This exhibition project views the construction of housing estates of prefabricated concrete panels as a singular urbanist, architectural and design experiment.
After the Second World War, the main objective of Czechoslovak civil engineers and architects was the industrialization of the construction of flats that was expected to solve, within a short period of time, the acute shortage of flats after the war and help the transformation of industry, which involved the transfer of people to new industrial centres. The 1950s and 1960s can be seen as a period of experiments with the prefabricated panel construction technology and as the technological preparation of this manner of construction which was, to a larger or smaller extent, based on the ideas and experience of left-wing Czechoslovak architects of the interwar era.
By the arrival of “normalization” following the occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1968, prefabricated panel construction had been applied on a massive scale and soon a third of Czechoslovakia’s population moved into an environment that completely defied previous forms of housing. Finding a key to how to approach the environment of housing estates made of prefabricated concrete slabs and how to inhabit them was a task for both the residents and teams of scientists that studied this issue from the perspective of architecture, urbanism, sociology and psychology. The new situation and a lack of other possibilities provoked the inhabitants of housing estates to spontaneous activities intended to improve free spaces on the estates; in addition, they looked for possibilities of improving the technical drawbacks of prefabricated panel flats and their furnishing through DIY efforts.
It was also a hot topic among architects and furniture designers who sought ways of how to turn housing estates and concrete flats into quality and inspiring environments. A no less interesting phase in the development of prefabricated concrete panel estates is associated with their social and aesthetic transformation after 1990, which reflects the modern history of Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic. The change of political and social situation motivated the owners of flats that were progressively privatised to fight the shortcomings of prefabricated concrete technology in Czechoslovakia. The main issues spontaneously addressed by estate residents included the exchange of flat core units, changes in flat disposition, insulation, extensions and painting of the facades, as well as the use of the ground-floor parterres for shops and services. Spontaneous interventions of housing estate residents in the 1990s blended with specialist approaches of architects and sociologists who sought reconciliation and new angles on what was considered unwanted legacy of the communist regime.