1972–1983: Housing construction
1972–1988: Construction of civic amenities
1984–1989: Increasing the density of the housing development, so-called remodelling
Pozemní stavby, state enterprise, Brno division (main contractor).
Vodohospodářské stavby, state enterprise, Brno division; Prefa, state enterprise, Brno division (main sub-contractors).
The National Committee of the City of Brno, represented by Investprojekt Brno (after 1979 Brnoinvesta)
A total of 9,232 apartments were built for 29,265 residents.
The development of the territory
Bohunice was first mentioned in 1237 as the property of the Premonstratensian monastery in Brno-Zábrdovice. It was a village on rolling land running down to the left bank of the Leskava tributary, the historical centre of which was formed by the square Morávkovo náměstí and Rolnická street. In the 1980s, the village disappeared to make way for the new housing development. The estate accounted for a large part of the cadastre and created a completely new urban structure, with an overlap in the neighbouring territory of Starý Lískovec, which was first mentioned in 1314 and was originally a village with rows of terraced houses in the valley along both banks of the Leskava. Today’s cadastral area of Bohunice and Starý Lískovec is an area demarcated by Jihlavská street, traffic conduits, the motorway and the garages along Ukrajinská street. The area of the housing estate, which later adopted the name Bohunice (it was originally named the Estate of Czechoslovak-Soviet Friendship), has a longitudinal shape in an east-west direction. On its eastern side, it borders the Central Cemetery and on its western border is a motorway conduit. Its northern limit is the complex of the university hospital and university campus buildings and its southern limit is the Prague to Bratislava expressway.
The construction had a massive impact on the lives of the inhabitants of Bohunice. Houses, trees and land that had been farmed for generations had to be cleared to make way for the construction site. The most devastating clearance took place during the so-called ‘remodelling of Bohunice’, when a residential complex of twelve-storey blocks of the B70/R type containing 1,350 apartments was built on part of the original village centre in the years 1984–1989. This had an unusually high density of housing units, which numbered 155 per hectare. A lone reminder of the disappearance of the historical centre of Bohunice is the Chapel of St. Cyril and Methodius from 1871, which stands among the prefabricated panel apartment blocks. Archaeological excavations on the site revealed the remains of ancient cultures, which shows that the first people to settle in this area arrived in the late Stone Age, more than four thousand years ago.
As it was originally known as the Estate of Czechoslovak-Soviet Friendship, once the residential blocks were finished, many of the streets were named after Soviet federal republics, cities, politicians, cosmonauts, and major Soviet battles of the Second World War (e.g., Arménská, Běloruská, Gruzínská, Moldavská, Ukrajinská a Uzbecká, Maršála Zacharova, Zápotockého, Švermova, Šmeralova, and Juranova). After 1989, some Soviet-named streets in the Bohunice and Starý Lískovec cadastres were renamed, such as Kalininova (today Labská), Sverdlovova (today Vltavská) and Maršála Zacharova (today Dlouhá).
The construction programme was preceded by the competitions held in 1963 (for an urban study for a housing estate for 50,000 residents) and 1969. In 1963, Bohuslav Fuchs was one of those who took part, in partnership with his son, Kamil Fuchs. Among the other competing teams was that led by the architect Ivan Ruller (in collaboration with František Kočí and Miroslav Spurný), who also sent a design to the following competition, which was announced by the National Committee of the City of Brno in 1969 (in collaboration with Zdeněk Chlup, M. Maradová, P. Šrubař and B Kučera, the design received an award). On the basis of the competition results, the construction department of Brno’s national committee, in cooperation with the city’s urban planning department, drew up a construction programme, which was handed over to Stavoprojekt Brno for further elaboration.
The complex path from the design to the construction of the housing estate cannot be detailed more precisely due to an absence of sources. The urban planning study for the housing estate from 1972, which was published in the journal Architektura ČSSR, does not correspond to the eventual form of the development. Today, it is very difficult to determine the contributions of the individual architects in the design of the development. A crucial role in the construction was played by the contractors, above all, Pozemní stavby. Moreover, many of the architects’ suggestions and designs were rejected to the detriment of the eventual form of the estate. Unlike the housing estates in Juliánov and Lesná, Bohunice was not considered to be among Brno’s most significant investments within the five-year plans.
Urban planning design
The architects conceived the residential estate on the territory of Bohunice and Starý Lískovec as a self-contained city district with no need of being connected to the centre of Brno. A commercial and administrative centre was to be built on the housing estate and it was to be one of three major centres of its kind in Brno. However, this vision was doomed to failure even at the time of its inception. Because of its sheer size, the housing estate was divided into six separate residential districts. This division was determined by the progressive course of construction: Bohunice-East, Bohunice-Centre I, Bohunice-West, Bohunice-Centre III/I, Bohunice-Centre III/II, and Bohunice-Centre II. In addition to residential buildings, these districts always had to have civic amenities and technical buildings. The concept was based on the shape of the land and the sheer size of the construction site, insofar as all parts of the housing estate would be able to access primary schools, nursery schools, crèches, shops and services, which would be evenly distributed throughout the site.
The housing estate consists primarily of a disjointed layout of large apartment blocks of the same height. The irregular clusters of buildings with no obvious connections create a confused environment and even the transport arteries do not help improve orientation on the estate. An example is the tram corridor that cuts through the housing estate and obstructs other forms of movement. The pre-existing part of Starý Lískovec was preserved, as only vacant land was built on. In Bohunice, some of the older housing stock had to make way for the new housing estate. The estate is served by the city’s public transport system, with a tram line that entered service in 1980, buses, and a trolleybus line that runs along the border with Starý Lískovec. Due to its position on the elevated horizon of the city, the housing estate is a significant feature on the panorama of Brno.
Construction schedule and the facilities for the housing estate
Construction work on the housing estate began in November 1972 in the Bohunice-East sector (Uzbecká, Ukrajinská and Moldavská streets) at the same time as construction on the D1 motorway. In contrast to earlier Brno estates, a technical innovation in construction was the installation of a sewerage system that strictly separated rainwater and sewage. As part of the construction of the first stage of Bohunice-East, 2,446 housing units were built in 65 buildings composed in ten blocks. In terms of the layout, the urban units were very fragmented. The advantage of this design was the greater variability of the interior architecture and the opportunity it offered to bring light into the apartments from several sides.
The utility networks and apartment buildings were constructed to elaborate schedules, but the work on civic amenities was delayed. This necessitated alternative solutions, such as, the deployment of temporary GP surgeries, shops and mini crèches inside the residential buildings. These measures contributed to a significant increase in investment costs. The first facility for preschool children, on Arménská street, did not open until 1977. The primary school on the same street had opened a year earlier. The planned health centre did not go into operation until 1980 and the supermarket on Dlouhá did not open until 1981. The Kavkaz shopping centre on Švermova street opened in 1987 and the telecommunications building was not completed until 1991.
The extent and scale of civic amenities centres for housing estates was worked out on the basis of national indicators and the assessments of experts from state institutions and organizations. During the construction of the estate, whole buildings were left out, which interfered with the comprehensiveness of the design of the housing estate. A notable example was the planned Prior department store on Mikuláškovo náměstí, with a cinema, restaurants and other services, which never left the drawing board. All this influenced the relationship the new residents formed towards the estate, which for many was rather negative for the above-mentioned reasons.
A further source of discontent was the repeated proliferation of mosquitoes. This problem was addressed by representatives of the Družba housing cooperative in 1978. It was connected to the flooding of the service floors of residential buildings with water and faeces due to inadequate sealing of the earthenware sewerage pipes and the breaking of the joints, which did not conform to the prescribed technological procedures and materials (e.g., cast-iron pipes were not used, and the resulting savings brought the relevant parties financial reward for their so-called improved economic results). A definitive solution to this problem did not arrive until the early 1990s.
The new B70 construction and layout system was used to construct the apartment buildings. In the 1970s, it was meant to be a refreshing innovation, a type that combined transverse and longitudinal load-bearing systems and also included various spans of 2.4, 3.6, and 4.8 metres, although in Brno the traditional span commonly used was 3.6 metres. This new type of prefabricated panel building was developed at Stavoprojekt Brno in cooperation with the state enterprises PS Brno, VVÚP Bratislava and Investprojekt Brno. The authors of the design were the architects František Zounek and Miroslav Dufek, the author of the construction was the engineer M. Šifald, and the structural design was elaborated by the engineer I. Indra. The range of this system consisted of the following panels: perimeter (in 30 shape variants and 11 sizes − 30/11), wall (37/3), floor (32/9), partition (40/17) and supplementary (43/30). It was noted that ‘With the introduction of the new elements, the layout arrangement enables the composition of different apartment cells, which allows for the configuration of different floor plans […], for the apartment users, it brings improved facilities and living space, better sound insulation as well as an improved ventilation system.’ (Josef Zavřel, ‘Největší v historii podniku’ [The biggest in the history of the company], Pozemstav buduje, 1975, No. 19, 7. 5., p. 3.)
As with any innovation, the new design of the apartment layouts was not initially understood. The designers conceived the panel construction system in such a way that it would alter the users’ lingering belief that the main centre of family life was the kitchen and so it would preclude eating and sleeping in the living room. In the apartments for five or more people, there were two washbasins, and compared to other apartments being built in Brno at that time, the living area was larger. The apartments on the Bohunice estate were, on average, 4.8 square metres larger than the types built in the period 1971–1975.
Nevertheless, the architecture of the apartment buildings of the housing estate was diminished by the absence of detail. The outer shell was from full-wall panels and the windows were undivided and pivoted. In their expression, the buildings in Bohunice and Starý Lískovec were similar to the first prefabricated panel blocks from the late 1950s (e.g., the G57 series). Although they were somewhat more progressive in terms of the larger area and the more spacious balconies and loggias, the number of these features gradually declined as construction was rationalized. The buildings contained all categories of apartments, i.e., categories I. and II. – so-called non-family dwellings (intended for 1-2 persons) and categories III. and higher – so-called family apartments. It was noted that ‘The individual apartments are designed in new configurations, which allow for a greater number of apartments depending on the number of family members, which means that one, or at most two, family members have a room of their own.’ (Jana Pelánková, ‘Sídliště Bohunice’ [Bohunice Housing Estate], Brněnský večerník VII, 1976, No. 87, 4.5.)
Homes for the disabled
In 1978, the Central Commission for the Removal of Architectural Barriers was founded and a branch was established in Brno. As a result of its activities, in the 1980s, a methodology was developed that laid down procedures for the design of buildings for disabled people and the elderly, which was approved by the Ministry of Construction and Technology. A binding decree was later issued in the Collection of Laws. The atypical buildings constructed for the disabled on the housing estate in Bohunice were the first of their kind.
In 1980, two buildings of eight storeys (the ground floor had a permanent caretaker service that provided supplies and assistance to the residents) with one hundred atypical flats in three size categories were made available to residents on Kosmonautů street. Both buildings were constructed from type B70 full panels and had two spacious elevators with a load capacity of 500 kg that were built with traditional brick technology. The perimeter constructions of the staircases of the buildings were also brick structures, and the 10.7-centimetre-high stairs were carpeted with special rubber. The internal arrangement of the apartments was adapted for people moving about in wheelchairs, which meant there was a larger area, on account of the mobility and rotation of the wheelchairs and passage around the furniture. They also featured wider doors without doorsteps. For safety reasons, the door handles were white, there were handrails in the bathrooms and toilets, and the apartments were heated to a temperature three degrees above the norm.
The average cost of an apartment modified in this way was 125,000 Czechoslovak crowns (CSK). Even so, there were a range of shortcomings. Among other things, there was no specialized establishment where the residents could find employment, and the buildings were a considerable distance away from the civic amenities (e.g., the supermarket and health centre), parking (thereby increasing the risk of accidents, especially in winter) and the nearest public transport stop. These shortcomings would inform the design for a complex of apartments for the disabled being prepared for the housing estate in Brno-Vinohrady.
NOX furniture system
In 1983, the Research and Development Institute for Furniture in Brno (VVÚN) presented a new line of furniture at the 14th International Consumer Goods Fair, namely, the modular system of NOX elements. The architect Eva Bubláková designed the individual elements, which facilitated variable solutions for the hall, bedroom, children’s room and living room. Her designs catered for the needs of people living in small apartments on housing estates. For example, in her designs for children’s rooms there were bunk beds, boards attached to the furniture that substituted for tables, and windows were surrounded by walls of cupboards. Another innovation of NOX was the use of roller blinds to cover up the bed, which was the result of the personal experience of the designer. She explained, ‘Sometimes my work would last into the night and the light would disturb others – that’s the reason for the nooks with blinds. In fact, roller blinds, the little ones, are my favourite element of the whole set. Sometimes there’ll be a cabinet behind them or a storage space for bedding in the form of a textile shelf. It’s more hygienic than an airing cupboard ...’ (Mirjana Nimrichtrová, ‘Nábytek sídlištím na míru’ [Made-to-measure furniture for estates], Brněnský večerník XIV, 1983, No. 87, 4.5., p. 1, 3.). In May 1975, there was an exhibition of furniture in one of the finished buildings, organized in cooperation with the housing association Družba and the state company Nábytek.
Artworks were a planned feature of the estate and thus there were a series of committee meetings regarding the design, ideas, and of various other commissions, and negotiations took place between trade unions and associations of the artistic professions. Many high-quality and inventive works of art were installed on the housing estate, such as: Táta-letadélko [Daddy-plane] and Beran [Ram] by Antonín Nový, Vítěz [Winner] by František Navrátil, Pět segmentů kruhu [Five segments of a circle] by Dalibor Chatrný and Venuše [Venus] by Vladimír Drápal.
Among the dominant spatial works was the five-metre object Tulipán [Tulip], forged by the artistic blacksmith Alfred Habermann. The surviving work of art Boží muka [Wayside Shrine] was incorporated into a symbolic municipal vineyard at the District Office of Brno-Bohunice.
From the year 2000, the facades of the apartment buildings were gradually clad in thermal insulation, the windows were replaced, and balconies and loggias were given shear walls, all of which helped humanize the housing estate. After the extensive revitalization, there was a significant transformation, especially in the colour scheme of the facades of the buildings. Bohunice no longer looks like the concrete complex of a megalomaniac, and with the new colour composition, the prefabricated panel blocks are pleasantly differentiated and the individual buildings have thus acquired an aspect of individuality. In 2004, the first stage of the revitalization of the Bohunice-South-East part of the housing estate began, which was an extensive project for the restoration of greenery and civic amenities. A second regeneration project began in 2011 on the north-western part of the site. Throughout the period of its existence, the housing estate has had to contend with noise from the motorway and the motorway conduit, a problem which even the installation of sound barriers has failed to solve.