Czech Housing Good Enough For Yesterday’s Commies, Today’s Middle Classes

A long row of 8 or so storied apartments in panels of alternating maroon and concrete colour
:building bloks: photo by Leigh Anthony DEHANEY is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0
Prague, Czech Republic apartments constructed in the communist era.

Imagine: worried housing academics, historians, designers and activists agonizing and shaking their heads over the “new chic” — privately purchased and refurbished social housing apartments — unadorned brick towers now become absolutely the urban “in thing” to own and cherish!

What drug-fuelled fever-dream of some impossible future could conjure up an idea so ridiculous?

And yet just such thing has actually happened in what is today the Czech Republic.

If “western” society’s social/public brick housing towers are much hated failures, magnify that hatred by imagining them built, not with cozy red brick, but with concrete prefab panels to create endless blocks of drab buildings born of Soviet housing reconstruction following WWII. In western imagination, mere association with communism brands this housing as a heap of squalid, inadequate containers fit only for squalid, inadequate communist lives.

However, once the Czechs had embraced western-style government, someone forget that to tell them that their free, communist-assigned apartments were suitable only for the dregs of society. Sold to their former tenants for a pittance, they’ve been refurbished and have not only appreciated in value, but become a desirable commodity.

Read more about how beauty can very much be in the eye of the holder, at Bloomberg City Lab: Prague’s Communist-Era Apartments Get a Second Life