photos from the Aral Sea series as part of the exhibition “Panel” in AA London
Although largely marginal within official accounts of modern architecture, during the second half of the twentieth century the development of large concrete panel systems was central to debates about architecture’s modernisation and industrialisation. Through this development, not only was construction transferred from the building site to the factory floor, and manual labour succeeded by automated mass production, but political, aesthetic and ideological debates began to inscribe themselves onto the panel itself, a symbol for a whole new set of architectural values. Distributed to, and adapted by, many different regions, these systems went beyond national and political borders in producing more than 170 million apartments worldwide.
Coinciding with the launch of the book Panel, this exhibition showcases twenty-eight systems developed and distributed worldwide: Camus, Coignet and Paul Bossard’s Les Bleuets in France; I-510, K-7, I-464, I-335, II-35, and Burov House in the Soviet Union; the Large Soviet Panel, Large Panel IV and Large Panel 70 in Cuba; KPD and VEP in Chile; Larsen & Nielsen in Denmark; Brecast in United Kingdom; Descon-Concordia in the USA; Ital-Camus in Italy; Skarne S66 in Sweden; Igeco and Göhner Wohnen in Switzerland; G57 in Czechoslovakia; Ernst May System (Plan for Greater Moscow, 1932) in Germany and WBS 70 in East Germany; Jugomont 61 in Yugoslavia; VAM in Holland; Taisei in Japan; and the Saint Andrews’ Dormitory by James Stirling in Scotland.
While focusing on a particular aspect of this history, namely those systems exported from Soviet Russia into Cuba and then on to Chile in the 1960s and 1970s, the exhibition contains a visual panoply of archival photographs, stills, cartoons, sketches and drawings, offering fascinating portrait of an architectural and political history whose symbolic and physical register all along is a concrete panel.