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date: 25 October 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Communist governments in Europe believed that the state should enable the provision of material goods to its people—food, clothing, and shelter among the most critical of these needs. A long-term strategy for how to achieve this goal was left unresolved in the iconic texts and statements of the international communist movement. Architects, planners, and economists had to develop their own solutions to the vexing question of housing for the masses. As part of their work, they had to respond to the new planning regimens of the command economy and institutional structures such as the Five-Year Plan. While the perils of mass production have received much scholarly attention, this essay argues that an alternative base of knowledge about architectural modernism can be mobilized from the history of communist mass housing programs. This model of architecture—referred to here as “serial architecture”—embodied both an aesthetic approach and an ethical stance that remains relevant to enduring questions of the built environment’s agency in creating and sustaining social progress.

Keywords: prefabrication, mass housing, Neues Bauen, serial architecture, Czechoslovakia, materialism, Karel Teige, CIAM

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