There’s a definite contemporary appetite for design from the cold war-era, which has revealed itself in myriad ways. From the existence of (modern) Ostel hotel and hostel in Berlin, which is housed in a bright GDR building and decorated only with cold war-era furniture and kitsch wallpaper in various browns. To the fact that Wes Anderson’s film sets – a subject much mused upon – are more than a little reminiscent of the surprisingly zingy rooms captured by journalist Oliver Wainwright in his series on North Korean interiors. We’ve discovered a feast of photo-projects by artists similarly fascinated with interiors from communist countries and the weird, wonderful colour palettes that put them in a time and place. There’s brown, there’s pastel pinks and there’s sunny yellows, maroons, burnt oranges and many greens. The unifying standout feature across all countries included however, is that we’ve yet to find a boring colour-free floor.
Columbia-based photographer, Meg Griffiths took to communist Cuba for her project Casa Particular. After the collapse of the communist bloc in 1989 and economic support from the Soviet Union ceased, Cubans had to become highly resourceful in order to live and famously began opening their homes to tourists to supplement their state-regulated income. The idea was termed Casa Particular (private house) and Meg’s photographs capture the sometimes unsettling clash of private and public that comes with the concept. She says of the images, “they are a tribute to these individuals’ tenacity and willingness to improve the quality of their lives through the sharing of private, even sacred, spaces where their personal possessions are always on display.”
In 1993, photographer Thorsten Klapsch paid Berlin officials for the privilege of photographing East Berlin’s Palast der Republik (Palace of the Republic), which originally housed the congress hall for the socialist republic, as well as restaurants, bowling alleys and discos. Having closed under suspicion of asbestos contamination, the building was still largely furnished, ancient computers and all, with many of the key rooms still intact.
Berlin condemned the Palast in 2002 and by 2005 it was an empty concrete beauty utilised by Berlin’s creatives for exhibitions and performance art. By 2009 the structure had been demolished to be replaced by a large lawn. Thorsten consciously delayed publishing his photographs of the Palast until the demolition had been completed – you can see the full glorious set in his book Palast der Republik.
When The Guardian’s architecture and design critic Oliver Wainwright found himself on a tour of Pyongyang, he was surprised to find Kim Jong-un’s tightly controlled Kingdom awash with colour (in between the Stalinist concrete monoliths) – and especially, it seems, pink. “Interiors appear to be conceived as carefully composed stage sets,” he wrote of the experience. Fitting then, that a later article covering his photography rightly likens it to Wes Anderson’s filmography. See above especially, for more info.
The unsurprising hype surrounding this project has led to a series of limited edition artworks sold here.