Celebration of the 20th Anniversary of the Department Establishment Otakar Nový and Zdeňek Lakomý (in the midle), Pavel Halík (left), Miloš Černý (right) and Petr Kratochvíl (in the background)

Source: Archív Pavla Halíka

A Recollection of the Department of Architectural Theory

The ‘Department of Architectural Theory and Creation of the Living Environment’ of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences (ČSAV) was founded in 1964. In the spirit of the then-pervasive political programme of the Communist state, it was intended to use scientific means to develop methods towards the creation of an ideal architectonic and natural environment for the citizens of the socialist state. In turn, these findings were to have served the organs of the state as guidelines in the shaping of programs concerning the given question. The department was formed by a ‘multidisciplinary team’, compiled from various professions – architecture, sociology, psychology, medicine, agronomy etc. In addition, it coordinated the research investigations of other institutions that addressed similar questions. In the exciting period of the later 1960s, it was fully engaged in the ‘renewal process’ leading to the Prague Spring, and played host to passionate discussions – yet all this ended with the Soviet occupation in August 1968. In 1972, the Department was dissolved, and its environmental section transferred to the Institute of Landscape Architecture of the ČSAV, with the other (primarily architects) shifted to the Institute for Philosophy and Sociology. Here, if under a different name, the traditions of the pre-1968 Department remained preserved, along with an increase in cooperation with the Slovak Academy of Sciences in the newly founded journal A+U. The majority of research publications, from within the Department or outside, collected in the Department’s library over a single decade, were deliberately destroyed after it was moved to new quarters. The Department was a true product of the time, and in the 1960s it formed an excellent discussion club. No less interesting were the people who guided it, the erudite architect Zdeněk Lakomý and the socialist idealist-pragmatist Otakar Nový, who was the official reviewer for recent domestic work. The remnants of the Department, with overwhelmingly new personnel, were then placed in 1986 under the Institute of Art History of the ČSAV, as the architecture division.

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