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Idea, Ideal, Idyll: Garden Cities in Central Europe 1890s-1930s

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - GARDENCITYIDEA (Idea, Ideal, Idyll: Garden Cities in Central Europe 1890s-1930s)

Reporting period: 2018-09-01 to 2020-08-31

GARDENCITYIDEA´s key objective was to undertake a critical analysis of the international garden city movement as an instance of cultural, expert, and intellectual exchange between the United Kingdom and central Europe in the first half of the 20th century. Scientifically speaking, the project set a milestone in the investigation of the garden city movement in central Europe. This has been communicated to the international academia in several conferences both in Europe and the US and has always gained broad interest and positive feedback.
GARDENCITYIDEA identified new transnational and national networks of intellectual and social exchange between the UK, Germany, Austria and the Czech lands (Czechoslovakia from 1918). Based on many new examples and case studies, the newly achieved scholarship contributes to a fundamental revision of Czech national identity, history and art history. The innovative approach to the past sheds new light not only on modern architecture and town planning but comprises also of significant insights to the issues of nationalism in the 1890s-1930s.
The garden city movement was parallel to the women rights movement and its ultimate goal of a fundamental social transformation. Analysing historical sources relating to links between urbanist thought and wider social questions, especially, gender identities provides significant disparities in time and place. If garden city movement involved some women issues in the UK and Germany, in the Czech lands it was only into a very limited extend.
GARDENCITYIDEA comprised of examination of primary and secondary documents and literature, field trips (both in the UK and the Czech Republic), and analysis of the achieved data. The influential, international garden city movement had to be reconstructed in the Czech lands in its totality because the former Czechoslovakia remained an underexplored field in the reform movement which is a lasting legacy of the local historiography.
GARDENCITYIDEA resulted in four research papers that are the first systematic and comparative studies that explore the field of garden city movement in the Czech lands applying transnational and comparative approach. The studies prove that the garden city movement was selected as an appropriate platform to indicate the rich cultural transfer between Britain and central Europe. Following the English and German models, the Czech garden cities pioneers were in close touch with British ideas in the course of several decades and the cultural transfer flourished in both directions.
The results of GARDENCITYIDEA have been presented in several national and international conferences and have been well received by the scientific community. In May 2020, the fellow has convened an international conference ´Packed, Unpacked, and Adopted. Garden Cities Reconsidered´ at the University of Birmingham that had to be cancelled due to Covid-19 pandemic. Despite the lockdown, the fellow was able to deliver several talks on the project to general public in both, the UK and the Czech Republic in the first 18 months of the project. These activities also continue once the project is over.
To disseminate the results of the project, the fellow participated in the following conferences and research meetings: BASEES in Cambridge (British Association for Slavonic and East European Studies Annual Conference), CRAACE in Brno (Conference, In the Shadow of the Habsburg Empire? Art and Architecture in Interwar Central Europe), ASEEES in San Francisco (Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies Annual Conference).
As a consequence of these meetings the fellow has been invited to give talks and guest lectures in Germany, the UK, Croatia, Austria and the Czech Republic. To disseminate the results of GARDENCITYIDEA among general public the fellow has presented her knowledge to communities both in the UK and the Czech Republic (their eventual number was limited by the Covid-19 pandemic). Moreover, the results of GARDENCITYIDEA have also been communicated through other non-academic channels, including the fellow´s twitter account @HnidkovaVendula or in journal Vesmír that promotes science among general public.
GARDENCITYIDEA set a milestone in Czech art history questioning the traditional narratives of modern architecture, town planning, and nationalism. Exploring the reform movement as a part of a broader international exchange of ideas, the intellectual transfer surpasses existing scholarship in the understanding of national, gender, and cultural issues of modernity. In central Europe, the garden city movement encompasses German and Austrian pioneers of urban reform who formed vivid cultural networks with the Czech reformers. Their activities and writings had a significant impact on the objectives of the Czech architects, town planners, and the local authorities. This knowledge sheds new light on the construction of Czech identity as it opposes the dominant narrative of Czech and German antagonism. In this sense, the GARDENCITYIDEA provides ground-breaking results in the studies of modernity and identity in central Europe.