April 16, 2018

Russia: Building amidst solitude

A new documentary film tells the story behind Dutch architectural heritage in Siberia and brings collections to a broader audience.

Still from the documentary 'Building amidst solitude'.

A Dutch architect in Siberia
The documentary Building amidst solitude tells the story of Dutch architect Han van Loghem, who worked in Kemerovo, Siberia in the Soviet Union during the 1920s. The film was first shown at festivals and special screenings in the Netherlands and will now be distributed in national and international cinemas. It was made by director Pim Zwier together with researcher Gijs Kessler from the International Institute of Social History (IISH). Their aim was to bring the collections of the IISH to a broader audience by telling an interesting and visually attractive story.

Dialogue between collections
In the form of a dialogue, the film combines Van Loghem’s writings with letters from his wife, who accompanied him during his stay in Kemerovo, adding static and moving images from multiple sources, such as the Russian State Archives for Photography and Film, the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision, regional museums in Kemerovo, and family archives from former Dutch colonists.

The value of personal documents
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the city of Kemerovo. Some of Van Loghem’s buildings from the 1920s can still be found there today. A Russian version of the film has been completed; and right now, suitable locations are being sought to show the film in Russia. Descendants of Dutch colonists in Kemerovo got in touch with the IISH about the possibility of safekeeping their family archives and photos. This way, the documentary highlights the value of personal documents for the recording of history.

This project was supported by the Shared Cultural Heritage Matching Fund.