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BACK TO THE FUTURE

The surprising, delightful architecture of Soviet era bus stops

An Armenian bus stop
Courtesy Peter Ortner
Waiting.
By Thu-Huong Ha
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Soviet era buildings were not known to spark joy. The towering, oversized gray buildings that proliferated in the Soviet Union were meant to assert the power of the state over individual aesthetics. Yet there are a few structures that remain that have a kind of weirdly utopian, futuristic charm. That’s apparent in bus stops from the era, which dot the landscapes of the former regime.

Peter Ortner, a Nuremberg-based photographer, spent seven years capturing these waiting areas. The images are part of a new book, Back in the USSR: Soviet Roadside Architecture from Samarkand to Yerevan, published by Jovis Verlag, out this month.

According to a book published last year on the same subject, towns and communities were often responsible for designing their local stops, which led to some surprising new forms.

Ortner was first inspired by a stop he saw while traveling in Uzbekistan. “I found it surprising that there was, after all, a space for some little freedom in architecture,” he says. “Normally everything in the USSR was planned and had a long process of administration and survey. Here there was a microcosm of freedom.” Today, local authorities and young artists are rediscovering the roadside stops and giving them new life with paint and graffiti.

See a selection from Ortner’s book.

Armenia

Courtesy Peter Ortner
Courtesy Peter Ortner
Courtesy Peter Ortner

Uzbekistan

Courtesy Peter Ortner
Courtesy Peter Ortner
Courtesy Peter Ortner
Courtesy Peter Ortner

Azerbaijan

Courtesy Peter Ortner

The Crimea

Courtesy Peter Ortner

Ukraine

Courtesy Peter Ortner

Georgia

Courtesy Peter Ortner

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