M.Sc Thesis

M.Sc StudentVinnitsky Yulia
SubjectThe Dacha - A Place to Be Yourself
DepartmentDepartment of Architecture and Town Planning
Supervisor PROFESSOR EMERITUS Rachel Kallus
Full Thesis textFull thesis text - English Version


The crux of this research in the relationships between the way people feel about their place of living and their cultural, social and political reality. The research focuses on the dacha - a summer house in the countryside, owned by urban dwellers, which provides a link between the dwellers’ private residential environment, their personal experience, and their socioeconomic situation.

The dacha is a socio-cultural phenomenon, whose image in literature and cinematography has been integral to the portrait of Russian intelligentsia. It is a perfect example of a spontaneously built environment, an expression of everyday architecture exemplified in the connection of daily routines and the materiality of architecture. Less formal and more liberal than urban housing, the dacha has inspired socially or economically disadvantaged people to make it their dream place, encouraging architecture of freedom and self-expression and providing a way to cope with the hardship of quotidian life.

The research asks how the dacha gives expression to the coexisting tensions between private spaces and social, cultural and political systems, considering the changes that occurred in Russia since the breakdown of the Soviet regime in 1991. It is interested in people's expectations concerning their living place in a completely changed social and financial reality. The examination centered on the Mesherskii settlement near Moscow and its development since the beginning of the 20th century. A field research in the settlement comprised detailed accounts of a sample of the current residents of Mesherskii and their houses, based on observations and interviews. The findings were analyzed in order to discover to what extent the residents have implemented their dreams and wishes concerning their living places in a changing political and social reality. These implementations, expressed in architectural forms, planning tactics and daily life practices, bear witness to the dwellers’ personal experience and their understanding of social, cultural and political changing circumstances.