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Csepely-Knorr, L., Klagyivik, M., 2018.

From social spaces to training fields: Changes in design theory of the children's public sphere in Hungary in the first half of the 20th century

Output Type:Conference paper
Presented at:European Architectural History Network Fifth International Meeting
Dates:13/6/2018 - 17/6/2018

The first half of the 20th century brought turbulent changes into the political and social scene of Hungary. From being a partner of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the country's status changed first to Hungarian Soviet Republic, then to Kingdom of Hungary, to Republic of Hungary, and finally to People's Republic of Hungary within a few decades. These political changes impacted strongly on the main ideologies of all fields of life in the country, including architectural and educational theory. This paper will examine how the various schools of thoughts affected ideas about designing special places for children, including playgrounds in public areas and schools.

In 1919, during the period of the short-lived 'Hungarian Soviet Republic', prominent architect Bela Rerrich (1881-1932) published his pamphlet entitled 'Play areas as social duty in town planning and garden design'. Rerrich had been working on a plan to create a number of play areas in Budapest for several years by then, but the political change acted as the trigger to acknowledge the need for socially inclusive, healthy places for children. Between 1919 and 1935, nearly sixty children's playground were created throughout the city. However, the change in political ideas from the Soviet Republic to the Kingdom of Hungary and the rise in revisionist political thoughts (with the ever-increasing possibility of another war) altered the main aim of creating playgrounds. It was widely accepted that these places were instruments in the disciplined training of future soldiers of the country.

This paper will discuss the relationship between the design theory of children's playgrounds and the socio-political changes in Hungary during the period between 1914 and 1945. We will contextualise this reflecting on the international development of design theory, and will analyse how mid-war guidelines laid the foundation of design theories on children's places in the 20th and even 21st century.