What is a family house?

  • Michael Baumgartner, The moral order of a suburb, Oxford 1988
  • Robert Fishman, Burgeois Utopias. The Rise and Fall of Suburbia, New York 1987
  • Jürgen Habermas, Strukturální proměna veřejnosti, Praha 2000
  • Peter Hall, The Cities in Civilisation. Culture, Innovation and Urban Order, London 1998
  • Peter Hall, Cities in Tomorrow. An Intelectual History of Urban Planning and Design in the Twentieth Century, Oxford 2002
  • Richard Harris, Peter J. (eds.) Larkham, Changing Suburbs: Foundation, Form and Function, London
  • Ladislava Horňáková, František Lýdie Gahura. Projekty, realizace a sochařské dílo (kat. výstavy), Krajská galerie výtvarného umění ve Zlíně 2006
  • Donald J. Olsen, The City as a Work of Art: London, Paris, Vienna, New Haven, London 1986
In Czech society the family house, ideally with a garden, has long been considered to be the ideal dwelling, despite the fact that the majority of the population does not live in such a place. It provides enough privacy for the family and all its members, offers good conditions for quality free time, and from a certain point of view it also provides economic security. These are all images of the ideal, which, of course, can differ from lived reality, even fundamentally. The question remains, where did this idealised image of the family house come from? The family house is not a historical matter of course; its origin and development is closely related to the origin and changes of modern society.
By family house, we usually mean an urban detached or terraced house for a family. It is the attribute “urban” that is important, because although the rural (that is, what we understand as non-urban) is full of family houses, they are not really original rural dwellings, but rather manifestations of the (social and cultural) urbanisation of the rural areas.The difference is mainly in the functions that the original rural houses had and that, in most cases, modern family houses lack.
The modern town house began to appear in the 19th century. We can understand it as a consequence of the changes that Western society had undergone from the late 18th century to the 19th century.This period heralded the beginnings of modernity, when the principles of functioning in the political, economic and cultural spheres of life gradually begun to change. In the political space, the idea of the public begins to take shape, in the economic space there are changes in the production process, while in the cultural space the ability to read and produce texts of all kinds gradually expands (the development of theatre, education, and newspapers).
One phenomenon accompanying these changes was the gradual separation of these areas from another, parallel sphere which began to emerge, namely, the concept of home; a private space from which one leaves and returns to the public cultural, work, and political space.For a large part of the population of growing cities, the place of residence ceased to be a place of work. Workers work in factories, officials in offices. There is a place for family life in apartments and houses. In other words, specialised places for work and for "rest" began to emerge. The idea of gainful working time and free time appears. There are two general types of such family housing: apartments in townhouses, and detached houses.
These are specific to the Anglo-Saxon environment. The Baťa company, whose family houses form an important part of the visuality of the city of Zlín, also drew inspiration from here. After all, it is here that we can observe that a family house is not the same as a rural farm building. In this, as in the burgher house of the pre-modern period, the life of the family and its work are intertwined into one whole. The family house, on the other hand, is a reflection of the separation of these two activities (although it is not absolute, the work has never completely disappeared from the house). It is a type of urban dwelling, or dwelling of an urbanised person, which even gives birth to completely new urban spaces - residential areas, or in some cases to suburban areas.
Those who pushed the idea of ​​the family house and its forms were primarily members of the middle class; those who a hundred years earlier had become drivers of social change - wealthy burghers, growing industrialists, innovative entrepreneurs, as well as intellectuals and officials.In addition to them, there were more and more workers and labourers in the cities, often people from rural areas, who were forced to come to the cities to make a living. These are two new social groups, two groups of people whose housing has fundamentally changed the face of the city. The growing middle class began to look for new housing, often under pressure from unfavourable living conditions; population density, pollution and associated poor hygiene conditions led to the emergence in some cities of new streets and neighbourhoods further from the city centre, closer to nature (respectively her romantic ideal). This created a middle-class family house (ideally with a garden), which took its inspiration from aristocratic palaces and country residences, becoming a place of rest and relaxation for those who went to work (typically men) and a space for family and household care - women's work.
Today, women's domestic work is often stereotyped as caring for the household and its members. During the 19th century, this division did not take place literally, although it was during this period that women lost their influence on the earning sphere of life due to the separation of work from home - simply because work was too far away. However, until about the time of the First World War, middle-class houses also served as a space for the work of other members of society: cooks, housekeepers, butlers - these were the people who took care of their operation. The women of the home managed these functions or realised themselves in other areas, eg they entered the public space in the form of charity. The middle-class women took full care of the houses only during the war, when their employees were forced to move either to military service, or to production, which lost its workers to the armed services. Around the beginning of the 20th century, the space in most family houses became a privileged place for family life. Although there were rooms for maids, and offices and surgeries for those who could work from home in the upper class houses, the building’s design always afforded privacy and a clear functional separation of spaces for different types of actors.
The journey of the working class to the family house took longer and was closely related to the ideal of the family house shared by members of the middle class. During the 19th century, the inadequate housing conditions of workers began to be keenly addressed by some entrepreneurs themselves, as well as by municipalities and reform-orientated intellectuals and politicians. Thus crystallised the type of corporate city which includes housing for workers and other employees of the plant. In places where the middle class considered an individual family house to be ideal housing, working-class housing also followed this pattern, which was adapted to the specific needs of various socio-economic classes. While upper-middle-class dwellings often had a lounge for visitors, or for semi-public events or discussions, in the lower-class family, this space was transformed into a living room or kitchen diner. Similarly, we can observe changes in the interior design of houses. An example of commodification of housing culture is the replacement of expensive porcelain with mass-produced and cheaper stoneware.
The family living provided by the Baťa company in Zlín reflects this development of the family in society as a whole. Tomáš Baťa and his collaborators adopted the visions of 19th-century paternalistic entrepreneurs and, as an integral part of the company's policy and activities, established solutions to housing issues. The company also offered housing in family houses, which brought with it all the hallmarks of a developing industrial culture. In many ways, houses were a space for women's work. The women, like the gardens, were there to provide an environment for the relaxation of working men.
We can argue about the reasons why the company chose the form of family houses, and not spatially and economically more advantageous apartment houses (which, after all, it started to take into account in its plans during the 1940s). Part of the explanation for this decision is certainly Baťa's idea formulated by Gahura: An industrial worker is a servant in his work, so he must have such opportunities for private life that he can feel king in his house. So why couldn't the thoughtful construction of residential houses serve the same purpose? Because the image of quality living here is just this: originally aristocratic and later middle-class.
A more critical interpretation of the motto “Work collectively, live individually” offers an explanation of the construction of individual houses as an effort to prevent employees from intense contact, which would lead, for example, to the formation of trade unions. Individual family living can work this way, but then again, its minimal form "drives people out" in nice weather, where they live in the gardens in close proximity and contact with others. A compelling picture is likely to be a combination of several factors.
In their visions, Tomáš Baťa and his siblings and co-workers applied the approach originally used by mainly Anglo-Saxon entrepreneurs, who also counted on on colonies of family houses (for example, Bournville of the Cadbury company in Birmingham). There, as in Zlín, these houses are a reflection of middle-class values ​​associated with the idea of ​​how the family and society as a whole should function ideally. Baťa was the heir of these values, he accepted them as his own and used these values to build his own city. In the midst of modernist urban planning and industrial production, this choice seems to be a kind of traditionalist anchor: in the midst of all progress, the vision of the nuclear family (parents and children) in its own – even if rented - house plays a role ensuring domestic security and firm values.In reality, however, this security, which was far from available to everyone in Zlín, is the same product of modernity as workers, the employment relationship and industrial production.
Barbora Vacková