York University

Steven Logan is a doctoral candidate in Communication and Culture at York University. His dissertation is an inter-disciplinary and comparative study of automobility in the Canadian and Czech post-war suburbs. He is a member of LOT: Experiments in Urban Research, out of which grew the Leona Drive Project, a site specific art installation in seven post-war suburban houses. He was co-editor of Public 43 on the theme of “Suburbs: Dwelling in Transition.” Between 2003 and 2007, Steven was co-editor of Carbusters magazine, the main publication of the World Carfree Network.

The City as a Work of Art in the Age of Automobility: The Case of South City, Prague

On display in the Czechoslovak pavilion at Expo ’67 was a model of Etarea, an experimental city that would be situated in the green landscape 10 km south from Prague. It was a city for 130,000 people in a future defined by and through the rapid mobility of people, information, and goods. Etarea was never built, but it became the model for South City, an urban development just outside of Prague. Conceived in the late 60s, South City connected post-war Western Modern planning that sought to create entirely new cities with the utopian visions of the artists and architects of the Modernism of the Czechoslovak avant-garde. It was premised on the paradoxical rejection and embracing of the automobile.

Following the Russian occupation of 1968, the main architect of South City was forced to leave the project, and little of the original plans were realized. One architectural theorist called South City, with its row upon row of mass-produced prefabricated concrete apartment buildings, the ugliest housing settlement on the planet. Still lacking a city centre, South City is an unfinished ‘city,’ neither city nor suburb in the traditional sense, stuck between Prague’s medieval historical core and the new post-communist suburbs, and between the ‘dreamworld and catastrophe’ of mass utopia.

This paper catches a glimpse of the past planning and design of future dwellings and mobilities (automobile and otherwise), asking how this particular history of the dreams of mobility and dwelling resonates with and informs the present urban and ecological concerns around automobility, and the transition to sustainable mobilities.