Pozemní stavby, state enterprise, Brno division (main contractor).
Vodohospodářské stavby, state enterprise, Brno division; Prefa, state enterprise, Brno division (main sub-contractors).
1960–1963 (housing construction), civic amenities by 1967
The National Committee of the City of Brno, represented by Investprojekt Brno
A total of 1,306 apartments were built for 4,100 residents.
Building development and urban design
The village of Juliánov was founded at the end of the 18th century and formed a kind of enclave in the cadastre of Židenice, the territory of which was never precisely demarcated. Because of its predominantly working-class character, it was renamed Hybešova čtvrť in the early 1950s, but it was still referred to by its former name by the inhabitants. In 1960, work began on the construction of a new residential complex south of the original village on fields near Bělohorská street. This became known as Juliánov Housing Estate, as the historical name was transferred to the newly built part of the area.
The Juliánov Housing Estate is the first example in Brno of a proper ‘satellite’, i.e., a residential complex in a hitherto non-urban area, designed as a closed unit with its own civic amenities. The architects of the housing estate, led by Pavel Krchňák, attempted to create an intimate living environment undisturbed by traffic and ensure the best possible views of the landscape from the apartments ‘… so that the housing estate [despite its size] offered a whole range of unique spaces in terms of form and size – so that each residential group had its own atmosphere’ (Pavel Krchňák, Sídliště Juliánov, Architektura ČSSR XXVII, 1968, p. 22). Although they had only standard types of apartment buildings at their disposal, they created a housing estate with an extraordinary effect and, at the same time, a humanistic dimension.
The entrance area with three tower blocks near Potácelova street and a similar final grouping on Marie Kudeříková street shape the contours of the housing estate, which is a development of open blocks between the streets Bělohorská and Krásného. It has a clear design of alternating groups of long prefabricated panel buildings and tower blocks, which creates a distinctive and pleasant environment. This was complemented by Juliánovské náměstí, which had civic amenities and formed the district centre. It was located on the site of a former cemetery and integrated the original mature trees. This above-standard attention to detail was evident in the area in front of the district centre, where there was artistic decoration and a publicly accessible paddling pool. One of the authors of the landscape design was Ivar Otruba, the most significant Czech garden and landscape architect of the late 20th and early 21st century.
The shape of the estate was influenced by the contours of the terrain, which was the terrace beneath the slopes of the hill Bílá hora (formerly Hybešova hora), the southern edge of which ends in steep sandstone cliffs. Below the steep gullies, which were cultivated and greened, an athletics complex was built. The housing estate’s elevated position gives it views of the open landscape to the south and, on a clear day, the symbol and dominant feature of South Moravia, the Pálava Hills. Consequently, a pedestrian promenade was built on the southern side of the housing estate (unfortunately, it does not run along the entire length of the sandstone edge).
The estate is served by a tram line (on Pod sídlištěm street) and buses (Bělohorská street), but the original design for a line along Krásného street never materialized. Around the time the apartment blocks for the estate were being completed (1963), some cooperative brick apartment buildings were being constructed on the streets Bělohorská and Špačkova. These were not part of the execution planning documentation for the estate, but they appeared in the first studies. While it was being built, the new housing estate was dubbed ‘Little America’, on account of the seven tower blocks that formed a new landmark on the eastern edge of the city.
Buildings and apartments
Juliánov was the first residential complex in Brno that was assembled from prefabricated full-wall panels. The architects placed emphasis on the panel facades, the surfaces of which were coated with white marble chips directly at the panel manufacturing plant. It was the first time the B60 type was used. This was a regional variant of the G57 small-span prefabricated panel system, which created a larger living space, primarily by removing loggias and incorporating this space into the apartment. Instead of loggias, each apartment unit had a metal suspended balcony with a front parapet of anodized or enamelled corrugated aluminium sheet. The architects made only limited use of the G57 type, more specifically, on Boettingrova street in rows of three sections. The improved layouts of the two- and three-room apartments in the new type of panel buildings allowed the creation of a niche in the living rooms, which could be utilized in various ways (for sleeping, dining, or as a work space). There was a predominance of two-room apartments on the housing estate.
In the B60 buildings, all installations were concentrated in a central shaft running through the middle of the first floor of the buildings. Other technical changes were the flat roof with an internal pitch which allowed for the installation of a lift, the elimination of the drainage process of sub-layers for floors, and the use of pressed bakelite for staircase ‘windows’ (the panels with a composition of small square windows in a rectangular grid were merely translucent). The designers placed the laundries and drying rooms in separate buildings, which were equipped with 12 large-capacity automatic washing machines, two gas boilers, large-volume spin driers, two box dryers with gas heating, and an automatic wringer. Residents could have their laundry done by trained staff in the laundry room for a fee.
The architect of the B60 eleven-storey tower block was Miroslav Dufek. The ground floor of this high-rise building did not house apartments, only entrances and facilities for the building, and was set back from the façade on two sides. This was achieved by the cantilevered form of the cross beams supporting the upper storeys. The resulting effect is that of a lightened substructure supporting the whole mass of the house. The tower blocks contained forty three-room apartments with facilities (e.g., kitchen with loggia, bathroom, cloakroom, hallway and pantry). The ground floor of the block housed the entrance hall and storage spaces. The cost per apartment unit was approximately 67,000 Czechoslovak crowns (CSK).
In October 1961, a demonstration exhibition was held in three of the apartments to demonstrate that their new layout design satisfied individual housing requirements in various categories and the aesthetic aspect of the fittings. In the magazine of the contractor, Pozemstav buduje, we learn about the many domestic and foreign building experts who visited the estate during its construction and about the public reaction in comments in the guest book (‘Hlasy o Juliánově’, Pozemstav buduje, 1961, 20.12., No. 30, p. 3). A. Melicharová from Vienna comments ‘I was very surprised at all that’s being done for the working people there. People are really getting the best and most practical things. It wouldn’t happen here in Austria!’ Bohumíra Langová notes ‘The apartments are nice, but they’re not for large families. Doors would be better than curtains.’ František Sláma wrote ‘It would be good if they plastered the ceiling joints! And I wonder what they’re going to do with the TV aerials. Apart from that, everything is well worked out! Even the kitchens. They’re just the job.’ Josef Nesázel advised ‘They should have put tiles on the wall by the cooker, as the wall will get covered in grease! The area of oil-based paint on the walls near the floor and in the hall and kitchen should be tiled, like it is the corridor.’ (Hlasy o Juliánově, Pozemstav buduje, 1962, 24.1., No. 4, p. 3).
The civic amenities buildings for the estate included a crèche (at Krásného 20), nursery schools (Mazourova 2 and Kamenáčky 28), a primary school (Krásného 24), a civic amenities centre (Juliánovské náměstí 2), a sports stadium, a library and three laundries.
From the beginning of the 1960s, the issue of the comprehensive composition of the environment of the nation’s housing estates was often discussed. This debate led to efforts to place the lightness, beauty and aesthetics of artworks among the ‘heavy and bulky panel materials’ with the aim of creating a certain intimacy on the residential complexes. The space of the Juliánov estate is still brightened by regularly placed reinforced concrete interactive objects (climbing frames) in organic shapes by the Brno sculptor Zdeněk Macháček, which were inspired by the series of wooden sculptures Světy ticha [Worlds of Silence] from 1962–1963.
Among the works of sculptural decoration that have not survived is the metal sculpture from copper sheet entitled Seskupení [Group] (from around 1967) by František Šenk, which was in front of the primary school on Krásného. The figural sculpture Pramen [Spring] (Vysočina I) by Jiří Marek was part of the water feature consisting of three circular shallow pools on Juliánovské náměstí. An impressive artistic element in the interior of the centre for shops and services was the decorative lattice from old iron by E. Sauerstein and K. Řezníček, which once stood at the entrance to the restaurant terrace but has now disappeared.
The original appearance of the housing estate has been irreversibly altered by the ‘renovation’ of the prefabricated panel buildings. The ones in Juliánov were among the first in the Czech Republic to undergo such revitalization (as early as 1992) and were equipped with inappropriate roof extensions with half-cylindrical or saddle roofs. Although these modifications increased the energy efficiency and living space of the buildings, they significantly disrupted the original architectural expression. A system of bulky reinforced concrete loggias has also replaced some of the worn steel or concrete balconies (e.g., on Marie Kudeříkové street, nos. 13–17). The colours of the facades have also changed and are now painted in varying shades of pink, blue, green, and yellow. Nevertheless, these negative aspects have not diminished the attractiveness of the area as a place to live. There is still significant interest in vacant apartments, even though there is a municipal incinerator nearby.
The original freely accessible paddling pool area in front of the civic amenities centre on Juliánovské náměstí was rebuilt (2005–2006) and is now an admission-charging outdoor swimming pool. This went against the original idea of the urban plan and created a separate ‘island’ in the middle of a public space. After 2002, a set of apartment buildings was built along the northern edge of the original development, which is conspicuous in terms of its architectural and material design. A Tesco supermarket and a Ford dealership are located in the immediate vicinity. In 2019, Juliánovské náměstí was attractively revitalized to a design by the architectural studio HUA HUA.