Spa Break

FUEL's latest publication continues their exploration of the fascinating visual legacy of the USSR, with an investigation of the striking architecture and surreal treatment programmes of Soviet sanatoriums...

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Kolkhida, Georgia, magnetic sand. Photo: Claudine Doury

Since FUEL was formed in 1991 by Damon Murray and Stephen Sorrell, publishing has played an important role in their design practice alongside client commissions. Working with artists and writers as well as with their own research, they have built an extensive back catalogue of books focusing on curious or under-explored topics within visual and popular culture; the visual legacy of the USSR seems to hold a particular fascination for the pair, with previous FUEL titles on the topic including the CCCP Cook Book, Soviet Space Dogs, the Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopaedia series, and Soviet Bus Stops. Their latest publication, Holidays in Soviet Sanatoriums, offers a fascinating insight into the spa resorts that were popular within the Eastern Bloc from the 1920s onwards, exploring both their striking architecture and the range of strange therapeutic treatments that went on within.

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Klyazma, Russia. Photo: Natalia Kupriyanova

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Aurora, Kyrgyzstan. Photo: Egor Rogalev

Holidays in Soviet Sanatoriums came about in 2015 when writer Maryam Omidi spent time at the Khoja Obi Garm sanatorium in Tajikistan. Struck by the juxtaposition of the institution's brutalist architecture with its remote, mountainous location, and the peculiar range of treatments on offer, she was inspired to explore the phenomena further. Omidi approached FUEL with a proposal for the book, and received an enthusiastic response; after launching a Kickstarter campaign, she commissioned eight photographers to visit some of the best-preserved (and still functioning) sanatoriums across the former USSR, and visually document their surroundings and experiences there. 

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White Nights, Sochi, Russia. Photo: Egor Rogalev

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Tskaltubo, Georgia. Photo: Claudine Doury

The resulting book presents the photographers' images of over forty sanatoriums alongside texts by Omidi that explore the role they played within workers' lives in the USSR, and broader ideas of leisure and health within Soviet society and among prominent thinkers of the time. Beautifully designed by FUEL, it offers a fascinating insight into a little-known aspect of Soviet life and represents the most comprehensive survey of such sanatoriums yet conducted.

Maryam Omidi
Editied by Damon Murray and Stephen Sorrell
Hardback, 160 x 200 mm, 192 pages
£19.95 / $32.50
ISBN: 978-0-9931911-9-0
Published by FUEL, 16 October 2017
Distributed by Thames & Hudson / D.A.P.

Holidays in Soviet Sanatoriums is available to buy from FUEL here.

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