Volume VII, 2008
Dr. Karen Carter
Architecture in the former Czechoslovakia was heavily dominated by Soviet influence after the Communist Coup in February 1948. The research presented in this paper focuses on a building called the Cultural House, which was created during the worst times of political repression in the 1950s in a small town of Ostrov, located on the Czech western border with Germany. (Fig.1) It is in my opinion that for the Cultural House in this town, Czech architects were able to integrate their Austrian and Czech teachers’ ideas from the pre-World War II period and mixed Secession styles with Socialist Realism, in part because of the lack of control in this town from the central government in this short time period from 1947 to 1960. The town of Ostrov has two parts: the Old Town, (Stare Mesto), established in the fourteenth century, and the New Town, (Nove Mesto), built in a very short time between 1947 and 1960. The context of the New Town’s origin is closely connected with the post-Second World War period in Eastern European block countries. The main reason for its development was the discovery of the world’s largest sources of uranium in the nearby town of Jachymov. The New Town is a complex garden town that was established as a housing estate for the Jachymov’s Uranium Mines concern. Political prisoners were sent to the newly formed forced labor camp in the town of Jachymov to work the mines. The periphery of Ostrov was built to house the prison guards along with their families and then later the incoming miners. As the demand for housing rose, the New Town was expanded and later other people settled there. In twelve building stages that spanned almost thirteen years, this town provided homes for nearly 16,000 inhabitants. The architectural project I researched was constructed and supervised by the Jachymov’s Uranium Mines concern. The principal architect was Jaroslav Krauz (1918 – 1991) and the most visible non-residential building that grew under his leadership was the Cultural House, the focus here. Although the official artistic style at that time was Socialist Realism, nicknamed Sorela, and scholars tend to interpret the style of the Cultural House as the Sorela style, in my opinion Krauz’s project is probably one of the last examples of the Vienna-inspired architecture to be built in Czechoslovakia.
Dlugosova-Knappova, Dita, "The Cultural House in Ostrov and Its Relation to Czech Secession Style" (2008). All Volumes (2001-2008). Paper 136.