Perimeter block, infillSlab, point-access
Druztevni Co-op
Gillar, Jan | Prague, Czechoslovakia | 1936-37
Image of Druztevni ...
Typical rear facade.

ProjectDruztevni Co-op
ArchitectGillar, Jan
AddressDruztevni Ochoz 22-30
Building TypePerimeter block, infill
Slab, point-access
Number of Dwellingsc. 60
Date Built1936-37
Dwelling Typesstudio, 1,2 & 3 BR flats
No. Floors5
Section Typeflats
Exterior Finish
stucco, wood/metal windows
Construction TypeR-C frame, masonry walls
Ancillary Servicesindividual garages

Jan Gillar practiced in Prague during the height of the Functionalist period in the 1930's. He was a founding member of a radical group of architects called the Left Front who were the Czech representatives to CIAM. Gillar was a supporter of "scientific functionalism", a belief modeled on the philosophy of Hannes Meyer, the 2nd director of the Bauhaus who was a frequent visitor to Prague, Karel Teige, the guru of Czech Functionalism and others, that form relentlessly followed function. A favorite topic of this group was the design of collective housing; a form of shared grouped housing derived from Russian projects of the time, which were seen as models for social housing. The Koldom Small Flat Competition of 1930-31 was an example of one these projects, a field of identical zeilenbau, filled with minimum dwellings.

Gillar's actual housing projects of the later 1930's, however, did not follow such a doctrinaire functionalist line. They include three small infill apartment buildings on Vinarská Street, built in 1936-37 and this row of 5 separate, 5-story buildings, designed as cooperative apartments at the same time. The infill strategies of Vinarská were simply applied as prototypes to the design of a whole block, a miniature exhibition of individual examples of functionalist residential blocks. Although each of the 5 buildings is a different point-access block, together they form a free-standing slab that backs up to another slab and faces a public park; an infill prototype is thus applied as a zeilenbau paradigm. The 5 buildings are all different but use similar functionalist details and materials: step back at the top, small cantilevered balconies with recessed windows, stairs that come to the outside of the building, glazed with flush steel sash, strip windows, and a variety of avant-corps and structural infill organizations. Each building contains a mix of studio, 1,2, & 3 room flats serviced with a common stair and entrance. The south façade sets back from the street and a zone of small gardens. The northeast end of the building is left blank; however, the opposite end is treated as a pure functionalist infill façade.

The change in Gillar's work from the Koldom competition entries for collective housing to his actual commissions is a reflection of both the highly theoretical nature of the Functionalist program as well as the kind of real commissions available to a young architect like Gillar. Karel Teige was fully aware of this contradiction when he asked his friend to design his house saying that he chose him in spite of the "bourgeois" character of some of his work. Teige may have not have considered the Druztevni street co-op to be to be the appropriate residential setting for the socialist state he had in mind, but some of the one-room flats here most certainly qualify as existenze-minimum dwellings.

Kohout, Michal & Vladimir Slapeta, Prague 20th Century Architecture, Springer, New York, 1999, p. 175.

Peichl, Gustav & Vladimir Slapeta, Czech Functionalism 1981-1938, Architectural Association, London, 1987

Svácha, Rostislav, The Architecture of New Prague 1895-1945, MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass, 1995.

Teige, Karel, Modern Architecture in Czechoslovakia and Other Writings, Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, 2000.

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