Focusing on the state-run system of architectural offices as a mediator between politics and practice, this article considers how the 1948 Communist Party takeover of Czechoslovakia affected architectural practice and the establishment of housing types in the early 1950s. The legacy of a strong local construction industry before 1948 was critical to these developments. At the new Institute of Prefabricated Buildings, created in 1952, architects and engineers continued earlier research on prefabricated construction technologies. Through this work, the Czechoslovak government and its architectural administration soon concluded that its best long-term option for solving the country's housing crisis was the use of structural panel construction. Fifty years later, one in three Czechs still lives in the more than one million apartments built with this technology between 1954 and 1990. Structural panel construction was not a Soviet import; instead it developed out of local wartime experimentation at the Bat'a Shoe Company in Zlín, independently of similar research undertaken in the Soviet Union and other parts of the Eastern Bloc in the same years. Although buildings that look similar were constructed in the region and similar housing types appeared across Europe after the Second World War, this article argues that structural panel technology in Czechoslovakia is an example of local continuities in the building industry, rather than evidence of the homogenization of the postwar European landscape.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/kimberly_zarecor/17/