Date:15. October 1911 – 22. October 1911
Place: Prague, New City Hall
Exhibition design:[Ladislav Blažej]
The Garden Cities Exhibition had a straightforward, educational mission. Its organizers wanted to introduce this new urban phenomenon to official representatives of Czech cities and the general public, and thus to spark greater interest in this movement. The concept and content of the exhibition was created by the German Garden City Association (Deutsche Gartenstadtgesellschaft); it was reprised in Bohemia upon the initiative of architect Ladislav Blažej.
This touring exhibition had its first stop in Prague, before travelling to Chrudim (Industrial Museum, 9. 11.–19. 11.), Hradec Králové (locale of the Business Academy, 29. 10.–5. 11.) and Kolín (Western District School, 3. 12.–17. 12.). The Prague premiere took place on the occasion of the Fourth Congress of the Union of Czech Towns in the Kingdom of Bohemia and the architect Blažej organized its installation at the New Town Hall. Except for Chrudim, where the show was held in the local Industrial Museum, the venues were public buildings of diverse purpose, rather than actual museums or galleries.
Based on the catalogue, we may assume that the exhibition was a concentrated presentation of the garden cities’ reform potential, introducing the experts and the public to the innovative urban concept using examples of English and German garden cities as well as model colonies. The group of model settlements presented here offered an important alternative to the conventional European urban planning of the day. Defined in its ideal form by the English visionary Ebenezer Howard, the garden city was to combine the benefits of the city and the country while avoiding the negative aspects of both these traditional kinds of settlements.
However, the choice of exhibited model settlements suggests that the show was quite inclusive, containing architecture that went beyond the strict standards of Howard’s garden city. Visitors could see a very heterogeneous, chronologically arranged mix of urban schemes which shared the emphasis on decent housing for the lower and middle classes. The plans, photographs and models showed the forerunners of the actual garden cities in model villages for workers (Port Sunlight, Bournville, Margarethenhöhe), the first garden cities (Letchworth, Hellerau), garden suburbs (Harborne, Hampstead Garden Suburb) or model colonies for working class dominated by single family houses (Gmindersdorf, Margarethenhof, Gronauer Wald). The architect Vladimír Zákrejs critically commented on the discrepancy between the exhibition’s title and its content, saying that the umbrella term “housing reforms” would have been a more suitable title [Zákrejs 1911]. The exhibiting architects are not listed in the catalogue, but based on the housing compounds on display, we may identify at least the names listed in the inventory.
The garden city idea was promoted through not only these model dwellings but also through negative examples and charts comparing housing quality and infant mortality, alcoholism or crime. Photographs depicting the appalling housing conditions of the unprivileged classes in Germany must have been particularly evocative.
Ladislav Blažej, the exhibition’s main organizer, deemed it necessary to introduce the Czech public to the parameters of this new urban form. In the catalogue, he writes: “a garden city is not just any city with gardens – although these must not be missing. The main principle is the economic substrate, connected with all aesthetic and cultural requirements which support the healthy mental and physical development of the inhabitants. It is a city, suburb or settlement founded on an open land using economic methods that would permanently prevent any future speculation with building plots” [Blažej 1911].
In view of the promotional goal that the exhibition pursued, some enthusiastic reformers complained about the low attendance [anonymous author 1911a]. The daily Čas, on the other hand, emphasized the exhibition’s positive impact by saying that it “confirmed that the propaganda works. [...] the idea of a garden city in the style of big cities is becoming popular in Prague, and this is the principal gain of the exhibition” [anonymous author 1911b]. With hindsight, we may say that the ambitious goal was largely fulfilled. The pioneers of this reform idea became increasingly active in the months after the show, setting the events in the Czech architectural world in motion.
Ladislav Blažej, Předmluva, in: Výstava zahradních měst, Praha 1911, n.p.
anonymous author 1911a: anonymous author, Debata, in: Čtvrtý sjezd českých měst z království českého v královském hlavním městě, Praha: [s. n.] 1911, p. 243
anonymous author 1911b: anonymous author, Zahradní město Velké Prahy. Význam projektu z různých hledisek moderního nazírání (V údolí mezi Krčí a Bráníkem), Čas XXV 1911, no. 313, 12. 11., p. 11
Vladimír Zákrejs, Výstava zahradních měst, Styl III, 1911, pp. 250–251
Vendula Hnídková, Lost in Translation? The Idea of the Garden City and its Migration to the Czech Lands, 1900–1938, Art East Central 1, 2021, č. 1, s. 77-104.
Transfer idejí a meze reality. Zahradní města v Českých zemích před rokem 1914, Bulletin Moravské galerie, 2020, č. 81, s. 42-57.
Výstava zahradních měst [Exhibition of Garden Cities]
Place and year of publication: Praha, 1911
Author/s of the introduction: Ladislav Blažej
Vladimír Zákrejs, Výstava zahradních měst, Styl III, 1911, pp. 250–251pdf
Anonymous author, IV. sjezd českých měst, Čas XXV, 1911, no. 290, 20. 10., p. 5
Anonymous author, K prvnímu sjezdu českých bytových a stavebních družstev, Čas XXV, 1911, no. 284, 14. 10., p. 8
Anonymous author, Výstavu zahradních měst, Hlasy východočeské XI, 1911, no. 44, 3. 11., p. 2; no. 45, 10. 11., p. 1; no. 46, 17. 11., p. 2; no. 47, 24. 11., pp. 2–3
Anonymous author, Výstava zahradních měst, Labské proudy: List strany státoprávně-pokrokové XVI, 1911, no. 48, 9. 12., p. 4
Anonymous author, Výstava zahradních měst, Obnova XVII, no. 43, 27. 10., p. 3; no. 44, 3. 11., p. 3
Anonymous author, Výstava zahradních měst a rodinných domků, Čas XXV, 1911, no. 305, 4. 11., p. 3
Anonymous author, Výstava zahradních měst v Hradci Králové, Čas XXV, 1911, no. 301, 31. 10., p. 6
Anonymous author, Výstava zahradních měst v Chrudimi, Čas XXV, 1911, no. 311, 10. 11., p. 8
Anonymous author, Výstava zahradních měst v Kolíně, Čas XXV, 1911, no. 333, 2. 12., p. 4
Anonymous author, Výstava zahradních měst v Kolíně, Kolínské listy: Orgán národní strany svobodomyslné XII, 1911, no. 50, 9. 12., p. 4
Anonymous author, Výstava zahradních měst v Kolíně, Kolínské listy: Orgán národní strany svobodomyslné XII, 1911, no. 51, 16. 12., p. 4
Anonymous author, Výstava zahradních měst v Kolíně, Labské proudy: List strany státoprávně-pokrokové XVI, 1911, no. 49, 16. 12., pp. 5–6