ERA21 #01/2022 Reflections on Postmodernism

kniha editorial

Reflections on Postmodernism

Jana Pavlová

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kniha completed project

The Center of All Things. The IGI Community Club and Center in Vratislavice nad Nisou »

Jiří Janďourek, Ondřej Novák / atakarchitekti

The move to build a new community center was first initiated when it became apparent that the current premises of the local library, in the Vratislavice 101010 cultural center, were much too confined, and a bigger venue had to be sought. Conveniently located just next door, the disused clergy house seemed a good fit, but it couldn’t accommodate all the intended uses. The solution was to build a new extension. The design brief for the new IGI Vratislavice center was then formulated on the basis of the client’s wishes. The project seeks to establish a new public place that would complement the lively town center. A single tall, contemporary, elementarily-shaped volume of the new library extends from the west flank of the historical clergy house, which was preserved in its original form. Visually separate, the two structures are joined together below ground-level and connect also through a glass corridor on the first floor.

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The Golden Arches »

Even though not yet reaching the affordable eating ideal, as in their country of origin, the first McDonald’s restaurants in the Czech Republic were key symbols of the post-revolution era, finally ushering in a dreamed-of western lifestyle. People from faraway villages and towns were attracted by the smell of McDonald’s hamburgers, hoping to experience “America” in Prague. Corporate visual identity which would dictate a unified design was still in the works then, so it was actually local architects creating the western atmosphere. Works on the Prague Florenc branch of McDonald’s, designed by architect Zdeněk Drobný of Metrostav, started in 1989, but midway through the project was handed over to architect Petr Keil. His contribution saw the formation of a distinct yet unassuming semi-circle glass frontage, featuring a backlit cornice reminiscent of the Statue of Liberty’s art nouveau crown. The optimistic interior was done by architect Václav Lukas using pastel colors, light wood, mirror surfaces and faux greenery. While bar tables arranged in the central “square” were for quick meals “on the go,” Thonet chairs provided a more traditional café-and-restaurant atmosphere for longer, more melancholic contemplation. Besides the temporary cluster of colorful balloons, the interior was decorated with suspended glass flags of softened shapes painted with expressive green and violet lines. Of course, a children’s play area and separate party room were included as well. 

kniha starting points

Postmodernism Without “Postmodernism” »

Jana Pavlová

Czech architects, who had already been developing postmodern approaches in their work since the 1970s, considered the term postmodernism misleading and basically forbidden, much like many foreign architects. Whether they demonstrated postmodern strategies being consciously inspired by western architecture, or indirectly through their own exploration, remains a question. Though their postmodern approaches assumed subversive ironic meanings, they were social gestures and environmental calls, too. After 1989, also under the influence of critical regionalism, the terms new modernism, neofunctionalism, or simply functionalism—signifying an uninterrupted connection with the interwar tradition—were established to describe the work of these architects. As a result, there’s still some confusion about what should actually be considered the legacy of the Czech postmodern architectural heritage.

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kniha interview

Misunderstanding in Venice. Léa‑Catherine Szacka Interviewed by Jana Pavlová »

Can architecture speak to us? Communication as one of the functions of architecture was the main focus of the postmodern discourse, as well as the very first Venice Architecture Biennale in 1980. We spoke of the subsequently divergent definitions of postmodernism with architect and theorist Léa-Catherine Szacka.

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Makovecz Without References »

Anna Zsoldos

What is my opinion of Imre Makovecz? I don’t know what to say. I have difficulty forming thoughts about him. He and his entire architectural practice were, and remain, totally politicized. I was too young to familiarize myself with him before his death, and after it I became ambivalent towards him. But, in the Hungarian architectural microcosm it is hard to express any opinion or even publish a critique on this sort of sensitive topic.


Futile Attempts to “Return to the City” in Poland After 1976 »

Alicja Gzowska

At the beginning of 1988, architect and urbanist Jakub Wujek wrote the following about current urban design trends: “Information coming to us from abroad signals events irreconcilable with our lived reality. We cannot adopt models formed under completely different political, regulatory, economic and cultural circumstances. Due to a whole set of civilisation characteristics, Polish urbanism is doomed to walk its own and solitary path. And what a pity that is.” The quote may sound like an overstatement—particularly the regret expressed at the end. But we cannot overlook the fact that it also gives a fitting description of all the troubles local urban designers had to deal with if they wanted to draw from foreign experience, or when they looked for short-cuts to avoid evident errors. Looking back, this quote reminds us of the problems we have to deal with if we are to address the seemingly similar urban design phenomena appearing then on both sides of the already severely damaged Iron Curtain.


Postmodern Disputes in East Germany »

Kirsten Angermann

Delayed by several years but well-informed of the previous debate in the West, the discussion about postmodernism in architecture flared up in East Germany at the beginning of the 1980s, taking place in seminars, colloquia, or architecture and design magazines. The following text explores the first height of this discussion in the first half of the decade. The available stenographic records of talks and discussions from the so-called Architecture Theory Seminars provide valuable source material, offering unique insight into the formal and informal discourse on postmodernism. 

completed project

At the Edge of Banality. Apartment Building in Altötting »

Reem Almannai, Florian Fischer / Almannai Fischer / Ingenieurbüro Harald Fuchshuber

The town house in Altötting, Upper-Bavaria, is a classic densification project. A comparatively narrow two-story house with an attic, containing two apartments and one commercial unit, was replaced by a three-story house with an attic, of the same width, containing five apartments and one commercial unit. But densification applies to the depth as well as the height. Everything that the plot and regulations allow for is exploited. The resulting figure is intentionally and rationally formal, conventional, inconspicuous, even banal—derived from the hyper-realistic acceptance of the conditions and limitations, without their moral evaluation.

completed project

Gallery in a Church. Church Adapted to an Art Gallery in Antwerp »


Using a series of small interventions, a deconsecrated church in central Antwerp was adapted for new use as an exhibition hall. The early 20th century building will become a new home for Kunsthal Extra City, an Antwerp-based organisation founded in 2004 and engaged in exhibiting contemporary visual art and other relevant and challenging contemporary artistic projects. The design solution was based on a possibly surprising but conscious choice to not be bothered by the religious architecture of the church, but to approach it with a certain indifference, leaving its appropriation and interpretation to future artists. Most of the interventions are very pragmatic and prepare the space for its new programme. They include, for example, metal tubes between the columns to suspend lights and artwork, a curtain to create an intimate lecture space in the chancel, additional electrical wiring, and a new toilet. This discretion is compensated by a highly conspicuous new front desk (doubling as a small bookshop) at the main church entrance.


It Was a Beautiful Time. Bobycentrum: A Sport and Business Dream »

Šárka Svobodová, Jaroslav Sedlák

We have never seen anything like it, it’s unbelievable, what they accomplished, in such a small country and such a city, not even the capital of the republic.” The all-around euphoria and great expectations surrounding the Bobycentrum opening in 1993 are captured in this one quote, spoken by members of the American band Metallica, who performed at the opening party of the newly finished sport and social complex in Brno.


Repairing the 1990s. Conceptual Design for the Revitalization of the Černý Most Terminal in Prague »

re:architekti a kolektiv

The Černý Most public transport terminal has quite a bad reputation. Considered unwelcoming, neglected, the original architecture became morally obsolete very quickly after its 1998 opening. The metro platform in the direction of the city center has complicated pedestrian access. City buses often have to perform several ineffective loops around the terminal to get to the right stop. Recent inspection of the pedestrian bridge above the bus station revealed structural damage that will require renovation. In the short term, local measures should be carried out to optimize the terminal for current use, while in the medium term more extensive structural repairs are expected. The catchment area has around 15,000 residents at the moment and future urban development is expected. The space in front of the terminal was in fact originally designed as a new square for the housing estate. A complete revitalization is expected no sooner than 2030, due to the cost and time-consuming project preparation.


Stylobate. Ministry of Industry and Trade Vestibule Transformation in Prague »

Lenka Milerová

The building of the Ministry of Industry and Trade was designed in 1928 by architect Josef Fanta according to the principles of classical architecture. An architecture competition was issued in 2019 to transform the existing vestibule into an entrance lobby. All proposed interventions were predetermined by the strict symmetry of the building. Curved stone steps appear as mirror images on both sides of the vestibule—on the left they form the entrance to the mailroom, on the right they conceal auxiliary rooms behind the reception desk area. Existing column arcades were set into the half landing of the new steps, thus forming a three-stepped stylobate supporting the doric columns. A decorative niche provides access to the mailroom, opposite the same niche is set with a mirror surface. The existing materiality provided the starting point for the shaping and creation of new elements.


From Industrial to Monasterial. Transformation of a Disused Industrial Complex V Chobotě in Český Brod »

Vojtěch Tecl, Adam Šustek / sustektecl, Tereza Brussmannová, Savka Marenić

The transformation of the industrial complex on V Chobotě street in Český Brod was informed by the location and the specifi c client’s needs, desires, and requirements. It is part demolition, part reuse, part addition to the existing buildings’ footprint, complementing the site with specific sacral elements. In the long-term, the intention for the site is to transform it into a terraced residential development with gardens inside the compound. The proposed terraced houses contain eight rental apartments of various sizes, built into the original building, divided by corridors that connect the main street with the inner yard and form a kind of covered porch for each apartment. A playful family house with a workshop, exhibition hall, and a recording studio, rises out of the “cloister gardens,” which are a key motif of the design.


Subrural »

Markéta Šana

In sociology the term suburbanization defines the vector of the inhabitants’ movement from the city to its fringes, the consequence of which is the city’s geographical expansion. Usually the fi nancially secure part of the population, with strong links to the central urban area (due to work, amenities or both), is the one to move. Suburbanization is often used as an umbrella term for all the so-called catalogue home developments in suburban areas. But the situation looks quite diff erent in the country. Here the catalogue homes are not built because of a direct relationship with the city, but rather as an appendage to the village. Nor does the economic capital, a defining feature in suburbias, play such a big role. On a single street of catalogue homes in the country you can meet tinsmiths, lawyers, pensioners or young couples. Therefore, in addition to suburban, the diploma project introduces a new term—subrural—for a more accurate description of this urbanization process.



Environmental Product Declaration

Veronika Jenčíková

completed project

Crystals on Evropská. Bořislavka Center in Prague »

Jan Aulík, Leoš Horák / Aulík Fišer architekti

The brand new mixed-use Bořislavka Center, featuring shopping in the two-story base and office spaces in the upper floors, was completed recently in a prime location directly over the Bořislavka metro station in Prague and right next to one of the city’s major radial roads, Evropská street. The narrow building site fills an angle included by Evropská and Kladenská streets, originally historical access roads leading to Prague Castle from the north-west, both going almost parallel to each other in this location, but with a six-meter elevation difference. To further complicate the brief, the site is surrounded by the heterogeneous development of almost all scales from family homes to tower block offices. Programmatically, Bořislavka Center serves to supplement services and amenities missing in the area. Pedestrian access to and through the site is also greatly improved by connecting the shopping gallery to the metro vestibule.

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