Sunila, Bat'ovany-Partizánske and Ivrea were three industrial communities presenting models for coping with the social and architectural problems that gave rise to the Modern movement. Bellevue-Bellavista represents some of the consequences of social change brought about by industry, i.e. the effect on leisure of increasing affluence, dissipating through society from the top down over decades and centuries.
The industrial sites were formed and ruled by industrial enterprises, managed by individuals with definite and comprehensive ideas about business development strategies, workers' needs, etc. They were creations of enlightened autocrats concerned with the well-being of the community and its inhabitants, working together with the best architects available. They were autonomous miniature societies created out of the necessity to provide both the technical and social infrastructure - including housing, education and leisure activities - since none of these could be provided at a sufficient scale by the existing community. In Bellevue we can follow the development of the area from royal hunting grounds through bourgeois spa to a mass leisure resort with rapidly changing fashions and trends. The adjacent Bellavista housing area represents the then avant-garde in residential architecture for the upper middle class.
The material paints the picture of four modern communities of the most advanced kind with respect to social organisation, architecture, design, technology and utopian vision. They can be regarded as implemented modernist utopias, emblematic examples and representatives of a short but crucial period of the development of modern European society. This period is the object of increasing interest, due to its coming of age, becoming history and being the culmination of the industrial age, soon to be surpassed by the "post-modern information society" we live in today, yet still being part of the mental and material substance of the latter, and still existing in the memories of the elder citizens.
As expected, many interesting parallels and significant differences have been discovered in a comparison of the four sites. To mention a few:
SUNILA was a joint operation by five enterprises in the wood-processing industry in the Kymenlaakso region, conceived with ambitions to create a community with state-of-the-art production, housing and social facilities. BATA and OLIVETTI were both family enterprises. Bat'ovany was a satellite of the rapidly expanding international empire of Bat'a, which was one of the most important representatives of the Taylorist and Fordist production systems in Europe. Bat'ovany was created with similarly ambitious objectives as those in Sunila: to use the available manpower in the region, to increase the productivity of work by applying modern methods and to create a modern neighbourhood for the employees. Also the delayed process of industrialization in Finland and Slovakia resulted in similarities in the subsequent development of Sunila and Bat'ovany. Olivetti also expanded internationally, but its most characteristic trait was the broad scope of initiatives that rendered it a profound regional and national influence on planning and cultural and social thinking radiating from IVREA. BELLEVUE-BELLAVISTA was, and still is, a showcase of modern architecture and a proving ground for the changing fashions of the leisure "industry".
SUNILA was a one-off creation of Finland's most famous architect, reflecting his idiosyncratic interpretation of Modernist tenets and the development of his housing solutions visible in consecutive building stages. Sunila has been regarded as the first Siedlung-type community in Finland, in Alvar Aalto's adapted version called "forest city".
BELLEVUE-BELLAVISTA is likewise the work of one of the foremost Modernist architects, developing over a longer period (1930s to 1960s) and an emblematic work of Modernism.
BAŤOVANY-PARTIZÁNSKE reflects the need to develop an extremely systematic and rational approach to building and social and production organisation concurrent with the speed and manner of expansion. The architectural solutions are developed and locally adapted by a collectively working team, where credit for individual buildings is not always attributable to one designer. The master plan for Bat'ovany was the result of research activities of the Bata Company in the field of an ideal industrial city following Bata's idea of "the city in gardens". The housing concepts applied there developed the idea of the minimal flat.
Olivetti's architectural strategy was quite different. Thus IVREA is a richly varied cavalcade of modern Italian architecture and architects working simultaneously and consecutively with Olivetti over decades. In Olivetti's foreign establishments, commissions were awarded to local top architects, resulting in unique pieces of industrial architecture.
SUNILA functioned and flourished as a community according to its original conception until the 1960s, after which social changes and the rationalisation of production gradually rendered the original concept obsolete, leading to the disintegration of the community. For the last decades Sunila has been struggling to survive and find a new identity as an independent housing area occupying a peripheral position in a town with a declining population.
BAŤOVANY sailed through WWII in an astonishingly unruffled manner, turning out shoes and erecting new buildings all the time. The fate of Slovakia after the war, however, cut short the lifespan of the Bat'a Company in Czechoslovakia. The factories were nationalised; but even that did not shake the functioning or the architectural framework of the community. In the 70s, however, a dramatic influx of new inhabitants and political pressure eroded the town's traditional social relationships. Nowadays Bat'ovany-Partizánske is again developing its strong shoe-production potential.
IVREA enjoyed the longest period of continuous development under the "rule" of Camillo and Adriano Olivetti. Consequently, the magnitude and variety of its heritage is the greatest of the four. This lasted until the 1990s, when, as a result of the financial crisis, Olivetti departed from IVREA. This brought about a dramatic and final change, with new enterprises replacing Olivetti.
Not surprisingly, its functions being less subject to turbulent change, BELLEVUE-BELLAVISTA has the least dramatic history of the four sites. Nevertheless, as a mirror of the passing needs and fashions of different social classes and groups reaching over centuries, it is a most interesting and illustrative piece of social history.
The architectural character in the present situation
In SUNILA, the greatest physical change is concentrated in the pulp mill. Technical developments, heavy competition, new environmental directives, etc. have necessitated the rapid adaptation and continuous renewal of equipment, much of which has had to be installed outside the original (nowadays inadequate) buildings, which are, nevertheless, preserved behind new structures, forming a rather fascinating "technoscape". In contrast, the housing area designed by Alvar Aalto is essentially unaltered, except for one heavily remodelled building and some unfortunate changes to sensitive details. The so-called Old Sunila - the sawmill community existing before the pulp mill and integrated into the new community - was torn down with the exception of one important building, which was barely saved from destruction and is now under restoration. This communal building was chosen to house the MOMONECO exhibition in Sunila.
In BAŤOVANY-PARTIZÁNSKE, accelerating change has brought about a somewhat chaotic situation. This is precisely the reason why the Slovak partner in the MOMONECO project chose this not so well known Bat'a area as the project site. The area's Garden City character and some important buildings (for instance, the Catholic Church, some factory buildings and several housing structures) are, however, intact. In IVREA, the level of preservation is high: instead, the main questions are posed by the pressure for the adaptation of the industrial buildings for new uses.
Again, BELLEVUE-BELLAVISTA, with its relatively tranquil history, has been able to retain its original character all the way down to the details. Some pre-modern buildings and part of the beach structures have vanished.
Preservation, restoration, adaptation, modernisation
In SUNILA the buildings are protected within the stipulations of the official town plan. However, this has not proved to be a very strong instrument and there is a clear need for more detailed guidelines for restoration and modernisation. The residential buildings are, at long last, being modernized to modest present-day standards. Fortunately, this is happening in a reasonably preservative spirit thanks to the modest goals and mostly competent design. The greater problem is the non-residential buildings, which suffer from unprofitable use and a consequent neglect of maintenance. There are, however, three positive cases: The EKA heating plant now functions as a laundry, sauna and neighbourhood clubhouse (meeting place, café, social services, etc.). The Valliniemi sauna and laundry has, after standing empty for many years, acquired a new owner and now operates as a hostel and headquarters for a firm selling real estate security systems. The Sunila Pirtti community building has been bought by the Sunilan Sisu sports club, which has started to renovate it. The three remaining non-residential buildings are objects for future economic, functional and structural analyses.
In BAŤOVANY-PARTIZÁNSKE the only protected architectural monument is the Catholic Church. Some efforts have been made to establish restoration guidelines and suggestions for modernisation with the help of the county antiquities board and schools of architecture. However, these recommendations have not reached a sufficient level of acceptance and alterations to buildings and the surroundings are still carried out in a somewhat haphazard manner. The extensive changes that have already taken place pose special questions, particularly concerning the methods of preservation and adaptation. However, one of the main goals of the MOMONECO project was to teach the inhabitants of BAŤOVANY-PARTIZÁNSKE to understand the values of the Modern Movement heritage of their city. The general acceptance of such values is much more important for the future of the architecture of BAŤOVANY-PARTIZÁNSKE than protection by law.
In IVREA, the crisis of Olivetti was met with determined public action, resulting in the programme Officine Culturali ICO. Among actions carried out within this programme was the classification and inventory of over 200 structures, the results of which have been incorporated into the general plan of the town, thus for the first time in Italy identifying Modern architecture as part of the historical city. The prescriptions for preservation and restoration have been tested and implemented in the residential district of Canton Vesco with significant results. The MAAM (Open Air Museum of Modern Architecture) aims to disseminate knowledge and appreciation of the Olivetti heritage in all its manifold aspects by means of the information structures integrated into the townscape, an information centre, exhibitions, etc.
In BELLEVUE-BELLAVISTA detailed guidelines for preservation have been established, including prescriptions for the modernization of flats, aiming for maximum preservation, and extending to the level of furniture and details. Two successful restoration projects have been carried out: the petrol station and horse-riding school hall by Arne Jacobsen. It is common knowledge, and there is no doubt, that the area has an important architectural value. The use of the area remains intensive, especially during the summer, and the facilities have to keep up with both the quantitative and qualitative demands of modern recreation. Thus Bellevue has to face transformations and changes in order to maintain a heritage that gives meaning to the idea of modernity. The greatest challenge for BELLEVUE-BELLAVISTA seems to be how to renew the architectural heritage as well as combine it with a continuing and increasing demand to develop the recreation possibilities of the area.
English language consultant: Gekko Design.