Karel Teige, the Czech communist, avant-garde artist, and architectural critic, was known for many insightful works. The Minimum Dwelling, finished in 1932, attempted to take stock of the International Congress of Modern Architects’ (CIAM’s) plan to create comfortable, livable standardized dwellings for the working masses of Europe and the world. It was meant as an answer to the housing crisis that had pervaded Europe for decades, about which the late Engels had composed his popular polemic, The Housing Question. Yet at the same time it was an attempt to elaborate an international program for architecture, based in the Constructivist/Functionalist style developed by Moisei Ginzburg and others, with explicitly socialist implications in its proposed implementation. Yet he was writing as the reality in the Soviet Union was turning deeply reactionary on the artistic, architectural, and cultural fronts, and so his work can be seen as capturing the last flickering of hope of revolutionary modernism. Teige unwittingly invokes Stalin and Kaganovich in support of his radical proposals, yet little did he know that it was precisely these figures who closed the books on the architectural avant-garde in the USSR for decades. After Czechoslovakia became integrated into the Eastern Bloc after the Second World War, Teige remained optimistic. Yet soon thereafter he was publicly accused of being a Trotskyist, and he died in 1952, after suffering several nervous breakdowns.
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