A medieval city in its elementary layout consisted of a closed space with a clearly set focal point, namely a lenticular square in Košice's case. Significance of ide access routes was suppressed. City ramparts, later fortified by bastions, were intermitted by a minimum amount of gates, which resulted in a fanned-out junction of access roads before a city gate. In many cases, this phenomenon predetermined the urban concept behind future suburbs. In Košice, this principle was not anything out of the ordinary; morover, it has branded the city's layout, especially on its western and southern ends. Urban formation of cities in 18th and 19th centuries picked up on the fanned-out junction of streets before former city gates and promoted it to a composition principle called trident. Trident was a spectacular tool the urban planners could use to design progressive development of the street network which on the one hand concentrated new streets in central space of the historical city center, and on the other hand allowed for the development of new city parts. Traditional authors then used the gyratory streets to join the separate city parts into equipollent segments. System based on a gyratory-radial principle built in metropolises in the 19th and early 20th centuries, later helped to protect medieval hearts of the cities from unconceptual extensive housing development. Some cities managed to take that step in the right time; others succumbed to a turbulent building development once they crossed the critical border. Urban planning errors, however, take a long time to redevelop. With time, mishandled system of transportation requires ever more expensive and technologically demanding solutions.
Territorial plan – its origin and particularities
The directional city plan design for Košice from 1950, can be considered a breakthrough in using modern work procedure methods in former Czechoslovakia. More specifically, it is mainly the first directional city plan design from 1952, which elaborated the construction of „HUKO“ (Hutný kombinát, later VSŽ, present-day US Steel Košice). Development concept for Košice from early 1950s is a textbook example of a measured, rational and creatively sensitive maneuvering of city development devoid of any ideological undertone. Its authors drew inspiration from the experience of other cities in Europe, developing in regions that were more economically active. They resolutely refused to accept previous practices called regulation plans, which they considered to be mere systems facilitating plottable surfaces. These plans should also have a restrictive nature in designating vertical limit zones and principles necessary to create street space, namely by delimiting non-built-up surface areas, designating the positioning of industrial zones, etc. In Eastern Slovakia, such plans were elaborated for some city parts only. First comprehensive city solution was to be elaborated for Košice later, based on a map from 1912. Regulation plans elaborated in this manner did not become reality for the most part, even though they were deliberated and approved by the municipal authorities. Project implementations in torso was an option only if the investors found them to value the area up. Speculative approach to estates and construction in the previous period (1912 – 1939) played a significant role in the subsequent decay of the city form. For the most part, regulation plans which were elaborated by engineers – geometrists did not contribute to the process of conceptual city formation whatsoever. All attempts to regulated failed in its elementary purpose – i.e. to prevent the turbulent development of the city. As early as the dawn of the 20th century, the territorial planning started manifesting attempts of the enterpreneurs to rebuild the historical heart of the city into a commercial city. Since Eastern Slovakia of the time served only as a source of cheap labour and industrialization was not very significant, no larger or systematic reconstruction of city centers took place. Due to slow economic growth, it always involved only partial interventions in constructing individual buildings or small complexes, but those did not bear any weight on the overall concept of the city. From a long term perspective, such slow development did Košice good, because it created a multifarious mosaic of various styles near each other.
Comprehensive perspectives to design an urban whole jump started the proposal for a new regulation plan after 1912. Knowledge of locators, fortification engineers, or geometrists, who parcelled out permissible built-up plots, no longer sufficed. It was necessary to look for solutions in new technological fields. Development of technological infrastructure and city transport brought about the notion of an urban whole as an organic formation, which was important to consider from economic standpoints as well. At this point, it is necessary to note that the authors of Košice's deregulation plan elaborated in the first two decades of the 20th century were on their last legs and could not scientifically envisage its future development. Even though they assumed a degree of development in relation to the construction of the railway, they lacked competence when it came to comprehensive planning or the significance of a superordinate transport network. For this reason, only a small part of the regulation plan complementing the existing urban planning was executed.
The post-war directional territorial plan for Košice, the first one to be approved by the CSSR government, proved the authors capable of dealing successfully with issues such as functional surfaces, city organization, facility availability, transport, even recreation requirements within the city and its vicinity. They paid extraordinary attention to the overall urban concept, economy of city operation and positioning of the employment opportunities. They reconciled the organization of smaller urban wholes, city parts and individual districts with principles of service concentration within optimal accessibility, continuity of transport within the district, etc. The project did not consider reconstruction of the existing structures; and it proposed to retain the historical city center. The authors stood by the elementary philosophy to retain and extend the existing city center.
It was not until the so-called New City was completed around 1968, when incompetent interventions into original structure started interfering with city's integrity. High-rise building development in the valley location turned to chaos in some spots. Instead of the originally proposed gradual reconstruction of non-conforming buildings, or denser housing development in the old town, a complete eradication of the proposed structure unleashed. This caused further incompetent interventions meant to correct problems with local transport. Such improvization caused permanent deformation to the urban form. Presently, it would be unthinkable to remove even a single panel house interfering with the context of the Old town. Nonetheless, one can conclude that the directional territorial plan of 1952 was a very well composed system, which did not permit such degree of „disurbation“ which some other cities in Czechoslovakia experienced.
Even though the team of authors also dealt with the zoning plan for the VSŽ, the most important message they had passed on was a quality residential environment, in which city residents spend most of their lives. The city started construction works on the New City part in April 1962 – by the end of 1965, there were 6044 flats built within five local districts. In 1961, the vast empty down, formerly used by the military as training grounds, was livened up only by the inhabitants commuting from the nearby village of Myslava. In 1962, horses and sheep grazed the land between the cranes and the panel houses. New city district on a terrain terrace was named „Košice – Nové mesto“ (also known colloquially as “Terasa“ ) was divided to 8 districts with 2000 flats on average. Utility lines and communications were laid with an adequate head start. They were completed a year before to the flats were. For illustration, in 1964, there were 2878 flats build compared to 265 flats built in 1954. In the following years, an average production of flats stayed at 3000 flats a year. The new building development introduced new industrial practices through wide use of the large-panel technology (namely the Gottwaldov types). After 1961, new qualitatively better district versions K-61 were used. Eastern Slovakia was the first in the republic to use large span in T-08 B type for panel buildings.
“Many examples show that the city of the future will have more than a single center. Rise of these centers requires city planners to focus especially on a quality living environment. In this context, it is necessary to promote mixed development which allows citizens to live close to their workplace instead of a strict single-purpose zoning plan.“
The New Charter of Athens, 1998
Half a century before the signatories of the New Charter of Athens settled for the aforementioned wording, the team of authors behind the directional territorial plan for Košice came to a conviction that a single all-city center in the historical heart of the city did not suffice. It brought them to propose another four so-called utility centers in the individual city districts. Natural development copied their presupposed positions rather obediently.
Košice, for example, set an interesting example incorporating the historical city center amid growing residential agglomeration. The New City part design was an extraordinary urban solution. The original title suggested the authors did not intend to bring their work to an end by building a single housing estate, even though it was a large one; quite on the contrary – they worked with parameters of the settlement as a whole in mind. They provided Košice with a projection to grow some more. The team of authors integrated the historical heart of the city into a self-contained urban system based on a gyratory-radial principle without causing any urban harm to it. Their design managed to detour the devaluation of functional use in case of older residential structures and it demonstrated modern territorial planning at work.
Ing. arch. Berthold Hornung (born March 25, 1925 in Ostrava) who studied at ČVUT in Prague, stood at the core of the team of authors. Since 1961, he worked in Košice. In 1968, he emigrated. Between 1969 and 1972, he headed the architectonic and urban planning company Colin Buchanan & Partners in Edinburgh and cooperated with Fox & Partners. From 1972 to 1975, he was a consultant to city planning department in Jerusalem. Between 1975 and 1983, he worked as deputy director of Lothian regional council in Scotland. He lectured at Heriot-Watt University. Since 1985, he was a consultant to the Royal Fine Art Commission in Edinburgh. In 1986, he was awarded honorary doctorate by Heriot-Watt University for his contribution to Scottish planning and cooperation with Czechoslovakia. He died in Edinburgh on March 20, 1997. Judging by his accomplishments later in life, we can assume what is contribution to territorial planning of Košice in his role of a city planner had been in retrospect.
Despite general aversion to the gray reality of panel living, Terasa estate became a pleasant living area for tens of thousands of residents. Its construction was accompanied by several noteworthy phenomena, which did not occur at constructing any other Košice housing estate ever again – for example, mature greenery in root bales was planted here, making Terasa a green estate instantly; sculpures created for the international biannual of sculpting in metal that was held in the 1970 here, were permanently installed in key spots and created pleasant ambience once and for all. These works have a historic value at present-day and stand for unmistakable idenfication points in the setting. Terasa was awarded formal national and international prizes, but mostly, it found favour with its own residents. It is noteworthy that it represented one of two elective excursions students of the Bratislava Faculty of Architecture could choose. Secret of its success extended beyond the zoning structure design; it lay in a sensitive connection of new structures with the urban planning determined by history.
Extract from an interview with architect Ján Kurča
Ing. arch. Ján Kurča led the team of authors at Košice's Stavoprojekt, dealing with the directional territorial plan between 1950 – 1962.
He was born in Liptov. His father bought a piece of farming land in Skároš near Košice, which also led him to move to Košice after he graduated from university.
After he graduated from the Prague Faculty of Architecture, Kurča completed his compulsory military service in the artillery regiment in Košice. At that time he met Stavoprojekt's former director Viktor Malinovský, the future head architect of Košice, and his colleague Ján Gabríni (both deceased now), who convinced him to come work on the territorial plan for Košice. Kurča studied with Berthold Hornung whom he later invited to work with him in Košice. In this way, the two graduates of the Prague Faculty came together on the far end of the republic.
Firstly however, Kurča found employment in Prague. During his studies he worked for a private firm of Karol Cajvas who specialized in agricultural constructions. At that time Kurča could already boast first accomplishment in which improved the construction of the feeding structures for livestock when he decided to put a 10-centimeter gap between the 4 meter fodder troughs, which made them easier to clean and simpler to upkeep. Being a fresh university graduate in 1946, he joined the elaboration of the territorial plan for Košice. At the time, Košice's Stavoprojekt was made up of seven people.
There was a territorial plan of the city even before – it was a regulation plan used in city development, elaborated on a map from 1912. The team of authors subjected it to castigation, because it could no longer be applied to the context of a dramatically developing district city. The authors scornfully named it “drawings of our little Hana“.
Commission to elaborate a new territorial plan came from the City of Košice. Unconceptual housing development in the 1950s caused serious problems. For this reason both founding members of Stavoprojekte - Viktor Malinovský a Ján Gabríni – started convincing the city officials intensively from the beginning that any further development required regulation. At this point, it is necessary to note that at the time, there actually were people in the city council who understood the need to regulate development. Construction of the HUKO plant, later Eastern Slovak Ironworks, gave an impulse to extensive housing development. The original site was located near the Hungarian border. The idea to build here had to be abandoned due to high subsoil water. Subsequently, the construction site was moved to the current location in Šaca. This location and disposition plans came from the pen of the outstanding team of Stavoprojekt authors, which projected a plant with 25 thousand employees. When translated into urban concepts, it brought an immediate increase of 50 to 80 thousand inhabitants.
When Kurča came to Košice, it was a town of 60 thousand inhabitants with the built-up area in the valley location. Between 1950 and 1980, the city agglomeration increased fivefold to almost quarter of a million. That was a truly massive expansion, which called for a speedy yet measured concept of city development. Until then, Košice was built in a basin. The terrace overseeing the city was practically a non-built-up area. In whole first half of the 20th century, it served as military training grounds of the artillery. “We targeted the terrace out of vengeance,“ comments the architect on the project sarcastically. On second thought, the architects disposed the soldiers of tranining grounds. The surface area made available was not cultivated at the time. Only a part of it was used as pasture. Ttransportation interconnection with the valley location over a challenging slope posed the only problem in this siite.Here, the city planners had to proceed with caution to come up with suitable variants for safe transport onto the elevated terrace. Structural engineers and contractors begged to differ with the idea to build a housing estate on a terrace, since they had to haul the top clay soil off.
Elaboration of the territorial plan was preceded by an international urban planning competition financed by the city, which assumed it would become a city of half a million. The competition titled Symposium on development of Košice, was Kurča's idea since he worked as head of the urban planning studio. He invited seven outstanding urban planning teams from Central Europe who were given detailed base documents. In the course of a fortnight, each team elaborated and presented its proposal for the future city development. “Those were the hardest twelve days of my life,“ concludes the architect thinking back. Each team was convinced their proposal was the right one. All teams proposed to integrate the terrace into city's organism and they assumed logical development of the settlement westwards. It was then when the paradigm shift of the city's development as we thought of then occurred. The settlement could no longer develop lengthwise southward, nor northward; rather, it had to spread crosswise, perpendicularly on the original historical axis. It was necessary to stop filling the Hornád river valley, because it exhausted its space capacity, and it was time to step out conceptually of the historical settlement. All proposals shared these attributes, but they varied in the way they handled the problem. For this reason, it was necessary to choose. More detailed elaboration did not lie with the jury or majority voting of the officials; it required further contest of ideas based on principles of logical reasoning, which was underway for several weeks. “I reviewed all the drawings over and over,“ says the architect in retrospect. Kurča used the outputs of the symposium to elaborate preliminary documentation needed to commission the new territorial plan. All teams that later worked on the territorial plan had access to these outputs. After the symposium, the authors elaborated the so-called Directives for territorial planning solution. Directives were written principles determining for example where low building development can be positioned, or conversely, where mass high-rise building development is projected. The directives also defined the elementary concept of transportation, because the authors believed the primary principle of each city rested on its transportation network. Their presupposition proved correct in next decades when Košice did not experience any transportation problems unlike other, even smaller town in Slovakia. Local transportation system was later assigned to transportation specialist Ing. Vojtech Gerstbrein and a fresh university graduate Ing. Surový. In time, a compact team working jointly on all project developed. Individual merit of the authors cannot be rightfully assessed in retrospect. In further elaboration, Kurča decided to collaborate with the Prague Faculty of Architecture, which hosted a grouping of distinguished specialists in territorial planning; namely, the department led by prof Miškovič. They were always willing to come to Košice and give advise. They could surely feel a sense of gratification when their proposals and recommendations became reality. The City of Košice was accommodating to reimburse the consultants for their trip.
Any substantial rifts in the team were nonexistent. They could handle all arising problems themselves. The entire team, put together by Kurča, respected existing status in the primary concept of the directional territorial plan. The authors agreed that “Košice must remain Košice.“ Such trivial concept stands in sharp opposition to the widely spread opinion that the Czechoslovak city planners of the 1950s and 1960s decided to tear down everything that stood in their way. Quite on the contrary. Authors of the directional territorial plan for Košice set their mind to retaining the existing city concept and extending it westwards, eastward, and southward. On the northern end, they planned to set up a forest park and recreation zone. There is no doubt they held Košice's historical city center in high regard. They viewed Košice as an ideal historical foundation. “If you look at Košice today, the core of the city along the historical communication network is still exactly the same way as it once was! “, states Kurča with satisfaction after fifty years of tempestuous city development. The only new concept, which the authors promoted but which did not materialize was the strip interchange in the east-west axis over the historical heart of the city. Such interconnection of both contra lateral terraces on the East and the West parts could save the historical city center from drastic interventions and provide swift transportation connection throughout the city. Many European cities executed analogous inner-city (not highway-type) viaduct to leave the fragile transportation relations within the historical city center intact. The city senses the nonexistent „backbone“ even today. Heated debates in expert and lay circles and among city officials are on over satisfactory solutions to secure transportation on Štúrova ulica and at Námestie Osloboditeľov. Back then, the authors worked with the primary criterion resting on retaining the disposition present in the historical development of the city. They believed the origin and concept of the entire city lay in history. The Old Town should have tied in with the so-called utility strip, uniting the New City with the historical city center. This green strip has not been built-up yet, but the architect considers its current proposed functional use as a family house development a “tragedy“