gubkina, Misak Khostikyan, Hamlet Melkumyan, Sarhat Petrosyan, Katharina Roters, and Jozsef Szolnoki. Among the topics discussed are Armenia’s cultural and and architectural histories; the typology of Soviet atomograds, or atomic cities; and the phenomenon of modern ruins. Although today the power plant’s workers live in a partly built failed utopia, Metsamor stands as examples of the highly idiosyncratic Armenian variety of Soviet Modernism of the 1960s and ’70s, making this a fascinating story for anyone with an interest in Soviet-era buildings and architecture.