Ambitions / the architecture of the eighties

The authors of this book set out to explain some of the key processes behind the Czech architecture of the 1980s – such as the growing efforts to engage in internal, critical self-reflection, the realistic assessments of what the Czech building industry was capable of and attempts to revitalize it, and the reactions to the social and international challenges at the time – and delineate the ambitions of architects trying to change things and how it was or was not possible for them to realize these ambitions in their work. Against the backdrop of contemporary institutions and ideas the authors present the architecture of that time as a complex and in many ways contradictory mosaic that reflected both the looser, more variegated consumer-oriented lifestyle that had emerged and, conversely, the drably ubiquitous uniformity of construction in an economically and morally weak regime. Both the inertia of the state’s social policy for the masses and simultaneously the exclusive services that could be provided for VIPs. The ideological representation that was carefully enacted through high-profile building projects and simultaneously the ‘subversive’ infiltration of Western inspirations and eventually their execution in practice. The massive exploitation and destruction of nature that was occurring side by side with plan to create a sustainable environment. And the technocratic nature of the official organisation of the work of architects alongside their parallel ability to find positive, private niches for themselves in alternative arenas of culture. If the 1980s appear as a time of extraordinary contradictions, then its architecture could not be otherwise.

Ambition is the fifth and final book resulting from the project ‘Architecture of the 1980s in the Czech Republic’ supported under the National and Cultural Identity II programme of the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic (DG18P02OVV013, principal investigator Petr Vorlík). It was created with financial support from the Faculty of Architecture of the Czech Technical University in Prague. It is loosely related with the first book (a)typical (2019), which focused on architecture and characteristic phenomena from the late normalisation period, while the second book, Unbuilt (2020), described projects from that decade with often utopian and provocative visions that were ultimately never built. The third book, Interviews (2020), captured the recollections of selected actors in events of the time, and the fourth book, Improvisation (2021), sought to elucidate and highlight how a number of architects were able to create extraordinary architecture by creatively getting around and pushing back at the difficulties of the time.

Full book available here.

review: Petr Kratochvíl, Peter Szalay
© texts: Petr Vorlík, Hubert Guzik, Lukáš Beran, Klára Brůhová, Alex Bykov, Matúš Dulla, Martin Franc, Karolina Jirkalová, Matyáš Kracík, Lenka Kužvartová, Lucia Mlynčeková, Miroslav Pavel, Tereza Pokorná, Petr Roubal, Pavla Savická, Klára Ullmannová, Veronika Vicherková, Jan Zikmund
© graphic design: Jan Forejt
© translation: Robin Cassling, Klára Ullmannová
© 2022 CTU Prague, Faculty of Architecture

ISBN 978-80-01-07028-4