Databáze uměleckých výstav v českých zemích 1820 – 1950

Exhibition of Architecture, Housing and Urban Planning (VABU)


As the title suggests, the exhibition aimed to present modern architecture, housing issues and urban planning in Czechoslovakia. This ambitious project was prepared on the occasion of the International Housing Congress held in Prague between June 23 and 26, 1935. The congress was also accompanied by two concurrent exhibitions: the International Housing Exhibition in the Myslbek Pavilion and the Exhibition of Czechoslovak Towns in the Municipal House. The main organizer, Central Architects' Association of the Czech Republic, organized the exhibition with the support of the National Committee of the International Housing Congress in Prague 1935 and with the cooperation of the Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague.

The show was clearly meant as an official representation event – it was planned to coincide with the congress in June and the tour of French architects as part of the III. Réunion international des architectes in September. The opening was a major social event, attended by Ministers Jan Krčmář, Jan Dostálek, Jaromír Nečas and Vice President of the Chamber of Commerce Dr. Oberthor.

The exhibition consisted of three basic, very general sections which were clearly formulated in the exhibition’s title: 1. Architecture, 2. Housing, 3. Urban Planning. The exhibition’s outline offered an explanation of these areas. Architecture was represented by current building projects categorized according their purpose rather that according to architects. The organizers decided to present architecture and urban planning projects through the photographic medium, choosing primarily images of a uniform, square format (60 x 60 cm). The exhibition presented 200 artefacts in total, accompanied by plans and models. 

 In terms of organization, each of the three sections had a five-member committee that decided on the final selection of artefacts submitted by diverse associations. The Architecture Commission was headed by Oldřich Starý, Pavel Janák was responsible for Housing, and Alois Mikuškovic chaired the Urban Planning section. 

The Modern Architecture section was divided into ten thematic groups: 1. cultural buildings, 2. social institutions, 3. medical institutions, 4. facilities for sport and recreation, 5. buildings for commerce, 6. transport construction, 7. industry, 8. office buildings, 9. schools, and 10. buildings for other purposes. The spectrum of presented buildings extended geographically over the whole territory of Czechoslovakia, from Karlovy Vary to Mukachevo, but the representation of individual regions was not proportional; Prague and Brno dominated significantly. 

In the Housing sections, the emphasis was placed on the most significant realizations and designs, especially buildings “for collective purposes.” This, however, did not mean collective houses, but rather groups of buildings such as residential colonies. The Urban Planning section was organized as a broad selection of inspiring works concerning urban design issues, development and transportation. 

Designs and realized projects were also accompanied by a special body of theoretical works focusing on housing, spatial typology, lighting, rationalization, and construction of buildings. The exhibited projects included school designs from the studios of Jiří Kroha, Josef Gočár and Pavel Janák, but also the regulation of Prague’s Old Town by the S. I. A. architects among others.
Quite remarkably in the context of the interwar Czechoslovak art scene, the exhibition represented artists from a number of professional associations including German architects who exhibited their works beside their Czech and Slovak colleagues. “Regardless of their different ages and opinions, the architects present the outline of their work based on its quality and usefulness to the public” [Janák, unlabelled typescript, NTM AAS, 1935].

In retrospect, it is difficult to reconstruct the show’s significance in its time. The daily Lidové noviny announced that this would be “the largest exhibition of architecture in our country, as it brings together almost a hundred architects.” [rv 1935] The exhibition attracted considerable attention from not only professionals but also the general public, with the daily press highlighting the “surprising number of foreigners” [anonymous author 1935]. Based on reports in the press, the public’s response to the exhibition oscillated between interest and indifference. Oldřich Starý, one of the participating architects, wrote a text in which he tempered down the aura of optimism surrounding the show. Here, he unwittingly admitted that this was “a collection of so many important modern works from all around the republic that a lay person may easily believe high-quality modern architecture is prevalent in our country. That would be a mistake” [Starý 1935]. Pavel Janák, another of the exhibition’s authors, promoted the show on Radiožurnál (Radio Journal) as an important stimulus for further activities. “The architects who gathered their works here want to remind the public what could still be done in our country and how much more beautiful Czechoslovakia and the life there would be if architecture received the space that life needs and that architecture can enrich” [Janák, O VABU, NTM AAS, 1935].

Works Cited

rv 1935: rv, Výstava architektury, bydlení a urbanismu v ČSR, Lidové noviny XLIII, 1935, no. 313, 23. 6., p. 7

anonymous author 1935: anonymous author, Úspěch výstavy čs. Architektury, bydlení a urbanismu, Národní listy LXXV, 1935, no. 248, 9. 9., p. 3

Starý 1935: Oldřich Starý, K pražským výstavám architektury, bydlení a urbanismu, Stavba 12, 1934–1935, no. 12, pp. 177–178

Further Reading

Emanuel Hruška, Výstava Mezinárodního svazu pro bytovou péči v Praze, Stavba XII, 1934–1935, no. 12, p. 180

Jaroslav Kříž, Výstava architektury, bydlení a urbanismu, Architekt SIA XXXIV, 1935, no. 8, 20. 9., p. 114 and 116

anonymous author, Výstava architektury, bydlení a urbanismu, Stavba 12, 1934–1935, p. 181

Archival Sources

NTM, AAS, Fonds 56 – VABU

NTM, AAS, Fonds 85 – Janák, file 130, Spolky – výstavy [Associations – Exhibitions], VABU, typescript

NTM, AAS, Fonds 85 – Janák, file 130, Spolky – výstavy, VABU [Associations – Exhibitions], unlabelled typescript without the date and signature

NTM, AAS, Fond 85 – Janák, file 50, publikační činnost [publication activity] 1934(VII)-1935(IV), Pavel Janák, O VABU (lecture in Radiožurnál), 5 p., July 193

Exhibiting authors
Brief notes about the exhibition

Anonymous author, Výstava architektury, urbanismu a bydlení v ČSR, Národní listy LXXV, 1935, no. 123, 26. 6., p. 4

Anonymous author, Výstava soudobé architektury, urbanismu a bydlení v ČSR v Umělecko-průmyslovém museu v Praze I, Národní listy LXXV, 1935, no. 147, 30. 7., p. 4

Anonymous author, Výstava soudobé architektury, urbanismu a bydlení v ČSR, Národní listy LXXV, 1935, no. 193, 16. 7., p. 3

Anonymous author, Úspěch výstavy čs. architektury, bydlení a urbanismu, Národní listy LXXV, 1935, no. 248, 9. 9., p. 3

Anonymous author, Mezinárodní kongres bytové péče v Praze, Pestrý týden X, 1935, no. 25, 22. 6., n.p. 

Anonymous author, 24. Juni – Eröffnung der Ausstellung, Prager Presse XV, 1935, no. 167, 22. 6., p. 6

Beck., Regulační studie o Starém městě pražském, Architekt SIA XXXIV, 1935, no. 10, p. 146

Kogresové výstavy, Stavba XII, 1934–1935, p. 144

rv, Výstava architektury, bydlení a urbanismu v ČSR, Lidové noviny XLIII, 1935, no. 313, 23. 6., p. 


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