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20. století

EXPO 58 and Architecture in the Sixties

Climax of Czechoslovak post-war architecture and its fall
Info text

Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev's criticism of the Cult of the Personality also produced a partial liberation in the field of architectural design. Architectural new concepts resulted in interesting as well as problematic outcomes. Concerning the building of more exclusive structures, the link to prewar traditions was successfully reestablished and a unique symbiosis was created between architecture and artistic decoration. In 1958, an exhibition called EXPO 58 in Brussels became the stage for the "resurrection" of Czech architecture and the Czechoslovak Pavilion received the main prize. Then, it was brought back from Brussels to Prague. It is still here in Letná Park. In Czechoslovakia the new "Brussels Style" became one of the main symbols of the liberated sixties, it was represented by a simple architecture, modern materials, daring shapes and distinctive colours. The architecture of the sixties was characterized by self-confidence and by combining modern forms within a historical environment, which even from today's point of view might be provocative. Karel Prager was one of the most renowned architects of that time. His major work (the Macromolecular Institute at Petřiny, or the Federal Assembly building next to the National Museum) represent the peak of this period which could compare with contemporary Western designs of that time. We can also mention some other buildings, for example the captivatingly designed department store Kotva on the Republic Square built by Mr. and Mrs. Machonin from between 1971 and 1975, or the Intercontinental Hotel built between Pařížská Street and the river by Karel Filsak between 1967 and 1974 with the assistance of the best artists. These and other buildings show that after Stalin's "caesura", domestic architecture managed to reconnect with the briefly interrupted line of Czech architectural tradition surprisingly quickly and then succeeded in interconnecting with the most contemporary Western trends. The invasion of Czechoslovakia

by the Soviet Army in 1968, and the following era of the so-called "Normalization", meant a sudden end to such promising development, it also resulted in another social and artistic failure, this time even more pronounced. Only few buildings, hence more valuable now, have a decent design. These are for example the ČKD Building at Můstek and the Main Train Station by Mr. and Mrs. Šrámek, or the department store Máj by the atelier SIAL.
This chapter is about the development of the block of flats which were usually made from prefabricated concrete pannels. Aside from the more "artistic line" of the new architecture and since the late fifties, a large scale scheme started the construction of buildings that quickly developed becoming the main construction activity. These were blocks of flats that could accomodate many families and were soon to be seen in most towns modifying the skyline for many years to come. Apart from a few examples (a remarkable residential project named Invalidovna in Prague 8), those blocks were highly insensitive of the historical environment in which they were built. The worst period was possibly the 70s and its "Normalization" when they were built along crane railtracks and the architects had no say as to the outside appearance. For instance, when exiting the underground stations Roztyly and Chodov in Southern Prague, you might find it difficult to differentiate the different estates given that their layout is similar and so are the blocks. Regrettably, it is also during this era that the highest number of those blocks were built, which will become over the years a major problem for the city of Prague.
One of the lucky and unplanned contribution of the Velvet Revolution is the interruption of the renovation of the quarter Žižkov. The entire historical core was supposed to be demolished making space for those horrible blocks of flats. Some buildings were renovated but thankfully the Velvet Revolution put a stop to the main plan.


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