Epp Lankots (Estonian Academy of Arts) and Marija Dremaite (Vilnius University)
Summerhouses, Allotment gardens, Socialist leisure
Along with the rapid urbanization and the introduction of the five-day workweek, leisure became a highly discussed theme in the socialist countries in the 1960s. The ways of spending free time, its social and spatial factors was a topical research area that involved listing different categories for leisure activities and detailed typologies of leisure spaces. Consequently, the postwar decades witnessed the massive spread of second home as a leisure destination as thousands of small summerhouses dotted the areas close to bigger Eastern European cities.
The socialist summerhouse (the Russian dacha, the Czech chata, the Yugoslavian vikendica etc.) or a lot in an allotment garden has been studied in more detail within cultural history as a practice that reflects the changing relationship between the state and the individual under late socialism. Yet, the architectural story of this ambivalent phenomenon – located between emerging consumer culture and self-provisioning economic system – is largely unwritten.
Accordingly, the papers in this session address the architectural operations of the socialist summerhouse that go beyond the (state-mediated) user-experience. This is not to suggest to dissolve the cultural complexity of the summerhouse by detaching the designed and the built from the context that makes it meaningful as a social practice. Rather, it is the conditions of production that are put under scrutiny by looking into the political and economic contexts of the summerhouse including patterns of ownership and land-use (from private to cooperative ownership and subsistence farming to other forms of leisure); scales of planning and control (from regional plans to self-generative plot divisions); construction schemes (prototyping and mass-production to individual construction); instruction and communication (from manuals to real-estate marketing), and the architectural imaginaries of modern rural life (appropriations of traditional rural architecture to A-frame weekend-houses) etc. Furthermore, by observing how the summerhouses legitimized new forms and meanings of socialist holidaying embracing not only new considerations of community and public sphere but also privacy, idle time and good life, the session aims to explain how these architectural exercises helped to mediate cultural and societal change at large.
Building the Dream: Houses for Gardeners in Soviet Lithuania
Matas Šiupšinskas (Vilnius University)
Summerhouses, Collective Gardening, Soviet Lifestyle
The phenomenon of collective gardening was an important part of family life in the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic. Officially collective gardening districts were a place for relaxation after the work and a way to supply the food industry with apples, berries, and other goods. It was also presented as a tool to educate society and rise its moral values. However, from the very beginning gardening collectives were used as an opportunity to build an alternative to a summer cottage. Gardeners were seeking permits in order to erect small buildings on-site, often they have secretly built hidden cellars, bigger attics or other illegal extensions. The tension between an official purpose of collective gardens and real use of it as a summerhouse location was evident, but institutions usually turned the blind eye to it.
Specific conditions were needed in order for such construction practice to exist. First of all, official rhetoric was necessary in order to legitimize gardening cooperatives as a part of the Soviet lifestyle. Secondly, the process of design was institutionalized by preparing catalogs of typical architectural projects, organizing architectural competitions and introducing rules on how permits are issued. Third and one of the most important aspects shaping how the final build structures looked like was lack of building materials and different methods of how this lack could be circumvented. One more important force was a growing philistinism among newly formed urban middle-class which slowly changed how summerhouse in the gardening cooperative was perceived and imagined by the general population.
In the paper, I am going to explore these conditions and also different mechanisms related to the design and construction process of summer houses in gardeners’ collectives and how they were used by a working-class as a substitute for a summer house. The legal status of such structures in Soviet times, planning procedures, typologies, and design practices are going to be discussed.
Constructing Communities. Garden Cooperatives in Soviet Estonia
Triin Ojari (Estonian Museum of Architecture)
Gardening Cooperatives, Summerhouses, History of Modern Architecture
In Estonia during the Soviet period, the distinctive culture of vacation for the masses emerged. The official policy saw organized vacation as an important part of the people’s working life and the hierarchy of various forms of vacation was created, the system of garden house cooperatives established in the mid-1960s being the most extensive phenomenon among them. The planning and architecture of the cooperatively built areas was regulated by specific legislation aiming to guarantee the societal equality as well as agreeable spatial environment achieved through authoritarian control.
The garden house cooperatives formed distinctive phenomenon in Soviet people’s everyday life. The system of establishing the cooperatives, acquiring the land and construction of necessary infrastructure and garden houses all presupposed the existence of small-scale communities who were responsible for accomplishing mentioned tasks. The communities were formed on the basis of one’s workplace, the cooperatives included only members from the same enterprise or state institution. The spatial plan of the cooperative was based on the idea of provision of both shared communal spaces as community building, sports areas, playground etc, as well as private space (private gardens). The designs included central green areas for the public use surrounded by private plots, usually grouped along the semicircular roads or cul-de-sacs. The architectural designs for the garden houses were selected among the official standardized projects or commissioned from an architect. Initially also the land of the cooperative was owned jointly and the member could not sell his or hers plot without the consent of the board. In the Soviet legislation which disregarded the private ownership the garden houses were seen not as a real estate property but as a means to spend the fruitful and complete vacation in a quite controlled environment.
Collectivity and Technology: Socialist Summerhouse Typology on the Lake Balaton in Hungary
Domonkos Wettstein (Budapest University of Technology and Economics)
Leisurescapes, Regional Planning, DIY Architecture
Emerging urbanization of the Balaton shore, the largest lake in Central and Eastern Europe was a growing problem in the 1960s and 1970s. The Socialist power, by lifting previous restrictions, made more and more land available for weekend house construction. For the first time in the country, the regional plan for the recreational area of Lake Balaton, integrating both architectural and spatial planning tools, was considered as a unique solution in international design history and the plan received the Abercrombie Prize of the UIA in 1965. In the framework of regional spatial planning, type plans were developed for influencing the holiday home builders. The architects organized a voluntary patronage movement with the support of the Hungarian Architectural Association and wanted to coordinate the construction of the holiday home collectives. After the economic liberalization of 1968, the regional chief architect's power was removed. Subsequently, the construction of weekend cottages, often self-made, became unlimited. The enclosed gardens have transformed the excellent historic vineyards and orchards into minimal parcels with self-made cabins. All this contributed to the destruction of valuable fruit-growing areas and soil erosion in the Balaton Uplands. As a solution, landscape architects came up with the concept of "active holiday", where they wanted to combine recreation and gardening.
The purpose of the research is to demonstrate the architectural character of weekend house construction reflecting the social and technological background. By analyzing architectural patterns, building practices, DIY technologies, we can demonstrate collective ideas and organizations. The research seeks to find an answer to the question of the relationship between the regional institutions and collectives. The material of the research is the files of the regional building authority archives and interviews with the participants of building collectives. The survey is completed by an on-site survey of the holiday homes.
The research examines different positions and perspectives. It attempts to confront the viewpoints of the participants, the building authority, and the state, pointing out the common values and differences about the vision of a communal leisurescape.