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Automomous Universality

Attempts at systematization in Hungarian industrial architecture in the early Kádár period

Author(s): Péter Haba
Subject(s): Fine Arts / Performing Arts
Published by: Historický ústav SAV, v. v. i.
Keywords: systematization in Hungarian industrial; architecture-early Kádár period; industrial buidlings

Summary/Abstract: The systematisation of planning and implementation in industrial architecture, which encompassed a rapidly changing and broad range of building types, was a crucial issue in Hungary throughout the two decades after World War II. The architects of the state-owned Industrial Building Design Company (Ipari Épülettervező Vállalat, IPARTERV), which was established in 1948 and employed a staff of over one thousand, strove to apply unified planning methods or implementation techniques to the diverse area of industrial architecture, while always adapting them to the given state of the economy and the building industry. This uniformity inevitably resulted in constant professional conflicts arising from economic, functional and artistic issues, which later intensified especially in the first decade of János Kádár’s political regime, after the collapse in 1956 of Mátyás Rákosi’s Stalinist dictatorship. At the same time, the extraordinary structural innovativeness and architectural creativity bred by the period’s political and economic turnover in the area of industrial architecture played a fundamental role in the ‘selfrehabilitation’ of Hungarian modernism that took place after the years of Stalinism.ON-SITE PRECASTING: FROM DOMINANCE TO INTEGRATIONIt was in the first years of the Kádár regime that a new comprehensive industrialisation programme was launched in the spirit of social modernisation. Closely connected to the ambitions of the period between 1956 and 1963, generally referred to by Hungarian historians as the ‘early Kádár period’, the programme was aimed at political stabilization and the correction of the grave economic mistakes of the Rákosi dictatorship. Initially, the economic policies of the new regime were based on the principle of a more temperate industrialization (intensifying in nature, it gave preference to light industry and the processing industries, tailored to the country’s characteristics), but after 1958 – related to the internal party policies aiming towards radically improving the living standards of the population, as well as the production cooperation programmes within the COMECON countries – the emphasis was again shifted to supporting the extensive development of heavy industry, as well as the chemical and building industries.This undertaking represented an enormous challenge for Hungarian industrial architecture, and not merely because of the enormous amount of work it required: after the industrial development projects took a new direction and new economic policy objectives were formulated, the professional values, traditions, as well as structural and technological achievements of the Rákosi era seemed to decline in significance. Structural systems and implementation processes more closely in line with the new industrialisation concept had to be developed. In doing so, designers were at times faced with grave challenges, and at other times given the opportunity for productive experimentation, all the while being urged to remain open to international novelties. The paradigm shift also set new directions regarding the aspirations linked to industrial architectural systematisation. The engineers and designers of the new period did not set aside the achievements of the previous ten years; instead, they regarded them as starting points for their own work.Attempts at systematisation in the Rákosi era were primarily determined by the structural innovation and architectural approach based on on-site precasting, which was introduced into Hungarian industrial architecture in 1947 – 1950, i.e. in the years of the nationalisation of the Hungarian building industry. On-site precasting soon became widely used, as it enabled highly resource-efficient and fast construction during the giddy pace of industrialisation in the early 1950s, when the Hungarian building industry lacked not only sufficient resources and assets, but even significant prefabrication facilities. Although it was generally agreed that the main goal would have been the development of factory-made, standardized building structures, the construction industry could not meet this aim for an entire decade, i.e. until the early 1960s. Architectural standardization, expected both ideologically and economically, did not produce significant results: the main reason being that the overwhelming majority of the commissions were halls with vast spans and technological structures that required other complicated architectural configurations, which were typically one-off designs because of the country’s economic and geographical attributes and were rarely built more than once, thus not allowing the opportunity for extensive standardization.It is, therefore, understandable that in this situation on-site precasting appeared the most competitive solution by far: while requiring only relatively small-scale building industry development, it enabled methods that utilised the assembly of quasi mass-produced structural elements to replace the traditional, seasonally implemented processes. As a result, on-site precasting could be more or less justified both from an economic and ideological standpoint – for at least eight-ten years – to the representatives of building industry policy. It was argued that on-site precasting enabled the Hungarian building industry to rid itself of the shackles of the ‘handicraft’ practices of the bourgeois past and set off on the path towards the ‘progressive’ technologies of industrial production. The position of on-site precasting was also strengthened by the existence, as of 1951, of a separate department at IPARTERV working on the development of structural systems based on on-site precasting as well as on the definition of standards for organising implementation, i.e. how to extend on-site precasting as a generally applied systematisation principle in industrial construction projects. Although the head of the department and prominent structural engineer Gyula Mátrai, and his colleagues – primarily Károly Pászti and Béla Fekete – drew ample inspiration during this work from contemporary international developments, they essentially created a system of onsite precasting adapted to local conditions. The wide-range proliferation of on-site precasting was lent real impetus by the ability of this technology to enable virtually ‘custom-made’ structural systems adjusted precisely to the production technology structure of the new factories, and provided cost-effective implementation processes. In the meantime, designers were able to utilise the unified technological, design and implementation norms, modular system and structural schemes previously elaborated by IPARTERV’s previously mentioned special department...

  • Issue Year: 48/2014
  • Issue No: 3-4
  • Page Range: 178-201
  • Page Count: 24
  • Language: English