For the next two lectures of ‘Interventions in Architecture’ the Czech centre will collaborate with VI PER, a quite new Prague based architecture gallery, on collective housing in the Czech Republic. In the first evening, Barbora Špičáková will shortly introduce the programme of the VI PER gallery and then speak about one of the first prefab housing estates in the Czech Republic: the Solidarita Housing estate in Prague, which was designed by functionalists, built by communists and is admired today.
Solidarita Estate was designed and built shortly after the end of World War II, construction works started 1947, before the Communist Party takeover in February 1948, and carried on till 1951. As a product of these transitional years, the project carried with it a hopeful optimism about the future and the potential for a more collective approach to neighbourhood life that was reflected in the spirit of the design and its name, Solidarita. Its architects, František Jech, Hanuš Majer, and Karel Storch, looked to international housing standards and supported the cooperative funding model, which was already popular in Scandinavia. This influence was most clear in the use of prefabrication technologies, innovative urban strategies, and cooperative financing.
Solidarita is unique for its comprehensive approach to the question of what housing models might be best suited for postwar reconstruction in Czechoslovakia. It was not a single building or a housing estate with particular site requirements, but could have been a template repeated many times. Unfortunately the model did not survive the transition to Communism. Even so, it is a glimpse of an alternate trajectory for postwar housing that might have found a more appropriate balance between the desire for private single-family homes and the benefits of dense development with shared public spaces, community services, and smarter approaches to land use and infrastructure development.