Conference: modernism, modernisation and the rural landscape

Soviettime office building in Laeva. Photo: Friedrich Kuhlmann

Starting in the evening of Monday 11 June at Eesti Maaülikool and continuing on 12 and 13 at ERM, Tartu, the MODSCAPES conference on the theme Modernism, Modernisation and the Rural Landscape will take place.

The conference is organised by the Chair of Landscape Architecture at Eesti Maaülikool as a key part of the MODSCAPES project, research funded by the EU under the HERA (Humanities in the European Research Area) theme “the Uses of the Past” together with ETAg. The project includes researchers from Italy, Portugal and Germany as well as Estonia and examines the impact of Modernism on rural landscapes from the 1920s to the late 1980s in a number of countries and under different political regimes, including Portugal, Spain, Italy, Greece, the DDR and the Ukraine plus colonial entities such as Libya and Morocco and Zionist Palestine/Israel.

In Estonia the team at EMÜ focuses on the impact of the collectivisation of agriculture under the Soviet regime – the physical legacies of the landscape and buildings, the memories and perceptions of those who lived through the times and in the places as well as aspects of ideology, non-material heritage and also the question of how we deal with them in future as part of recent history. The research is based on field work in case study areas including Laeva, Äksi and Viimsi in Estonia as well as materials available from the national archives.

The conference marks the mid-point of the project and includes keynote presentations from international experts in Modernism as well as a range of papers from a wide range of countries dealing with the broader notions of modernism and modernisation in the rural sphere.

Professor Simon Bell, leading the Estonian team said “This project is very exciting and it gives us the chance to study the results of much of the previous research carried out here in EMÜ when it was the Agricultural Academy responsible for developing land drainage schemes. It is a period of history that, with some time now having elapsed, is ready for serious study as its legacy is still present in the landscape”.

Martti Veldi, an archaeologist working on the project said “For me the project is about understanding time and the processes of change in the landscape – a recent part of history but as important as the German manors and their landscapes or the mediaeval impacts of castles. The fact that we can interview and capture insights and memories from those who lived through the times is a valuable aspect of this research for me”.

The programme for the conference can be found HERE