In the aftermath of World War II, a particular housing type proliferated in Communist Hungary: the cube. As the country rebuilt after the war, the Hungarian Cube (in Hungarian, “Magyar Kocka”) became the ubiquitous, standardized form of residential architecture. One of the few ways people had to make such cookie-cutter houses their own was by decorating their facades.
In her new book Hungarian Cubes: Subversive Ornaments in Socialism, German-Hungarian artist Katharina Roters documents the individualism found in the ornamentation of these houses, sometimes called Kádár Kocka, or Kádár Cube, after Hungarian communist leader János Kádár. The series started in 2003, when Roters moved to a small Hungarian village from Germany. She began photographing the facades of local houses, later expanding her project to villages all over the country.
Her photos zero in on the colorful, abstract designs of the boxy houses’ facades. Roters digitally scrubbed the images of power cables, tree branches, and other visual impediments, allowing the geometrical designs to be appear in full architectural detail. Seen one after another, the stark differences in color and pattern appear against the background of the uniform, boxy structure of the houses. “This practice is an unconscious subversion, running counter to indoctrinated collective visual conformity,” she writes in Dezeen.