Under Threat: The Metastadt Building

Until recently the Metastadt building system was considered among the failed architectural ideas of the 20th century. This utopian architectural concept attempted to introduce pioneering changes in modern urban planning and to test in practice the possibilities of industrialized building. Its innovation consisted of combining engineering solutions with the newly possible computer-based methods for statics calculations, aiming towards fitting built structures of various functions into vacant urban lots with the aim of gradually increasing the density of the existing space. Nonetheless, on closer inspection of the technical details, the systemic approach and the fundamental objectives, the Metastadt approach appears to be well thought through and ambitious. The composition of personnel within the development and consulting teams, the participating professional companies, all of which were market leaders in their respective fields, as well as the participation of one of the largest producers of prefabricated housing in development, production, and marketing leave no doubt as to the seriousness of the endeavor. Even the idea for the design reveals that the architects of this ambitious idea struggled not only to achieve innovative construction methods but equally towards high-quality design. Nonetheless, to this day the vision has been so largely forgotten that the most recent demolition of the Metastadt trial building in Lauenstein near Hannover passed without any comments by the professional community. IDEA AND REALIZATION The Metastadt building system marks the culmination and the final point of the architectural utopias of the 1950s and 60s. Stimulated by increasing industrialization, radical technical innovation, and an explosive growth in world population, architects, artists, planners and civil engineers began to develop new modern urban utopias that achieved a hitherto unknown degree of radical innovation in established living and working conditions. In the process, the planners did not aim for a clear gain in space alone as an answer to the problem of expansion opportunities with growth potential. Against the background of rapidly progressing changes in demand and life style within society, the aim was instead to achieve flexibility in urban planning and architectural solutions….

The Spa Chapel in Vyhne an Early Work of Ladislav Hudec

The forested surroundings of the tiny spa town of Vyhne hide among themselves a small, almost unassuming chapel, constructed shortly before the outbreak of World War One and its ensuing seismic changes in the fates of so many individuals, nations and political entities. The chapel was the first completed architectural work of its designer, the architect Ladislav Hudec (1883 – 1958), a native of Banská Bystrica, whose own life was shifted onto a quite unusual course by the outbreak of war. As a result of the hostilities, he ended up as one of the key figures of Chinese architecture, settling in Shanghai where he achieved a position as one of the era’s most sought-after architects. Hudec’s initial work, in the form of the chapel in Vyhne, is already indicative of the skills of the youthful architect who was later to reach full development far from his native land. Here, we can see his ability to work with references to the history and symbolic context of architectonic forms, even as the most immediate point of reaction were the early modernist tendencies then current in late-Hapsburg Austro-Hungary. One of the very oldest mineral baths in Slovakia, the Vyhne spa was the property of the town of Banská Štiavnica from as early as 1564; the town also held ecclesiastical patronage over the town’s main church as well as the spa chapel. In 1734, the Banská Štiavnica town hall commissioned the construction of a chapel consecrated to St. John of Nepomuk, though this structure was demolished in May of 1896 as part of the expansion of the baths themselves. A special fund was created for the construction of a new chapel, to which end a series of social fund-raisers, particularly charitable public concerts, was organised. Nonetheless, the collection of finances for the chapel proceeded very slowly. While still a student at the Technical University in Budapest, Ladislav Hudec prepared a design for the chapel in 1913. This design was accepted for construction by the town hall in Banská Štiavnica, under the administration of chief alderman Kálmán Horváth, and realised in the autumn of the same year by the construction firm of the architect’s father, Hugyecz & Rosenauer, for the cost of 8,000 Austro-Hungarian crowns….

The Mythology of the Concept of Design Synopsis

  • The text is a reaction to the excessively broad conception of the topic encapsulated in the slogan “everything is design and design is everything” in the degree program 2.2.6 Design at the Faculty of Architecture of the Slovak University of Technology. At the present moment, the idea of “dizajn” has come rushing down through our vocabulary here in Slovakia with the force of an avalanche. Originally, it made its appearance through the assumption of the word’s original English form, design, most often preceded with the word “industrial” (priemyselný). Within the former federal Czechoslovakia, the idea received institutional backing in such designations as IPD – “Institut průmyslového designu” [Industrial Design Institute], the journal Průmyslový design [Industrial Design] and the like. Indicating its domestication within the Slovak language is the later transcription according to Slovak phonetic rules into the current “dizajn”, used as a masculine substantive, with the adjective expanded as “dizajnérsky”. Nonetheless, while English expands the grammatical range further into the realm of the verb “to design”, we in Slovakia still “tvarujeme, navrhujeme, tvoríme” [i.e. form, propose, create]. Equally noteworthy is the development of design as a concept, its semantic fixation being described in the Slovak setting through the works and studies of a variety of authors (Ľudovít Petránsky, Zdeno Kolesár, Bohdan Malanjuk et al.) In this original use, the idea of design implied the creation of elements intended for industrial mass production.From the outset, neither the meaning nor the word posed too many problems. As of December 1986, Ministry of education of the Slovak socialist republic began the systematic implementation of university programs in industrial design through establishing working groups: creation of individual custom-made structural elements was assigned to architecture, while the creation of elements intended for mass production in set quantities was viewed as “design”. During this period, the conceptual model followed was the German practice termed “industrielle Formgebung”….

What is Specific in the Research of Architecture?

Very few of the results of academic architectural research are actually used in practice. Architecture research is therefore a regular topic discussed at architecture schools in generational waves. In connection with the contemporary change from the consumer society to a knowledge-based and sustainable society the very basic questions about the aim of of research in the field of architecture are reopened. What is specific in the research of architecture? How do value systems inflence the design proces and its research? What is the relation between the verbal and visual approach to architecture research and its communication? How can research conducted in practice enrich research conducted at universities? These are some of the questions, which I have tried to open up in my text. I look at these issues from the position of a practicing architect, who also deals with the theoretical reflection of contemporary architecture.

The Path of Experiment. Experimental Apartment Construction During the 1960s and SIAL

Massive apartment construction in the form of prefabricated tower blocks was never a major part of the interests of architects in the studio SIAL (Sdružení inženýrů a architektů Liberce – Alliance of Engineers and Architects in Liberec). Indeed, quite the opposite: under the leadership of Karel Hubáček, these architects founded their independent atelier in the summer of 1968 in order (among other reasons) to avoid the snare of officially dictated standardised residential construction. Still, many architects who later joined SIAL did work on designs for apartment projects before the studio’s creation while employees of the Liberec state design studio Stavoprojekt, where apartment construction in fact was the main design task. The present text intends to recall primarily the experimental projects of two authors later associated with SIAL – the apartment complexes of the relatively unknown and prematurely deceased architect Jaromír Vacek (1925 – 1968), a member of Hubáček’s working group S12, and the experimental residential complex in Teplice, formulated by the group of younger architects headed by Miroslav Masák (b. 1932) from what was then Ateliér 9 of Stavoprojekt Liberec. During the 1960s, apartment construction in Czechoslovakia had made considerable progress away from the concepts of Socialist Realist architecture of the previous decade. The first signs of change could be noticed as early as 1954 in the USSR, when the First Secretary of the CCCP, Nikita Khrushchev, in a famous speech at the conference of Soviet construction engineers unequivocally rejected the architecture of Socialist Realism with its excessive “ornamentation” and “gigantic superfluities”. As the priority for further development, Khrushchev stressed methods of industrialised construction, allowing for a high level of standardised and mass-produced building, especially for mass residential construction. For this purpose, he directly ordered the implementation and expansion of assembled reinforced-concrete construction. In Czechoslovakia, a growing interest in the newly “discovered” technology of prefabricated concrete panels was expressed towards the end of the 1950s among architects from a variety of state design institutes….

Protection of Post-War Architectural Heritage in the Czech Republic

  • The first modernist buildings in the Czech Republic received landmark status as early as the 1960s. Theoretical arguments in favour of protection of such relatively recent structures were first formulated in the volume Ochrana památek moderní architektury [Protection of Landmarks of Modern Architecture] published in 1970 by the Brno art historians Václav Richter and Zdeněk Kudělka. It was their view that architectural monuments should not be regarded merely as historical documents, but as artworks in their own right. For such buildings as official Communist ideology could not regard as illustrating social progress – for example, “capitalist” private villas – this stress that Richter and Kudělka placed on artistic aspects helped protect them against ideology-based destruction or iconoclasm. Kudělka moreover believed that architects in the 20th century still addressed the same aesthetic problems as the architects of the past, such as the question of the relationship between architectonic space and mass. This faith allowed him to overlook the differing historical circumstances of an architectural monument’s origin and expand the chronological boundary of when to start protecting landmarks up to the very present. Richter’s and Kudělka arguments were made in favour of the monuments of Functionalism, thus largely confined to buildings more or less constructed before 1939. In the succeeding decades – even after the fall of Communist rule in 1989 – this boundary has not significantly changed. In Prague today, only about 12 postwar buildings have landmark protection, and the situation is hardly better in other Czech localities. As a result, many important architectural works from the 1950s up to the 1980s have been demolished outright or damaged through insensitive rebuilding. One particularly tragic episode is the destruction of the shopping centre Ještěd in Liberec (1968 – 1979), the work of architects Karel Hubáček and Miroslav Masák. Yet not even important buildings from the interwar period are altogether safe, as can be seen in the case of the Prague commercial building for Albert Habich (1927 – 1928) by architect Josef Havlíček….

Interwar Rental Garages in the Czech Lands

The automobile changed the world. A banal statement, but one essentially indisputable. It changed how we understand time, space, personal liberty; accelerated globalisation and the industrial revolution – and it deeply influenced the conception of modern architecture. Not only was it a question of revising the building process the structure of urban settlement, or even direct aesthetic inspiration from the automobile. The private car also stimulated the creation of new typological forms – extensive anufacturing complexes, coachbuilding workshops, service stations, showrooms, motor rests, filling stations etc. One significant cultural phenomenon that not only spoke of the ambitions of the age and society, but equally of a nascent “automotive culture” became, indisputably, the garage, in all of the extremely widespread typological range from individual parkingboxes or mere supplements to another building’s function (family houses and apartment blocks, public buildings etc.) through highly ambitious hybrid constructions and facilities for automotive fleets up to the exceptionally sophisticated public rental garage – the last-named type being the primary focus of the present text. The functional organisation and spatial structure of the public garage of the interwar years were somewhat different than their analogical counterparts today. Though both types of buildings are based on similar given principles grounded in the largely unchanged logic of automotive transport, turning radius, car sizes, user needs, the automobile of the 1920s and 1930s was more sensitive to exterior influences, a fact naturally reflected in the form of the garages, built as more enclosed spaces with a carefully regulated interior environment. Public rental garages were situated with an eye to their accessibility by road, and the certainty of a demand for their services. The typical locality was represented by a rapidly growing neighbourhood between the city centre and its outer suburbs. Seeking a balance between parking capacity and the functionally preferable lower number of floors led to a preference for larger and also cheaper tracts of land. In other respects, though the buildings were conceived with relatively low requirements. Ideal situations could be found especially in the less desirable areas inside city blocks, in the basements of higher buildings, or in unusual peripheral areas….

Conservation of the North Facade of the Upper Castle in Český Krumlov

In parallel with the completion of work on the main southern facade of the Krumlov castle, it became necessary in 2004 to focus attention on the preparation of the highly demanding general conservation of the reverse side of the Upper Castle (Horní hrad), its northern facades. Contrasting to the southern, more firmly massed southern side of the Upper Castle, the northern side manifests a highly evident differentiation of outline as well as height. This result is given by the gradual enlargement of the volume of the building over time, and its penetration outside of the boundaries of the original castle. When viewed from the east, northeast or north, this effect strengthens the plasticity of the architecture and the dramatic tension of the visual image of the entire castle complex. The remarkable assemblage of massive volumes on the northern side of the Upper Castle has until now been insufficiently valued in terms of its artistic qualities and its aesthetic impact, and quite unjustly so throughout the 20th century. As a result, we are faced with severe decay in certain parts, and the exceptionally repugnant appearance of large sections of the exterior of the New Palace, brutally covered during the 1970s with sprayed grey-blue cement stucco. Nonetheless, much of the reason for ignoring the facade was its having been hidden, almost from “time immemorial”, by a practically impenetrable wall of thick vegetation of well-grown trees – up until precisely the date of May 15, 2002. On this day, within only a short time, the greater part of this vegetation was entirely destroyed by a whirlwind, and thus revealed these previously forgotten yet surprising views, as well as angles of viewing this central landmark of Český Krumlov from near and far. During preparation of the conservation work, a major role was held by the experience acquired during the conservation of the western and southern facades of the Upper Castle, since the extensive and highly articulated northern facade displayed (in comparison with the southern one) not only analogous themes but many quite essential differences, and implied much higher demands on the part of structural and conservation work…..

Contributions to the Architectural Heritage of Slovak Lutherans in Historic Hungary – the Tradition of Baroque Centrality

Slovaks and Hungarians have lived together for over a thousand years in Central Europe. Because of the shared course of their history, the two nations were assimilated to each other in several interrelations, as be recognized in aspects of the language, the lifestyle and even of the architectural heritage. At the same time this study points to the phenomenon that the smaller, scattered Slovak communities isolated from the contiguous Slovak-language area in Hungarian territory preserved their separateness not only in language and culture but also in architecture, which additionally manifests their ties to the nation living to the north. Among the Lutheran churches of Hungary, there is a special category of heritage: buildings of central disposition on a floor plan resembling a Greek cross or a modification of the shape. Demographic research has revealed that all of them were built in vicinities with a Slovak-speaking community – or at least a Slovak minority – in the historical background. This issue is of scholarly interest and worth discussing not only for its ethnic aspects, but more significantly because works dealing with the Protestant church architecture of historic Hungary that do take Slovak territory into consideration rarely mention and analyse the centrally planned Lutheran examples, yet on the other hand, the great synopses of European Protestant church architecture hardly ever discuss Hungary, Slovakia and the Central European region. Another aspect of the subject’s relevance is the continuity of the spatial typology, which can be recognized from the Baroque period up to the 19th century or the beginning of the 20th century. The present study is the completion of a comprehensive research project which highlights different aspects of the presence of the building-type in this Central European area….

Conservation of Architecture in the Country of Alvar Aalto

In the heritage theory and practice a certain considerate and rational approach to renovation is recently more present, the one focused not only to materiality but also to immaterial values. The intense one month-long „colloquia of preservationists“ of modern architecture in Finland, MARC2011 (Fourth International Course on the Conservation of Modern Architecture) was in many aspects aimed at analysis of those qualities, which in a sense overgrow the frame of heritage (monuments) preservation and deal with the preservation of Urban environment as such. The field research of selected case studies of the Olympic Stadium in Helsinki and Administrative.

Architectural Development of the Climatic Spa in Ľubochňa

Close study of historic plans have helped us to identify the authors of the architecture in Ľubochňa, a key factor in creating the specific atmosphere of this mountain spa up today. Under Hapsburg rule, wealthy Hungarian, Austrian and Jewish officer or commercial families entrusted architects of high professional standing and frequently from Budapest with designing their summer residences in this attractive natural locality. Consequently, the wide architectural variety of Ľubochňa is the result of the joint activity of several master-builders. Likewise, the stylistic range ensues from the plurality of architectural styles of the later Hapsburg era, represented by the pseudohistorical styles, romantic effects, the emergence of secessionism, later followed by functionalism, yet above all, the generally expanded Alpine style of typical half-timbered spa architecture. The unusually wellpreserved complex of Ľubochňa, as an integrated collection of objects erected over a relatively brief time for the purpose of spa recreation, is an exemplary illustration of the development of spa architecture in Slovakia. It is a rare instance of the mutual interaction of valuable architecture, sophisticated urban planning, and a significant presence of nature, represented by the omnipresent parks. The rapid development of this spa at the end of the 19th century, accompanied by the construction of new buildings, was stimulated by the high popularity of relaxation activities in mountain aircure spas of the era. Similarly to the other localities selected at this time, Ľubochňa with its mild climate and favourable position by the river Váh at the edge of the Veľká Fatra range, offered the ideal conditions for a prosperous spa resort. Ľubochňa was founded by the Hungarian Royal Ministry of Agriculture, with the aim of enticing tourists who were accustomed to staying at the Alpine centers to spend their holidays domestically. As a result, they made appropriate steps to establish good balance among the accommodation facilities of various types – hotels, smaller pensions of a villa character and individual villas. Initially small, the recreational locality has extended and gradually achieved a more modern character…..

Architecture: The Decades of the 1990s and the 2000s

The goal of the present study is the depiction, description and critical evaluation of developmental tendencies in the evolution of architecture in the previous two decades. Taking as its starting point the characterisation of the era as one of exceptionally late modernity, it stresses primarily the increased speed in technical development and the reflection of this phenomenon in culture and architecture – in which the authors take up the conclusions of the Czech architect, historian and architectural theorist Dalibor Veselý, primarily active in Britain. (Architecture in the Age of Divided Representation – the only such text linking approaches from architectural theory to those in philosophy, yet nonetheless a demanding, even hermetic text), or Georg Franck and Dorothea Franck (Architektonische Qualität. München, Editition Akzente, Hanser Verlag 2008), where the category of architectural quality is remarkably clarified, as well as the highly conceptual (yet accessible for the practicing architect) work of the Russian theorist I. A. Dobritsyna (Ot postmodernizma-k nelinějnoj architěkture: Architěktura v kontěkste sovremennoj filosofii i nauki. Moskva, Progress-Tradicija 2004) and other works. Viewed in a historical perspective: architecture was always an autonomous discipline, in which there persisted a balance between technology and culture: architecture never succumbed to the status of an offshoot of modern technology but preserved within itself what, in each culture, belonged to place and tradition. In culture, we have our existential connection to the “natural world”, culture thus balanced the pressure of the technical domination of the world through the ‘unifying role’ of architecture. The architect of the late Modern era, however, can no longer rely upon culture to balance the technical aspect with the absolute security that he or she had previously, for culture, to the late-Modern era, is no less suffused with the mindset of calculation…..

Liberec Lower Town Centre by SIAL

Three Approaches to Designing Town Centres

Conceptualisation and planning of town centres was and still is a very challenging discipline. The theme achieved particular urgency after the Second World War caused severe damage or even total destruction of many towns and cities. During this era two approaches to town cores appeared which more or less reflected the political powers in Europe. The western architects adhered to the principles known as contextualism or structuralism while their eastern colleagues had to follow the practice of socialist realism. One main difference between these approaches lies in the handling of the historic urban fabric. In general the western architects were not afraid to use modern architecture in the historical towns. Their aim was either to set the modern building into the historical tissue and respect the old ”neighbours“ (contextualism) or to derive inspiration from the historical tissue and re-model it in a modern way (structuralism). The methods of eastern architects were radically different, being forced to perform accurate reconstructions of the destroyed centres. A very good example in this sense is the post-war recreation of the Warsaw city centre. This article deals with three different approaches taken by the Czech design studio SIAL (Sdružení inženýrů a architektů Liberec/Association of engineers and architects in Liberec) to the lower town centre of Liberec. Differentiated according to generation as much as orientation, these projects can be summarised as follows: the first project reflects the popular Scandinavian concepts of the cities in greenery, while the second is quite close to western structuralism and the third could be compared with the British studio Archigram´s designs. The first project was elaborated by Karel Hubáček and Jiří Svoboda in the years 1959 – 1961….

Budapest Urban Blocks and their Sustainability

INTRODUCTION One of the most significant current discussions in urban design is the redesigning and restructuring of urban places to achieve sustainability. There is a large volume of published studies describing specific criteria – that a sustainable city should be compact, dense, diverse and highly integrated (The Sustainable, 2004). In addition, design concepts of sustainable urban form highlight the importance of sustainable transport, mixed land uses, passive solar design and greening, too. This paper approaches this complex question by analyzing Budapest’s traditional urban blocks and their contemporary changes, focusing on the two aforementioned dominant aspects of sustainability in the historic city center: compactness and diversity. Budapest was founded in 1873, through the unification of three historic towns: Buda, Pest and Óbuda. The Hungarian capital became the biggest city on the Danube, the most important industrial, commercial and cultural centre of the region and the gateway of Western Europe to the East. The majority of the housing stock at the city’s core, about 400 blocks, dates back to the late 19th and early 20th century. Generally, they are 3- to 7-storey buildings around inner courtyards, giving rise to the traditional closed urban form. The historic centre was also a construction site for prestigious political buildings (the Parliament) and cultural institutions (museums, opera house and theatres). They stand out as objects, landmarks in the homogeneous urban tissue. At the same time, the former industrial areas expanded between the inner city and the administratively independent suburbs, even occupying the riverbanks. The use of space in this transitional zone was mixed, which resulted in a varied urban fabric. The city’s present form, greater Budapest, was born in 1950, through the addition of 16 townships and villages situated along the outer belt. Following these periods of spectacular development, the quantitative housing construction programmes in the 1960’s and 1970’s took the form of huge housing blocks built on the city’s outskirts….

Rivacy and Depth Configurations. Proximity

Permeability and Territorial Boundaries in Urban Projects

The need for privacy drives territorial mechanisms in space: multiple agents operate at different scales to provide a variety of models of depth in contemporary landscapes: distinctions between public and private spaces are far more complex than individual physical barriers in urban space. This paper pronounces a theoretical and conceptual discourse about the organisation and depth of collective spaces, tested by a rereading of historical and contemporary urban projects. Theories and models of proximity, permeability and territorial boundaries are linked with the idea of depth configurations in architecture, together with their spatial, social, cultural and environmental conditions. Privacy is one of the main issues in this discourse, as privacy depends on the level of collectiveness within a depth configuration, beyond the level of explicitness of defined territorial boundaries. DEPTH The relation between private and public spaces is defined by sequences with different lengths, different intensities and various ways of being read. According to N. J. Habraken, the built environment is defined by a territorial organization and is founded on the principle of inclusion within other territories. The author presents a diagram to relate this very principle of inclusion to transitions between private and public spaces: imagining different ways to access those theoretical territories, N. J. Habraken defines the concept of “territorial depth”. “Territorial depth is measured by the number of boundary crossings (…) needed to move from the outer space to the innermost territory”. As a result, territorial depth increases when collective spaces (like shared vestibules, common gardens, etc.) are introduced within the multiple sequences. However, territorial depth is not a static parameter: within a certain time framework, after the intervention of various urban agents, depth can increase or decrease in time, according to the specific characteristics and dynamics of the built environment. N. J. Habraken relates the possible increase in territorial depth to changing density…..

Public Space as an Architectural and Social Problem

The goal of the present study is the depiction, description and critical evaluation of developmental tendencies in the evolution of architecture in the previous two decades. Taking as its starting point the characterisation of the era as one of exceptionally late modernity, it stresses primarily the increased speed in technical development and the reflection of this phenomenon in culture and architecture – in which the authors take up the conclusions of the Czech architect, historian and architectural theorist Dalibor Veselý, primarily active in Britain. (Architecture in the Age of Divided Representation – the only such text linking approaches from architectural theory to those in philosophy, yet nonetheless a demanding, even hermetic text), or Georg Franck and Dorothea Franck (Architektonische Qualität. München, Editition Akzente, Hanser Verlag 2008), where the category of architectural quality is remarkably clarified, as well as the highly conceptual (yet accessible for the practicing architect) work of the Russian theorist I. A. Dobritsyna (Ot postmodernizma-k nelinějnoj architěkture: Architěktura v kontěkste sovremennoj filosofii i nauki. Moskva, Progress-Tradicija 2004) and other works. Viewed in a historical perspective: architecture was always an autonomous discipline, in which there persisted a balance between technology and culture: architecture never succumbed to the status of an offshoot of modern technology but preserved within itself what, in each culture, belonged to place and tradition. In culture, we have our existential connection to the “natural world”, culture thus balanced the pressure of the technical domination of the world through the ‘unifying role’ of architecture. The architect of the late Modern era, however, can no longer rely upon culture to balance the technical aspect with the absolute security that he or she had previously, for culture, to the late-Modern era, is no less suffused with the mindset of calculation….

Design Argument

The present text is a continual reaction to the increasingly free understanding of the idea of “design” and its justification. Design and its reflections are faced with a wide range of methodological problems, ensuing from the essential character of the subject of discussion, which is not helped in the least by linguistic codification. The English phrase “design” entered into Slovakia through the subsequent transcription in the phonetic adaptation of “dizajn”, yet here none of the associated meanings to the concept allow for a better identification either of its contents or of its principles and applications to the situation in the area of culture, science or art. Investigation of the problem of the emergence of the original concept of design, the formulation of its intriguing history and the spectrum of inspirational meanings will allow us to find a possible level of interpretation and an argumentative key to its current problematic status. Investigation of the forms and contents given to the word “design” is, in turn, an essential reason behind the decision to leave it in its English spelling, indicated here by italics. At present, the idea of design finds itself in a position of characterising the phenomenon for the 21st century (Wolfgang Welsch), yet at the same time in the role of obscuring the basic idea. As it now stands, the theme continues to provoke argument: is design really what designers or architects create (design?) or is it what they use for working (for designing?). On one side, the functionalist-oriented critique of design argues against the idea of redesign, where the problem is what level of originality design may literally allow itself when it largely is restricted to the new “clothing” of previously invented functional objects (Jean Baudrillard). In other words, here primacy is assigned to the designing activity over the reality of the product. Yet, considering how much of today’s material reality is made real precisely through the means of information, it has become necessary to link the real to the apparent, and to count on the two concepts intersecting. On the other side of the discussion, the question has emerged as to where, and into what professions, the activity of the designer can reach that encompasses the subject of “product-design” or the “design-object”….

The Celebration and Protection of Scotland’s Twentieth Century Heritage

In 1707, the year in which the Act of Union between the Scottish and English crowns formally constituted the kingdom of Great Britain, the population of Scotland stood at around one million, a sixth of the whole. By then, driven initially by the post-Reformation Calvinist church, Scotland’s renowned education system was already established. Allied to Scots’ innate sense of democracy, initiative and self-discipline, it inspired a wellspring of intellectual inquiry and creativity that positioned Scotland as a major contributor to the Age of Enlightenment and the notion of modernity. In 1723, a commentator wrote that ‘The Scots have made a greater Figure Abroad than any other Nation in Europe’ and attributed this as ‘entirely owing to the Fineness of their Education’. In 1750, an English visitor remarked: ‘Here I stand at what is called the Cross of Edinburgh, and can, in a few minutes, take fifty men of genius by the hand’. And in the mid-1940s, Winston Churchill – whose parliamentary career included the years 1908 – 1922 as member of parliament for Dundee – averred that: ‘No nation of its size since Ancient Greece has made a comparable impact upon the world’. Notable Scots from the eighteenth century onwards, in diverse fields, include: the philosopher David Hume; the political economist Adam Smith (author of The Wealth of Nations); the inventors James Watt (steam engine) and Alexander Graham Bell (telephone); the factory owner David Dale (founder, together with his social-reformist son-in-law Robert Owen, of New Lanark); the civil engineer Thomas Telford (canals, roads and bridges); the poet and lyricist Robert Burns; the novelists Walter Scott and Arthur Conan Doyle; the explorers Mungo Park and David Livingstone (both in Africa); the naturalist Charles Darwin (author of On the Origin of Species); the medical pioneers Alexander Fleming (penicillin) and Joseph Lister (antiseptic surgery); the physicists Lord Kelvin (electricity and thermodynamics) and James Clerk Maxwell (electromagnetic theory); and the industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. Robert Louis Stevenson (1850 – 1894), travel writer as well as novelist, became the most famous member of a dynasty of pioneering engineers who, from the 1780s onwards, effectively monopolised the design and construction of lighthouses around the hazardous coastline of Scotland….

Notes on Certain Personalities of Bratislava Architecture Around 1900, Franz Wimmer, Jenő Schiller, Gyula Schmidt, Jenő Soós

Bratislava, like other regional centres of the former Hungarian Kingdom, experienced extensive construction development at the end of the 19th century. As a result of its historical traditions, the town had a special status within the country. While the question remains open for future cultural and historical research as to whether efforts to build the ”western bastion” of the Hungarian Kingdom had a rogrammatic character, the crucial question here, in terms of the subject of our study, is how the given period inscribed itself on the architectural image of the town. In addition to the surviving examples of historicism and eclecticism, the “fin-de-siecle” period is also represented by works of early modernism, if mainly in terms of exterior experience, drawing inspiration from beyond the local context. Thanks to the openness of the local builders, Bratislava’s transferred their experiences from abroad to three-dimensional forms of highly rated objects, enriching the local, more conservative milieu with current and forward-looking moments. The content of the study focuses on the works of four architects created in the period before the outbreak of World War II. The text is based on the results of examination of historical sources: archival documents, periodicals and graphical materials. On this basis we tried to cast more light on the previously little-known activities of Franz Wimmer (1885 – 1953), Jenő (Eugene) Schiller (1878 – 1944?), Gyula (Július) Schmidt (1879 – 1915) and Jenő Soós (1853 – 1913). It must be admitted that the quantity, condition and especially the availability of documents does not allow for making more definite conclusions at the moment. However, the present text presents the total of the identified information, along with an indication of the future course of research, towards the end of extending our knowledge about Bratislava’s architecture around 1900. After years of neglect, the post-war work of Franz Wimmer created in cooperation with Andrej Szőnyi has become the subject of adequate professional attention. On the other hand, earlier reports on the architect´s work are reduced to stating solely his authorship of the Calvinist Church in Bratislava and the regulation of the square in front of the south facade of St. Martin´s Church….

Brno’s Villa Tugendhat: Eight Decades

In March of 2012, after two years of restoration, the renowned Villa Tugendhat was opened once again to visitors. After over eight decades, it is now possible to see the house in the condition that it enjoyed shortly after its construction in 1930. Thanks to recent research findings regarding the wider context of its urban situation, architecture and equally cultural-historical significance, it would appear that the “living space” of Villa Tugendhat had been brought back to life. Its realisation has, essentially, formed the symbolic conclusion to that trajectory in this historically significant locality on the hill above the park of Lužánky, where the members of the Löw-Beer family (the lineage of Greta) and the Tugendhat family itself owned and inhabited a number of houses and flats. Brno achieved particular renown for its architecture from the Functionalist era between the two world wars. However, its emergence as a modern city began a full century earlier, and over time acquired a specific appearance similar to the nearby metropolis of Vienna. In addition to the construction of a circular avenue analogous to the Vienna Ringstrasse, there emerged new industrial suburbs and residential districts. One new phenomenon among the more prosperous social strata was the appearance of villa colonies. The first of these was created in 1860 in the suburb of Černá pole on the slope above Lužánky park. Up to 1863, four villas were built here designed and realised by the Brno contractor Josef Arnold, perhaps based on the ideas of Heinrich von Ferstel, one of the main architects behind the Ringstrasse. At the start of the 20th century, these were supplemented by the construction of apartment villas and residential blocks, and the newly plotted street of ul. Schodová. Before World War I, and then up until the end of the 1930s, Černá Pole became, thanks to individual as well as cooperative housing construction, one of the most desirable of Brno’s residential districts. The situation of the still undeveloped land on the hillside above Lužánky is highly evident on maps of Brno dating from 1858 and 1860. Yet on the map from 1868, we see the first four villas, with the names of their owners indicated….

Modern Tradition and Liturgy

Modern Tradition and Liturgy The Ways of Modernism in Hungarian Church Architecture in 20th Century

Hungarian church architecture of the 20th century accurately reflects the European historical and artistic development processes of the given period. Though this century was typified by its enriching of the region by presenting the values of individuality, at several points it is still possible to observe the continuity of forms, structures or the craft itself related to foreign connections can be observed at several points. The architectural consensus of buildings designed by architects working in parallel cannot always be derived from the activity of any architectural school. However, it can be noted in general that the spirit of the modern age demanded everywhere the overcoming of the ideals of historism bound by formalities with the help of the liberating facilities of technology, and by presenting their philosophical, aesthetical and economical values. Nevertheless, the intrinsic contradictions of the Modern Movement, which had defined itself only in an unsatisfactory way regarding the matter of tectonics, historic and space context and architectural immanence, were manifested in an apparent break in sacral architecture rooted in liturgical traditions. Though in the third quarter of the century we can find examples of even some industrial-constructivist interpretations of sacral buildings, from the point of view of new social demands and technology the Church’s changed role can be defined only temporarily or incompletely. We also have to take into consideration the iconological hiatus that arose from the modernist repudiation of the spatial and textual symbolic order that had previously existed in historism, in the church architecture of Art Nouveau or in the Hungarian national movement at the turn of the century. The iconological patterns were dissolved in the expressive form, in the avant-garde reduction of liturgical arts and in the space-topography; while the liturgical spaces cleansed of narratives and allegories emphasized the independence of holiness from space and time as well as its direct and universal aspect….

Three Tenses: Mass-Housing in Contemporary Art

Art Looks at Mass-housing Mass-housing has become an oft-employed motif in the art of the last decades: photographs, videos, installations, movies, and literature have all made a significant place for the urbanity represented by large prefabricated housing blocks. Revealed or transfigured through the artistic gaze, mass-housing conveys a series of questions about politics, society and, ultimately, about life itself. It might seem surprising that an architecture which was decried for different reasons – the scarcity of its aesthetics and of its materials, its monotony both in terms of facades and of public space, its lack of privacy, etc. – has been turned into an artistic motif. One might think that looking at mass-housing came with the particular interest that artists manifested for modernist architecture. What artists were seeking here was not the formal attraction – the ‘nostalgia for its innocent purity of language’, as one argument of an exhibition on modernism put it – but the understanding of its principles. Gazing into this mechanics is fascinating, because more than an expression of (modernist) architecture, Mass-housing is a symptom of modernity itself. The interest for neighborhoods of towers and slabs of concrete developed in the same time with a sensibility for the ordinariness, paralleled by a strong concern for the political and the social. Lefebvre or Baudrillard (and later de Certeau), on the one hand, or Dan Graham, Robert Smithson or Gordon Matta-Clark, on the other, were inspirational for many of those working with the subject of mass-housing today. With the fall of the Berlin Wall, the thousands of districts of mass-housing naturally became the focus of attention both as an emblem of life under socialism and an embodiment of ordinariness. Given the scale, and for some, the rhetorics of the language, their anonymous monumentality was closer to Matta-Clark’s‘nonumentality’, the term he forged for describing ‘commonplaces’. Parallel to this interest in the ordinary (and also as a consequence of it), the artistic motif underwent a certain ‘democratization’. In Cyprien Gaillard’s Geographical analogies (2006 – 2009), there is no hierarchy among the images composing the invariable lozenges, where housing estates rub shoulders with ‘noble’ motifs (historical edifices, funeral monuments, sculptures, landscapes); meanwhile in the series Belief in the Age of Disbelief (2005), towers and slabs enjoy lush, picturesque seventeenth century-like landscapes. Through this democratization of the subject, contemporary art enacts a reassessment of both history and modernity as projects….

Czech Paneláks are Disappearing, but the Housing Estates Remain

A common lament about the legacy of communism in Europe is the damage that it did to the built environment. Particular ire is directed at the concrete prefabricated housing blocks, known in Czech and Slovak as paneláks (structural panel buildings), groups of which were arranged in housing estates (sídliště in Czech and sídlisko in Slovak) to create the region’s characteristic postwar districts. Paneláks were not only signs of the increased production of new housing, but also indicated the acceleration of urbanization in the region as residents moved from rural areas to towns and cities for work. According to United Nations statistics, 75 percent of the Czech population lived in urban areas by 1980, compared to only 54 percent in 1950. These new residents were the first inhabitants of the panelák housing estates, and many of them and their families remain there today. Scholars and the general public have long assumed that the Soviets were behind the spread of these buildings, but the technology and its logic had local origins as well. Some of the hallmarks of socialist-era architecture, such as prefabrication and mass production, predate state socialism by decades, especially in Czechoslovakia, where the interwar building industry was one of the most advanced in Europe. The specific panelák technology used in Czechoslovakia had direct ties to capitalistera experimentation in the Building Department at the Baťa Shoe Company in Zlín. Although Stavoprojekt, a state-run system of architecture and engineering offices, replaced private practice in the late 1940s and changed the profession profoundly, the vast housing estates in many Czech and Slovak cities are, in fact, the fulfillment of an interwar vision of modernity that emphasized the right to housing at a minimum standard over the artistic qualities of individual buildings; in other words, function and efficiency over style. Thus, after World War II,far from being pressured by Moscow to build standardized apartment blocks, many architects in Czechoslovakia, still inspired by the program of the interwar avant-garde, embraced the opportunity to build housing on a scale and at a pace previously unattainable. By the mid-1960s, paneláks were the norm and they remained the dominant new housing type until 1990….

Cumbernauld New Town: Reception & Heritage Legacy

Cumbernauld New Town, widely regarded as the most ambitious of the second generation of planned New Towns in the UK, was designated in 1955 with an initial target population of 50,000, was begun in 1957, and was largely built during the 1960s and ‘70s. Yet despite being internationally acclaimed – receiving the prestigious American Institute of Architects R S Reynolds Award for Community Architecture in 1967 – by the early 1990s Cumbernauld had acquired a notorious reputation as one of Britain’s most reviled products of post-war architecture and planning, and duly became the target for media-generated ‘worst town’ awards and game-show-format architectural competitions, such as Channel 4’s Demolition programme in 2005. Overall, the town’s fabric had been much-neglected since the winding up of the governing Cumbernauld Development Corporation (CDC) in 1993, and rampant neglect of the housing had overtaken it. Despite renewed academic and preservation interest in the 1990s, the phased demolition of the Town Centre began in 1999. In 2003, Cumbernauld, with no significant targeted heritage protection, was placed in the ‘top-twenty’ of endangered twentieth century UK modern heritage by international conservation-body ICOMOS. More recently, proposed demolitions pose a severe threat to the design unity of the original New Town: in particular the imminent demolition of all twelve of the ‘landmark’ tower blocks situated on the north-west side of the town, which are arguably essential to its unique hilltop town genius loci. This paper briefly charts the ‘reception’ of the town, tracing how it was critically received after its design and construction, and how that architectural-planning response shifted in the decades following the 1960s. The second focus of this paper will be the broader ‘popular reception’ of the town from its early use and habitation, up to the present day. Although recent academic research has established a very good understanding of the context and design history of the original Cumbernauld New Town from designation to revised plan of 1959, including strategy shifts into the early 1960s, knowledge of its detailed development, use, and reception is stilllimited. Yet some attempt at understanding the complex reception of the town must be made if the recent supposedly ‘popular’ condemnations are to be contested. Finally, we will briefly consider the specific preservation dilemmas confronting Cumbernauld. As an overall planning concept, this first ‘Mark II’ new town reacted against the spaced out ‘neighbourhood unit’ of the Mark I new towns, by attempting to increase density within a more restricted site, and plan more varied close-knit urban layouts….

Architecture as a Pedagogical Object: What to preserve of the Przyczółek Grochowski Housing Estate by Oskar & Zofia Hansen in Warsaw?

In 1990 a newsreel which documented the emergence of new types of services arising after the fall of socialism in Poland showed a private company working on a security scheme for the Przyczółek Grochowski Housing Estate in Warsaw. Bending over the plan of meandering buildings, the guards tried to establish effective procedures for protecting the inhabitants from increasing petty criminality. A difficult goal indeed, complained the narrator, since the buildings “were first harmed by the architects”. Yet also the designers themselves – Oskar Hansen, architect, artist and theorist affiliated with the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw and an active member of Team 10, and his wife Zofia Garlińska-Hansen – did not hide their own disappointment with this project. Oskar stressed how much the buildings, comprising flats for 6 600 inhabitants, designed in 1963 and constructed between 1969 and 1973, differed from the original plans. More recently, Zofia pointed out mistakes of design rather than of execution, and confessed: “I think that in a practical sense, Przyczółek Grochowski is not a success, because people are not happy there.” Happiness of the inhabitants is not a modest criterion, and one that could make the architects an easy target for a critique of modernist “utopias”. When applied to Przyczółek, this commonplace is fused with a more specifically postsocialist debunking of large housing estates as symptoms of the fiasco of real existing socialism. While, as we will show in what follows, Przyczółek was by no means an example of “real existing modernism” and its position within Polish post-war urbanism and architecture is exceptional, this critique did not facilitate the acceptance of this complex as valuable architectural heritage, in spite of some recent suggestions inthe daily press. In the current political and economic climate in Europe, the housing projects of Hansen’s colleagues from the Team 10 network are often deemed too expensive for restoration, in particular since the broad public is not always convicted about their aesthetic value: some visual education is still needed to recognize the delicate details of the staircases in the Robin Hood Gardens in London by Alison and Peter Smithson, or the radiating surfaces of the Bobigny Housing by Georges Candilis, Alexis Josic, and Shadrach Woods….

The Residence as a Decisive Factor: Modern Housing in the Central Zone of new Belgrad

The article presents, documents, and analyzes the housing mega-blocks in the centre of New Belgrade (Serbia). Constructed in the socialist period, the blocks form the core of the new modern city and provide housing for some 50,000 inhabitants. In the six decades since its inception, this complex of modernist mass housing constructed on the marshy alluvial plain circumscribed by the rivers Sava and Danube, between the two independently developed historical cities of Zemun and Belgrade, evolved into an integrative modern urban structure of the Greater Belgrade metropolis. I propose that it presents a striking example, as well as support for the thesis quoted in the epigraph by Manfredo Tafuri and Francesco Dal Co regarding socialist city planning. The housing in the centre of New Belgrade acts as a decisive factor in the urban planning and expansion of metropolitan Belgrade. The blocks in question are thus more than an assemblage of mass housing: they form the core of the modern city in the heart of the metropolis, and as such they are at the centre of contemporary post-socialist transformations. The paper discusses the original six housing blocks which were constructed in the 1960s and 1970s closely following the composition and urban planning parameters set in the unifying Plan of New Belgrade’s Central Zone (1960). In all of the blocks, the residential buildings and associated social services programs, that is, community centres, schools and kindergartens, as well as playgrounds, open green and recreational spaces, were designed by prominent architects of the period on the basis of their winning entries in architectural competitions. The housing architecture demonstrates a shift in the design values from the white geometric abstraction of the early period to a new brutalism of exposed concrete and prefabaesthetic of the 1970s and, even later, the emerging postmodernist forms of late socialism. The planning, design and construction of public housing in the socialist period, with an average of 10,000 new apartments built in Belgrade each year, complemented the ideological construct of self-management….

On Large-Scale Housing in Denmark

Living and construction, a historical background for large-scale housing in Denmark Between the wars, Copenhagen was strongly affected by the urbanisation that had begun with the industrialisation of the city in the middle of the 18th century. The city consisted of overcrowded areas with a mixture of buildings for accommodation and for businesses, both in the original medieval town and in the oldest suburbs that had been built on after 1852 when the old fortifications of the city were removed. The building owners had used every available piece of land, and both main streets and side streets had houses in front, out back and to the sides. The flats were small – often less than 25 square metres – and had a kitchen with running water and drainage, but the toilet was in the shared garden. The development moving towards the First World War was more directed towards separate living and business areas, but they were still in close proximity to one another in comparison to later developments. In the 1920s, the structure of the city was redeveloped in the outlying areas with huge blocks of flats that secured light and air, but the basic structure of the city with a standard street grid was continued in the new quarters. Redevelopmentsbegan in the 1930s, but were largely halted during the German occupation of Denmark 1940 – 1945. When the country was free once more, the framework for building in the city was left open. The Second World War left Danish buildings reasonably intact, but the war years had created a large need for housing because of the lack of new buildings and a continued migration from the countryside to the cities. On top of that there was a great need for redevelopment of older buildings. In all it was estimated that in 1945 there were 50,000 – 60,000 homes too few in a country with just over four million citizens. The ruling social democratic party launched a new political agenda which put the welfare society on the agenda with inspiration from Sweden, and in 1947 a housing ministry was founded….