Combining political, intellectual, professional, and architectural history, Miljački draws on a wealth of material in Czech archives, Czech architectural periodicals, and personal recollections, most of which have remained untapped by Western historians to date. In translating numerous passages from original sources and reproducing a rich selection of visual material, she performs a substantial service, contributing to ending the radio silence that Cold War–era work from Eastern Europe has suffered for seven decades and reinforcing parallel recuperations by other recent scholars in relation to former communist states.
Of equal importance to her work of scholarly excavation, Miljački’s intelligent analysis opens up a new context for thinking about theoretical issues that are still very much with us today, despite our very different experience. Among these are the nature of authorship and the preconditions for creativity in architecture; the fate of humanistic design in a society of advanced technological production; the contradictions between aesthetics and politics; the agency and historicity of architectural avant-gardes; and the modalities of exchange and migration of architectural ideas.
Apropos of this last, while progressive Czech architects could not fail to look over their shoulder at the production of their counterparts in the West during the Cold War—and major international exhibitions like those staged in Brussels in 1958, Moscow in 1959, and Montreal in 1967 offered opportunities for consequential encounters between opposed world systems, as Miljački discusses—they remained resolutely and for the most part optimistically focused on the immediacies of their own society. How to achieve new technical efficiencies and at the same time give Czechoslovakia’s provisionally achieved version of socialism a human face? How to counteract the dullness and alienation of the standardized environment? How to design spaces for free time and leisure so as to enhance the everyday life of all citizens?