(Un)Planned City

(Un)Planned City

Questions of planning and regulating urban construction have deeply shaped theoretical discussions and practice in city development as far back as the second half of the 19th century. The city plan, formulated in the sense of the principles of modern architecture and urban design, formed the basis for the construction of Europe’s metropolises. Yet even so, these conceptual documents often were reflected in the actual appearance of these cities to a limited extent, or even diverging from their authors’ intentions. The reasons for this discrepancy between urban planning and actual construction lie, to a large extent, in major social and political changes, yet no less in conflicts of interest between local actors and state power or differing ideas of how a city should be formed. At the same time, these plans were themselves the outcome of the re-evaluation or rejection of the intents and conceptions of their predecessors within the disciplines of urbanism and planning.

The overlapping layers and the incomplete character of modern plans and regulations give the appearance in the urban structure of contemporary cities of being unplanned errors or failures of planning rationality. The term ‘(un)planned cities’ designates precisely these seemingly unintentional spaces and structures in urban entities, which nonetheless we cannot truly regard as either the outcome of chance or of deliberate lack of planning. And the postmodernist critical theoretical discourse, along with the significant expansion of the field of scholarly disciplines and actors entering into the urban planning process on one side, and the rejection of the regulations of the social state, privatisation, internationalisation and the dominance of market logic in actual construction practice on the other, have accentuated the (un)planned nature of modern urbanism. As a phenomenon, it is perhaps most immediately visible in the post-socialist countries of central and eastern Europe. Following the epochs of the first emancipatory modernisation of post-imperial nation-states and then post-war socialist-technocratic modernisation, the rebuilding and expansion of the newly independent urban centres in central and eastern Europe instantly shifted towards a radical liberation from all regulations. As such, the (un)planned city could appear a highly accurate model for describing and interpreting the urbanistic phenomena of post-socialist cities in the region, or even for other European metropolises.

The present thematic issue forms a selection of contributions from the international conference (Un)Planned City, organised as a digital platform by the Department of Architecture at the Historical Institute of the Slovak Academy of Sciences (SAV) in the framework of research project APVV-16-0584 Unintentional City: Architectonic and Urbanistic Conceptions of the 19th and 20th Centuries in the Urban Structure of Bratislava.  It forms a collection of scholarly texts investigating modern and contemporary strategies for city planning both from the perspective of historiography and from that of theoretical-critical investigations of architecture and urbanism. Architectural and planning theorist  Gonçalo M. Furtado C. Lopes in his text presents a critical reflection of the relationship between architecture and cities formulated at the end of the last century by Ignasi de Solà-Morales. Similarly, the cultural categories of Solà-Morales, imagined on a phenomenological basis, are echoed indirectly in the study by architects Lýdia Grešáková, Zuzana Tabačková and sociologist Zuzana Révészová, who use interdisciplinary mapping of selected areas in the city of Košice to test methods of urban planning that reach beyond the traditional growth paradigm.

Historian of urban planning Peter Larkham presents a surprising discussion of “non-planning” in the background of the post-WWII rebuilding of British cities, which were marked by strict scientific planning that set down methods used in modern urban and land-use planning throughout the world.  The theme of power and the influence of experts and their scientific-engineering perspective, which in the post-war years dominated the discipline of urbanism, is analysed by historian Matej Spurný using the example of Bratislava’s development in the 1960s. The rebuilding of cities following Modernist ideas under conditions of socialism is addressed by the study by urbanists Anna Kornélie Losonczy, Regina Balla, Hlib Antypenko and Melinda Benkő, focusing on the construction of prefabricated housing estates and the failed efforts to build suburban settlement centres in Budapest.

Urban planner Karel Maier, using the example of two Czech regional centres (Plzeň and Hradec Králové), analyses the onset of modern urban design in Central Europe, uncovering the determining conditions for the historic development of the urban tissue along with the functional structure of both cities for their future development trajectories. Questions of the influence of state power on building regional centres in the era of inter-war Modernism are reflected by researchers Lina Degtyaryova and Oleg Olashyn using the example of the construction of Uzhhorod as the capital of the Czechoslovak province of Subcarpathian Ruthenia.

The selection of contributions is concluded by studies that make use of urban typological fragments to reveal historic changes to modern cities alongside the potential for their future development. In one case, it is the fundamental component of urban form, the street, that architect Ján Sekan, architectural historian Adriana Priatková and archivist Máté Tamáska discuss through the concrete history of the building of one of the major roadways of Košice, Komenského ulica. Art historian Klára Brůhová, in turn, uses the changes in the localisation and plans of the Czechoslovak Parliament building to analyse changing ideas of Prague’s enlargement as the national capitol. University campuses in the territory of Bratislava, their historic changes and their future potential are the research object of the study by architect Peter Stec.