Urban fabric and political ideals – “City of felt and concrete: Negotiating cultural hybridity in Mongolia’s capital of Ulaanbaatar”
City of felt and concrete: Negotiating cultural hybridity in Mongolia’s capital of Ulaanbaatar
Diener, Alexander C., Hagen, Joshua.
Nationalities Papers, Vol.41(4), 2013, 622-650.
Being the capital and the only major urban centre of Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar periodically experienced dramatic urban redevelopment upon political paradigm shifts. This article investigates the role of architecture and urban design in establishing and destroying the national identity in Ulaanbaatar. Discussions are conducted on the three major political regimes – the Manchurian rule (1691-1911), the communist era (1921-1990), and the democratic transition (1990-now). Elaborated analysis is conducted on the foreign urban plans and public icons imposed by the communist party, and the come-back of Buddhism and Chinggis Khan to re-establish the indigenous national narrative in the post-communist era. Historical transformations of public space and key public buildings are examined to reveal how architectural symbolism was used to advocate political ideals. Towards the end of the paper, the recent impact of globalization on the city is discussed. Foreign involvement in the city’s economic and cultural development adds complexity to the urban fabric. Negotiations between traditional Mongolian culture, the communist past, and globalization are to be continued in the hybrid cityscape of Ulaanbaatar.