Fine art as an integral part of architecture: Political and social aspects of the formation of this synthesis in the 20th century

Peter Mazalán, Katarína Morávková

Cite this article
Mazalán, P., Morávková, K. (2023) ‘Fine art as an integral part of architecture: Political and social aspects of the formation of this synthesis in the 20th century’, Architecture Papers of the Faculty of Architecture and Design STU, 28(4), pp. 24-28.



The theme of the connection of visual arts with architecture, or the cooperation of visual artists with architects in post-war Europe, basically follows two lines: a theoretical line and a political-institutional line. Especially in Eastern European architecture and socialist construction, art had specific conditions for its emergence between 1950 and 1989. Two terms arose in the German environment that are also used in principle in translations in other parts of Europe: the term “architekturbezogene Kunst” (architecture-related art), used by the Bauakademie as an official technical term in the German Democratic Republic, and the phrase “Kunst am Bau” (art in architecture) referring to the same concept in the democratic Federal Republic of Germany, however, the term was intended to have a primarily educational function.

Aesthetic education thus had the function of conveying socio-political messages. Just as knowledge of the history of art and the history of architecture is necessary for analysing this period, knowledge of the political-economic circumstances is necessary in the field of realisations in architecture, because by definition this public art is a political affair and not independent creation. Art in architecture was promoted not only in communist countries (for ideological reasons), but also in Western Europe as an aesthetic cultivation of contemporary architecture. From the mid-1950s onwards, visual art in architectural space appeared more and more frequently, which led to the adoption of legislative measures that regulated and supported this practice. A gradual transformation in the understanding of the task can be observed over the period under review, or the position of “public art”, presented as part of architecture or public space. This is naturally attributed to social development. If at the beginning of the 1950s the mission was to convey ideology and indoctrinate it, in the next period the focus shifts more towards design with the task of cultivating the “environment” and creating a certain atmosphere.

The study also peripherally explores forms of arts support in the context of other European countries. The idea of integration between art and architecture dates back to the very origins of both disciplines. During the avant-garde movement at the beginning of the twentieth century, it acquired a new meaning and social purpose and became one of the most defining characteristics of modernism. Modernism arose from the expectation of moral and material reconstruction of the world devastated by war, which served as a tool to strengthen collective identity and, consequently, to forge the bond between the city and its inhabitants.

Our study traces the development of the relationship and funding of visual arts in architecture in the Slovak and European context in the 20th century. In 1965, Government Resolution No. 355/1965 was adopted in Czechoslovakia. Art in architecture was considered to be a work that constitutes an integral part of architecture and its design was already part of the project documentation. In practice, these works were placed in public spaces, in the interiors of buildings or in the immediate vicinity of buildings’ exterior, or were part of the design of a housing estate. The works are often fixed into the architectural framework, which means that they cannot be manipulated in any other way, they can only be destroyed. Furthermore, our paper deals with the ongoing research of works of art created in the context of architecture in Slovakia.

Keywords: fine arts, politics, history, synthesis