Sochi in Six Dimensions. A Project in Rich Cartography
The 2014 Olympic Games will introduce the world to the city of Sochi, but for Russians the city looms large in the imagination as the capitol of the resort region along the Black Sea. In a country synonymous with cold and snow, it is an emerald city, with a sub-tropical climate, palms, and placid waters.
The Games will also introduce the world to a new, post-Soviet Russia. Like the St. Petersburg immortalized by Dostoevsky, Sochi has repeatedly served as an intentional, or model, city, meant to reflect a new set of national values. In the imperial period it figured as a “Russian Riviera” for the nobility. In the Soviet era it was re-imagined as a workers’ paradise, a vacationland where average laborers could temporarily experience the ideal world they had been promised.
Today, the city is again being redesigned, with no less visionary bravado; it is now officially designated “the city of the future,” and its latest incarnation positions it as an international meeting center and elite resort, a metamorphosis that will culminate in its Olympic debut. No Russian city has been rewritten more boldly.
The proposed mapping of Sochi will work to capture all of these layers, with particular attention to the projection of this new, elite city over the surface of the former egalitarian and proletarian one.
The playing of the Games there is in one sense an homage to the city’s cosmopolitan history and devotion to collective health, but in another sense it is an evocation of how these concepts have evolved both in Russia and around the world. The building of Olympic infrastructure seems to realize the brilliant visions of a utopian city that Soviet architects drew with breathless enthusiasm in the 1920s, but also to herald the victory of powerful capitalist antipathies toward the building of socialism.
The moment is right to pay close attention to Sochi. As the city constructs a new cultural paradigm over the surface of another, foundational ideas are being overturned and cultural strata revealed. We have a unique opportunity to capture this process through digital cultural mapping.