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Iron Curtains: Gates, Suburbs and Privatization of Space in the Post-socialist City

ISBN: 978-1-4443-3826-3
254 pages
April 2012, Wiley-Blackwell
Iron Curtains: Gates, Suburbs and Privatization of Space in the Post-socialist City (1444338269) cover image


Iron Curtains has been awarded Honorable Mention for the 2013 ASEEES Harvard Davis Center Book Prize! The prize is sponsored by Harvard University’s Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies and is awarded annually by the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies, for an outstanding monograph published on Russia, Eurasia, or Eastern Europe in anthropology, political science, sociology, or geography. 

Utilizing research conducted primarily with residents of Sofia, Bulgaria, Iron Curtains: Gates, Suburbs, and Privatization of Space in the Post-socialist City explores the human dimension of new city-building that has emerged in East Europe.

  • Features original data, illustrations, and theory on the process of privatization of resources in societies undergoing fundamental socio-economic transformations, such as those in Eastern Europe
  • Represents the sole in-depth monograph on contemporary urbanism in Southeast Europe
  • Makes a broader statement on issues of urbanism in Europe and other parts of the world while highlighting the complex connections between cultures and cities


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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations and Tables viii

Series Editors’ Preface xi

Acknowledgements xii

1 Introduction 1

2 Public, Private, Privatism 14

3 The Post-socialist City 34

4 Post-modern Urbanism Revisited 60

5 Sofia: Wither the Socialist City 81

6 The Ninth Ring: Suburbanizing Sofia 105

7 Iron Curtains I: Gated Homes 131

8 Iron Curtains II: Gated Complexes 149

9 Architecture of Disunity 170

10 Possibilities 191

References 198

Index 220

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Author Information

Sonia Hirt is Associate Professor of Urban Affairs and Planning at the School of Public and International Affairs and the College of Architecture and Urban Studies at Virginia Tech, and was recently Visiting Associate Professor of Urban Planning at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University. Hirt is the author of over 40 publications on urban forms, planning and design and is co-author of Twenty Years of Transition: The Evolution of Urban Planning in Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union, 1989-2009 (2009; with Kiril Stanilov).

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This masterful and wide-ranging exploration of an ‘ordinary’ city in the postsocialist world – an area which has been largely overlooked by theorists of modernity and postmodernity – brings important and unexpected insights into the nature of contemporary urbanism and the postmodern cultural condition more generally. Timely, interesting and extremely engaging, the book also stands out for its skilful and seamless integration of a wealth of detailed observation with a strongly theoretical approach.
Ekaterina Makarova, University of Virginia

Drawing from deep personal insight as well as 100 interviews, Hirt describes a shift from “bland to brass,” sheds light upon privatism as a cultural condition, and reveals prospects for rejuvenating the public realm in the global context. This compelling and passionate account about why the post-wall world is so busy building walls fills a gaping hole in the literature on urbanism.
Nan Ellin, University of Utah

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