Josef Marek: sketch of a warehouse and silos in the Bratislava river port, 1921

Pozostalosť Josefa Mareka, Muzeum města Brna, inv. č. 215.970

From Technical Beauty to the Medern Aesthetic and Back: Unrealised Industrial Buildings of Josef Marek in the Context of Modern Architectural Development 1900 – 1939

The present contribution addresses the analysis of the industrial buildings designed by architect Josef Marek during the 1920s against the background of the era’s discourse on the development of modern architecture and its mutual relations with industrial construction as its specific yet at the same time integral component, not only as the bearer of technical mastery but no less of its own aesthetic values.Born in Petrovice in Moravia, Josef Marek arrived in Slovakia as part of the generation of Czech architects to settle there after the founding of the first Czechoslovak Republic in 1918. His previous activities and studies on the Czech side of the state are still shrouded in mystery, and we do not even have any clear idea as to the circumstances of his settling in Trnava. It is, however, known that he studied architecture at the Prague Academy of Fine Arts under Jan Kotěra, graduating in 1914.Knowledge of the architectonic oeuvre of Josef Marek has long been superficial and insufficient.Moreover, very few scholars would classify him as a designer of industrial structures. However, we must recall that a thorough knowledge of an architect’s legacy should include not only realized buildings, but the entire range of study sketches, unrealised projects and competition entries. In this sense, we can find support in a range of instances involving other architects who – despite the creation of a body of work of international fame – are regarded a priori as having nothing to do with industrial realisations, yet are found, in a systematic study of their work, to have been greatly fascinated by the theme of industrial building design, and even to have created highly mature projects in this area at a quite early stage in their careers. One example is no less of a figure than Le Corbusier (1887 – 1965). Marián Polášek (*1932), a Slovak architect involved with industrial architecture not only on the level of realisations but also in terms of its theory, has determined Le Corbusier to have been the author of the never-realised projects of two exceptionally advanced industrial buildings with Functionalist elements – the food-processing works in Challuy and Garchize from 1917 – 1918.A similar opportunity for Slovak architectural history is presented by the chance to find work of this kind within the creative legacy of Josef Marek, which uncovers new correspondences in our view of his oeuvre, but above all documents his changes of viewpoint derived from his study of contemporary art, architectural creation, and the theory of all architectural areas, including industrial structures, even though most likely none of his designs were ever built….

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