Explore Eastern Europe’s Historical Housing with Architectural Nesting Dolls

Polish design studio Zupagrafika creates a set of Matryoshka inspired by concrete, Eastern Bloc apartment buildings.

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Jul 17 2016, 11:30am

Blockoshka architectural nesting dolls. All images courtesy of Studio Zupagrafika

Parts of Moscow, East Berlin, Warsaw, and Prague are nearly indistinguishable from each other thanks to their architecture. After mass destruction from World War II, rows of Modernist, high-rise housing blocks popped up during the Cold War, a result of Communist urban planning that gives many Eastern European cities a repetitive, rectangular aesthetic. To help shine light on and define the differences and similarities between these housing blocks in each city, Poznán-based design studio Zupagrafika has created Blokoshka, a set of nesting dolls—or as the studio calls them, “Modernist architectural matryoshka”—made up of typical building types from the four cities.

The simple architectural models are made from recycled cardboard, and, akin to the pre-fabricated buildings that inspired them, come in ready-made pieces that can be easily assembled. Blokoshka blocks don’t require scissors or glue, just some careful punching-out and folding. The top and largest layer, in red, represents the “sleeping districts” of Moscow's, semi-suburban communities dedicated solely to housing blocks. Inside the largest piece fits the typical East Berlin Plattenbau. These buildings, made of concrete slabs, were erected quickly and en masse in the 60s in order to accommodate an influx of new residents from further east, and an increasing desire for the-then modern designs that provided a better alternative to pre-war buildings.

Open another layer of Blokoshka, and reveal a yellow building representing Warsaw, another city that was essentially leveled by the Nazis in World War II. Finally, the smallest architectural nesting doll is a blue Panelák, a pre-fab concrete tower representative of the places where many Czechs still live today.

The Zupagrafika team, David Navarro and Martyna Sobecka, tell The Creators Project that their inspiration for these works, which follow projects like Eastern Blocka collection of Warsaw-inspired building models, comes from a love of the Modernist aesthetic, and a desire not to see these iconic buildings renovated and erased from history.

“With our designs, we make an attempt at documenting Modernist architecture which is slowly disappearing from our urban landscapes due to either demolition or thermo-modernization. As a graphic design studio, we appreciate the composition of those buildings' facades and perceive them as pieces of art,” the duo states.

“Perhaps thanks to realizations like Blokoshka this kind of architecture will stop being perceived merely as a shameful reminiscence of unrealized dreams of urban utopia. With our project we just try to contribute in a playful and refreshing way to promoting a new perspective on housing estates."

Find out more about Blokoshka on Zupagrafika's website, here.

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