Not an Avant-Garde
DOI link for Not an Avant-Garde
Not an Avant-Garde book
Every major postwar transformation of the Czech architectural profession was interpreted as the next step in optimizing the field for the practice of architecture for all. Following the epic consolidation of all architects into Stavoprojekt, in 1948, and the 1954 restructuring of that enterprise into autonomous and specialized “national design institutions,” which were associated with specific ministries, both the absorption of Khrushchev’s speeches into Czech architectural discourse and the success of the Czechoslovak pavilion at the expo in Brussels were presented and understood as historically necessary; though in some cases conceived as correctives to preceding practices, the changes these events influenced did not stray from the task of constructing and interpreting Socialism. Following this evolutionary logic, in which transformations were sublated in a dialectical process of trial, error, and lesson together with historical changes and adjustments in the ideological directives, Czech architecture began its process of internal differentiation—despite the arguably unifying aesthetic of the Brussels style—in the late 1950s. The further top-down reorganization of the field involved the establishment of regional design institutes—known as Krajské projektové ústavy (KPÚ)—many of which returned to the name Stavoprojekt, often with a geographic modifier, by the end of the decade. Though it was motivated by the shifts in jurisdiction and economic reorganization, the decentralization of Stavoprojekt and, by definition, the Czech architectural profession recast the complex issue of collective authorship of architecture, including the real need to differentiate the work of institutes bidding for the same commissions. 1 The word institute when applied to the research institutes, and requested by BAPS already in 1948 in order to investigate various aspects of the building industry (housing, prefabrication, economic structure, etc.) referred 208to the scientific inquiry at the center of these organizations. 2 The state design institutes and regional design institutes distributed some of that scientific activity across the state territory and also underlined the extent to which architects everywhere were engaged both in the pursuit of knowledge and design for the benefit of all, as opposed to the market-based “office.” Organized into regional units that relied on their local connections (to politicians, and sometimes within the construction industry) for commissions and construction, the staff members of the local institutes were accountable for their work within the geographic context in which they also lived and practiced, not solely to various ministries that required their specialized expertise. Though the research institutes continued their work as part of Stavoprojekt or other administrative bodies, the regional design institutes (and later Stavoprojekt offices based on them) operated as architectural offices in a regulated market, with some of their work still arriving top-down, and others the result of regional competitions. Once the Stavoprojekt network took a looser form, with more decision-making power in the hands of local offices, Czech architects, and especially those located a distance from Prague, were also less easily scrutinized by the ideological police.