In ‘Kiosk,’ Visit the Tiny Disappearing Urban Shops of Eastern Europe

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In ‘Kiosk,’ Visit the Tiny Disappearing Urban Shops of Eastern Europe

a photograph of a modernist kiosk newsstand in Poland

UFO, a two-module ‘Bathyscaphe’ in Biała Podlaska, Poland. All images © David Navarro and Martyna Sobecka, courtesy of Zupagrafika, shared with permission

If you were born in the past three or four decades, you may not remember much about the former Eastern Bloc, a group of countries aligned politically and economically with the Soviet Union, or USSR, from 1945 to 1991. The coalition was characterized by its alignment with the communist ideology of Marxism–Leninism, rather than the capitalist structure of the Western Bloc, or countries that aligned with the United States.

In the late 1980s, the USSR loosened its yoke on the Eastern Bloc, spurring revolutionary democratic action, and in 1989, the momentous and symbolic destruction of the Berlin Wall. By 1991, Communist rule was overthrown in Europe.

During the second half of the 20th century, socialist nations adopted their own architectural vernacular. Primary examples include the Stalinist style between the 1930s and 1950s, followed by remarkable examples of Brutalism popular until the 1980s. And amid this transformation from towering classicism to stalwart modernism, a contrastingly compact architectural unit began to appear amid housing estates, on street corners, and in city squares.

a man peers into the window of a red, modernist, modular kiosk with a Spanish tile roof

A popular bakery in Belgrade, Serbia, in a double-module K67

Throughout former Yugoslavia and the Eastern Bloc, futuristic and brightly colored kiosks began to emerge as hot dog stands, flower shops, currency exchanges, ticket booths, and more. The seminal K67 model, devised by Slovenian designer Saša J. Mächtig, spurred numerous other designs around the region. The modules are constructed of reinforced fiberglass and were conceived as single units that could be linked together to create larger clusters.

Over time, as the kiosks have aged and weathered, they have been gradually abandoned or removed. A new book, Kiosk: The Last Modernist Booths Across Central and Eastern Europe, celebrates these tiny urban icons, featuring more than 150 examples photographed by David Navarro and Martyna Sobecka. “While some remain active or have undergone refurbishment, others have been abandoned or have slowly faded from the urban landscape,” the pair says.

Navarro and Sobecka, who also founded the independent publisher and design studio Zupagrafika, focus on “books and kits exploring the post-war modernist and brutalist architecture of the former Eastern Bloc and beyond.” Kiosk documents a disappearing regional phenomenon in vibrant color—and all seasons.

Purchase a copy in Zupagrafika’s shop.

a spread from the book 'Kiosk' showing two pages side-by-side of modernist kiosks, one red and one blue

Left: Kami newsstand in Poland. Right: KC190 kiosk in Croatia

a photograph of a series of modernist kiosks outside of a shopping center on a foggy day in Poland. the kiosk in the foreground has green graffiti on it that reads

A row of second-generation K67 booths in Wałbrzych, Poland

a spread from the book 'Kiosk' showing two photographs side-by-side of modernist kiosks, one yellow and one turquoise, foregrounding other Soviet-era buildings

Left: Element A of a K67 booth in Poland. Right: Element B of a K67 booth in Slovenia

An abandoned K67 element A in Pula, Croatia

a turquoise, modernist kiosk in on a housing estate in Serbia

KC190 kiosk, originally manufactured in Macedonia, situated in Kragujevac, Serbia

a spread from the book 'Kiosk' showing a woman standing in a bright red, modernist kiosk, selling eggs

Ewa sells fresh farm eggs in a K67 booth in Świdnica, Poland

“Kami” kiosk manufactured in Poland, situated on the Manhattan Estate in Łódz, Poland

the cover of the book 'Kiosk' featuring a red spine and a photograph of a red modernist booth

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