I am an anthropologist of architecture and of cities based at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College London, where I am Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellow and Lecturer (Assistant Professor) in Critical Area Studies. During 2017-2018, I am carrying out ethnographic fieldwork in Moscow, where I am a Research Fellow at the Vysokovsky Graduate School of Urbanism, Higher School of Economics.
My work focuses on the complex social lives of monumental buildings and on the architecture and planning of Eastern European communism. I am especially interested in the powerful - and subversive - impacts that communist-era built environments continue to exert on the capitalist cities of the 21st century.
I received my PhD in social anthropology from Cambridge University in February 2014. My dissertation was about the Palace of Culture and Science, a vast Stalin-era skyscraper 'gifted' to Poland by the Soviet Union in 1955. My book on capitalist Warsaw's self-perceived 'obsession' with the Stalinist Palace, entitled Palace Complex, will be published by Indiana University Press in March 2019. My Warsaw research has also resulted in several articles and book chapters, while my Polish-language book about the Palace was published by the Museum of Warsaw in July 2015. I am currently conducting research for a project on the urbanism of Putin-era Moscow, and have also carried out research on the domestic lives of political dissidents living under house arrest.
In 2018, I co-curated the exhibition Portal Zaryadye - featuring 18 new works by Russian artists exploring the relationship between architecture, politics and ecology in contemporary Russia - at the State Shchusev Museum of Architecture in Moscow.
Photograph: Yoshkar Ola, capital of of the Russian Volga region Republic of Mari El, 2018. The "Bruges Embankment" of Yoshkar Ola (c. 2015) is in the foreground, with the Sombathey housing estate (c. 1974) in the background.
Portrait by Olga Alexeyenko