USC Book Prize in Literary and Cultural Studies


Honorable Mention

Spatial Revolution: Architecture and Planning in the Early Soviet Union

Honorable Mention: Christina Crawford
Title: Spatial Revolution: Architecture and Planning in the Early Soviet Union (Cornell University Press)

Christina Crawford’s Spatial Revolution examines the socialist urban development of Baku, Magnitogorsk, and Kharkiv in the first fifteen years following the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. Theoretically ambitious, painstakingly researched, and lucidly written, the study demonstrates that early Soviet architecture and planning activities were “kinetic and negotiated” rather than exclusively hierarchical and ideological. Operating on a broad geographical scope, Crawford compares different industrial nodes and urban settings that were far from Moscow and Leningrad, persuasively debunking the myth that Soviet urban planning was a centralized and totalized activity from the onset. Instead, emphasizing the praxis and experimentation of diverse projects, Crawford shows that early Soviet spatial interventions were contingent on the particular geography, industry, and actors at specific sites. The book adopts an expansive comparative perspective and moves beyond the political borders of the Soviet Union to include discussions of English garden cities, housing settlements in Weimar Germany, and oil extraction sites in the United States, among other locations. In so doing, it demonstrates that at the beginning of the twentieth century, sites like Baku, Magnitogorsk, and Kharkiv were nodes within a transnational global network of expertise, technologies, and materials, challenging entrenched assumptions about Soviet isolationism. Importantly, Crawford considers not only the intellectual labor of the architects and planners designing socialist spaces, but also the physical toil of anonymous construction workers, who often endured inhumane conditions with fatal consequences. In marshaling an impressive range of archival documents, Crawford’s study across a vast geography provides important and original insights into the politics, economics, and aesthetics of socialist construction projects and their continued relevance for the present-day debates on livability, social equity, and sustainability.

Winner: Rory Finnin