Context 162 - November 2019

16 C O N T E X T 1 6 2 : N O V E M B E R 2 0 1 9 as a self-sufficient unit, containing schools, administrative buildings, a hospital, shopping and leisure facilities, flats (ranging from studios to three bedrooms) and single-family houses. In plan form, Nová Dubnica contains a large public square framed on two sides by mixed- use, four-storey perimeter blocks with arcaded ground floors. A monumental administrative building intended to close one end of the public square was not constructed. Apartment blocks laid out to the rear of the buildings fronting the square help enclose more intimate courtyard spaces, typically containing playgrounds, a nurs- ery and school buildings. This configuration of streets and urban blocks, graduated distribution of private and public uses, and lack of streets in the courtyard spaces, is considered reminiscent of Viennese housing projects from the 1920s. 2 Traditional materials, an earthy colour pal- ette, and the numerous decorative elements incorporated within the design clearly emerge from Kroha’s aspirations to ‘build a social- ist town whose colour scheme, lyricism, and architectural concept would be linked in the best way to the healthy tradition of vernacular building in Slovakia’. 3 Thus neoclassical and folk detailing and motifs embellish the princi- pal building facades, with sgraffito panels and decorative floral mosaics, cornices, and shaped gables interspersed throughout. Several large, multi-coloured murals overlooking the public square consist of romanticised depictions of modern industries, workers and families. The two largest six-storey apartment blocks contain squat centrally placed towers surmounted by tall metal spires, apparently abstracted from nearby historical buildings. Nová Dubnica was not completed as originally conceived, and later expansions in the 1960s and 70s followed neither the plan form nor archi- tectural style established the previous decade. Forced from the project and his other positions in 1956, Kroha’s involvement was also short- lived. In part this stemmed from the antipathy of the Khrushchev regime in the Soviet Union towards socialist realism, hastening the adop- tion of panelák technology for mass housing construction. Indeed, reappraisal of (the former) Czechoslovakia’s socialist realist architecture took place seriously only after the end of the Cold War, exemplified by an exhibition on Kroha held at the Architecture Centre Vienna in 1998. Revisionist attitudes towards the legacy of this period nonetheless remain tempered by memories of the brutal political environment under which it was created. The 50th anniversary of Nová Dubnica’s creation was celebrated in the town in 2006. An architectural exhibition, seminar programme, souvenir publication and commemorative cal- endar were some of the activities and materials that helped mark the occasion. However, the legacy of socialist realist architecture in the country is largely underappreciated, and this is arguably reflected in the lack of conservation protection currently afforded to post-second- world-war architecture. Finally, a shared historical influence with post-war new towns in the UK concerns the utopian ideals of the 19th-century Welsh social reformist Robert Owen, who is best known for the development of New Lanark in Scotland. He provided inspiration for the model villages, garden cities movement and later new towns programme. Kroha’s work at Nová Dubnica was also informed by Owen’s thinking and by the French philosopher Charles Fourier, thus rep- resenting the simultaneous outworking of early socialist ideas in town planning on both sides of the Iron Curtain in the mid-20th century. One of the murals overlooking the main public space Decorative details adorning building facades in Nová Dubnica Andrew McClelland is a post-doctoral research associate at the University of Liverpool and former chair of the IHBC’s Northern Ireland branch. He lived and studied architectural conservation in Slovakia in the early 2000s, making frequent visits to Nová Dubnica. References 2 Kimberly Zarecor (2011) Manufacturing a Socialist Modernity: Housing in Czechoslovakia, 1945–1960 , University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh 3 Maroš Krivý (2016) ‘Postmodernism or Socialist Realism? The Architecture of Housing Estates in Late Socialist Czechoslovakia’, Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 75(1)