Until very recently, almost every study of the history of the Communist period in Central Europe has shown evidence of the political and ideological views—or the personal life experiences—of those who lived through the era. Only rarely does one find works that are wholly free from the burden of such context. Kimberly Elman Zarecor is the first author to address the history of housing during the Communist period—the product of deliberate social engineering—in a fully dispassionate way.

Throughout her book, Zarecor challenges one of the standard myths of the era. “Architectural historians and the general public,” she writes, “have long assumed that Soviet architects forced panel technology on unwilling architects in the Eastern Bloc after they had mastered it at home” (266). She goes on to ask several related questions: To what extent was Czechoslovak postwar architecture an autonomous development? How was Czechoslovakia different from, or similar to, other countries...

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