The territory of northern Moravia and Czech Silesia has undergone rapid population changes over the past two hundred years, which have also been reflected in the development of the built-up area. These changes can be observed both in towns and in the countryside. Some settlements have multiplied their population, while elsewhere the population is only a fraction of what it was a century ago. Many villages have become towns, while some towns have become villages due to population decline.
he ornate nature of the village buildings in various parts of Czech Silesia is evident from the ground level, but it is especially evident from an aerial view. We primarily understand the urban design by development, i.e. the composition of the spatial layout on the scale of the settlement and the adjacent parts of the landscape, not the architectural design of individual buildings. To illustrate the development of the buildings, characteristically different typological areas have been chosen: the Jesenicko, Opava, Fryštát (Karviná) and Těšín regions.
The oldest settlement area is the area of the lowlands, such as the Silesian Lowlands (Opava, Hlučín and Osoblaha part of the region). They are characterised by relatively compact concentrated villages. As a rule, they have houses lined up close together along the road or village square. The interior is significantly separated from the fields by garden fences and roads. The fields, or ploughlands, are divided into blocks - lines, which are further divided into narrow strips - ribbons. Ribbons in different lines may belong to the same building.
The Jeseníky region is a younger area settled mainly in the period of the High and Late Middle Ages (German) colonization. There are planned, usually elongated terraced villages and woodland villages. The houses are arranged loosely along a road or stream, their spacing governed by the width of the strip of fields (ploughland) stretching behind the threshing floor of each farm.
In the area to the east of Ostrava, as in Podbeskydí, the planned nature of terraced villages is less pronounced than in the woodland rope villages; the homesteads are arranged according to the road in irregular boundaries. This transitional type is called a chain village. In the mountainous areas of the Beskydy Mountains, the villages of the youngest settlement have a more loosely grouped mass plan. They are a transitional type between villages and isolated villages.
Mass road villages in the Fryštát (Karviná) and Těšín regions are characterized by irregular construction along the roads. The dispersed Silesian development here is related to the change in the way of subsistence and to population growth, which dates back to the end of the 18th century.
In addition to the above-mentioned types of rural settlements, transitional forms of settlements bearing the features of several types can be found in the territory of northern Moravia and Silesia. It should be emphasised that the character of the settlement changed over time, settlements were created and disappeared, the original character of the settlement was covered by a “new layer.”
Basic types of towns. The towns in the territory of northern Moravia and Silesia can be divided according to type into the following groups: the oldest developmental towns, pre-colonial, with irregular soil (Opava, Krnov), towns founded in a planned manner in the colonization phase of the High Middle Ages, which are characterized by a rectangular plan of their core and a square (Bruntál, Horní Benešov, Hlučín) or the rectangular (Osoblaha, Bílovec, Klimkovice) shape of the square, towns formed from villages, lacking a central marketplace of urban character (Město Albrechtice, Slezská Ostrava, Rychvald), modern towns whose urban function was created in the context of industrialisation (Třinec), and towns planned partly or entirely according to a modern regulatory plan (Český Těšín, Havířov, Nový Bohumín, partly "new" Karviná and "new" Orlová).
Development of buildings by area. The basis for examining the development of the built-up area are maps of stable cadastre from the years 1830-1840, Prussian military map from 1877, aerial photography from 1955 and regularly scanned colour orthophotomaps from the period after 2000.
Jesenicko. The landscape of Jeseníky is not much affected by the onset of industrialisation, new manufacturing plants are mainly located in the towns. Krnov became the centre of industry and trade for the area in the second half of the 19th century. The laying out of a new road to Osoblaha and the construction of a railway junction in 1872 were of fundamental importance for the town. In addition to the factories, new residential districts developed on all sides of the inner town. Unfortunately, at the end of the Second World War the town was severely damaged. Only the trunk of the historic core remained, the work of destruction completed by socialist expansion. The outer residential districts were less disturbed, but the prefabricated housing did not follow the pre-war street network. Other towns were similarly destroyed at the end of the Second World War, perhaps most notably Osoblaha. The demolition of historic cores and insensitive new construction irreversibly damaged the settlements. In many of them, the central square disappeared and was replaced by a road junction (Andělská Hora), while others lost their town status due to population decline (Osoblaha).
With the onset of industrialisation, the rural population is moving to the industrial centres in search of work and its numbers are beginning to decline. At the end of the 19th century, villages with an unfavourable population balance were the majority in Jeseniky. The worst decline occurred in the border districts, with only Krnovsko recording a favourable development. However, the rural population did not change substantially. The turning point came at the end of the Second World War with the displacement of the then predominantly German population. It was not possible to permanently repopulate the area with newcomers from other parts of the country and abroad (Romania, Ukraine); houses fell into disrepair, some villages disappeared, others persisted with a much lower population. Abandoned cottages are being used for recreational purposes, and the construction of cottages and company recreational facilities is being encouraged. Intensive agriculture is replaced by pastoral livestock farming in places with less favourable conditions, and sloping fields are overgrown with trees. Despite this, smaller and more remote settlements retain their original visual character, the division of fields is still clear, and valley villages remain as they are (Holčovice, Heřmanovice). In contrast, villages with good transport access to commuting centres are expanding into the landscape with flat houses.
Opava. The agricultural region of the Silesian Lowlands was increasingly influenced by Opava as an important regional centre. Although at the time of the onset of industrialisation Opava was economically behind Krnov, it was the administrative centre of Austrian Silesia and a town consisting of schools. Its urban development reached its peak around the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, when, among other things, representative districts of tenement houses were created. In the 1920s, the development of the town continued with the construction of residential districts. However, the Opava region suffered greatly in the fighting of the so-called Ostrava Operation at the end of the Second World War and the town of Opava was 70% destroyed. Fortunately, the radical plan, which envisaged the redevelopment of the rest of the historic core, was not implemented, but many houses, especially Art Nouveau ones, were demolished in the following years. The post-war urbanisation did not respect the historical context, and in the 1970s and 1980s mainly prefabricated housing estates were built. The suburbs or the formerly independent village of Kateřinky were also overlaid with new buildings.
The Opava region had also been marked by stagnation and population decline since the end of the 19th century, although to a lesser extent than Jesenicko. The villages, however, still retained their agrarian character in the 1950s and the distinctive features of concentrated villages with fields divided into thin strips. In the second half of the 20th century, due to the collectivisation of agriculture, the character of the landscape changed from a series of narrow fields to large meadows. The formerly neat, compact villages near Opava began to grow into the landscape (Otice, Slavkov, Kylešovice). Suburbanisation trends have intensified since 2000, but the more distant villages still retain their original character (Brumovice, Loděnice, Tábor).
Holčovice - Image from drone, 2020. SZM.
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Change of settlement of Holčovice in 1836, 1955 and 2018. Cenia.
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Fryštát (Karviná) and Těšín. The eastern part of Czech Silesia has undergone the most rapid development since the beginning of industrialisation, mainly connected with coal mining and heavy industry. In the Ostrava, Bohumín and Fryštát regions, two-thirds of the villages have experienced explosive growth thanks, among other things, to immigration from Halych. In addition to the towns, villages within reach of employment opportunities are gaining in population. Irregular chain villages and scattered housing developments are beginning to thicken. The possibility of enjoying oneself other than by working in the fields has upset the agricultural tradition and social structure. A division of fields, unthinkable until then, occurred, as the yield from the harvest was only a supplement to the family income. The distribution of homesteads was mostly spontaneous and linked to local roads. Nevertheless, shortly after the Second World War it is still possible to observe considerable differences in the density of housing in the more rural parts of the area, especially near mines where mining colonies have proliferated (Rychvald, Petřvald, Orlová-Poruba) and in more remote locations where the housing is still relatively sparse (Střítež, Návsí, Vendryně). Since the second half of the 20th century, residential development has been thickening even outside the industrial centres and in most of the area it is losing its original character of a dispersed settlement and large distances between individual farmsteads and gradually covers almost the entire cadastre.
The landscape of Karviná has changed the most. As a result of mining activities and their consequences, parts of settlements (Orlová) or entire settlements (the original Karviná) have disappeared. The new Karviná began to be built as the first of the new settlements of Ostrava as early as 1947, when the satellite town of Stalingrad, later called Nové Město, with an axial boulevard of Osvobození Avenue, was founded north of Fryštát. As a result, the population grew from about 8,500 to about 27,800 between 1950 and 1961. As part of the controlled development of the fuel base, the first embryonic settlements of so-called two-storey houses began to be built within an accessible distance from the mines. In 1955 it was decided that the housing estates in Šumbark and Dolní Bludovice would be merged to form a new town, for which the name Havířov was chosen. The axis of its urban composition became the boulevard Hlavní třída, formerly the Těšín road.
According to a premeditated urban plan, much earlier, in the 1920s and 1930s, Český Těšín was built after Těšín was divided by the state border and its historical centre remained on the Polish side. The town centre was built. The Main Street and the main rectangular square with the town hall (1929) became the basis of the composition of the town, situated between the railway and the Olše River. The central part of the town was bounded to the south by today's Střelniční Street, but more loose suburban development continued further south between the railway and the river and also west of the railway. This part of the town is characterised by the trident of the Ostravská, Frýdecká and Jablunkovská roads, later supplemented by the road to Fryštát. An example of a village that became a town in 1930 is Třinec. The importance of the settlement grew thanks to the establishment of a metallurgical and ironworks complex in the late 1840s, which later became Třinec Ironworks.