Socialist Realist architecture

Ostrava
13. 2. 2014

Monumental, historicist, symmetrical, decorative and full of Stalinist ideology – this is Socialist Realism, or ‘sorela’.

Sorela, a word based on the term Socialist Realism in architecture, denotes buildings built in the mid-20th century. These buildings had a uniform look, in the Russian style, which represented the then-peak of perfection. Sorela was mainly applied in newer towns: Kladno, Karviná, Havířov and Ostrava.

Sorela and Ostrava-Poruba

The Stalin Baroque, a.k.a. sorela, brought to the Czech Republic the abject taste of second-rate Soviet architects. The official style of the Communist era was applied chiefly in the Ostrava borough of Poruba. The ground plan of streets and squares forms a regular pattern full of right angles. Blocks of flats are of the same height and form virtually closed complexes of residential buildings of light sand colour, with the large courtyards typical of Russian urban buildings. The sorela style includes a number of actual or implied Classicist columns and triangular or stepped gables, as well as historicising elements on the facades of buildings, celebrating national motifs and the building of a new country. Despite this, sorela does not have only negative aspects; the positive aspects include spacious boulevards, sufficient greenery and a traditional system of street blocks. Life in Ostrava-Poruba is definitely more pleasant than, say, on high-rise housing estates.

Sorela in Prague

Sorela also found its way to Prague, where the best-known example of the style is the Hotel Crowne Plaza in Podbaba. The hotel, which was built under the direct supervision of the government of the time, was, like the Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw, a smaller copy of seven similar monumental buildings in Moscow. The largest tower-like structure of the time, it is 88 metres tall, has sixteen floors and was completed in 1954. An example of the later sorela period is Hotel Jalta on Wenceslas Square; in its luxury interiors you won’t, however, find a trace of the style.

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