Apartment building of the Hus People’s University with a movie theatre
1938–1939

Prokopova 102/14 (Plzeň) Plzeň Jižní Předměstí
Public transport: Prokopova
Mrakodrap
GPS: 49.7428469N, 13.3787125E
Architect:

The history of the five-storey functionalist house at No. 15 Prokopova Street, where generations of Pilseners came for five decades for theatre, dates back to the mid-1920s. At that time the place was the subject of deliberations in connection with the search for the final location for the construction of a municipal spa and another public building, the new seat of the Řemeslnická beseda (the Craftsmen’s Guild) or the Trades and Civic Building Cooperation. In the year 1927, the City of Pilsen bought the site from the Halbayer family, who owned a steam mill here no longer in existence. The next owner of the land was the People’s Housing Cooperative and in the years 1938–1939 it realised a four-storey apartment house here with a cinema for the Hus People’s University (HPU).

The idea of establishing an HPU building in Pilsen had existed in the West Bohemian metropolis ever since the birth of the Czechoslovak state. The mission and objective of HPU courses and schools were “to enable everyone, regardless of their previous education, to complete their practical or academic education in the simplest way, at a time his job allows”. Originally, the new building was intended to continue the complex of buildings of the District Sickness Insurance Company and Masaryk Student Home at Denisovo nábřeží (C1–1150). In a limited open call for developing this location, designs by Leo Meisl, Kamil Roškot, Václav Neckář and Bohumil Chvojka (creator of the adjacent housing complex) were praised (Jan Mentberger, Jan Gillar and Jaroslav Fišer were also invited to participate in the competition). However, after some complications, it was Václav Klein, one of the architects from the Municipal Building Authority (who did not take part in the competition at all) who was entrusted with preparing the final design. Klein came up with an unobtrusive structure of austere modernist forms with a flat roof and a smooth purist façade whose central part is only articulated by a three-fold window grid. The construction was realised – right at the location on Prokopova Street – by the Pilsen builder Antonín Špalek.

The multi-purpose hall of the Bio University cinema could hold approximately 450 people on the ground floor and in the boxes, and 120 people in the gallery. Apart from the auditorium, situated in the courtyard wing, there was a box office with a lobby and a cloak room for cinema visitors on the ground floor, one main and two side foyers, two snack bars, and toilets for ladies and gentlemen. The lively ground floor facing the floor housed three shops. The first floor, with two more foyers, smoking lounges and also the necessary projection room with a coil winding room, was accessible by two flights of stairs. Another independent staircase led from the ground floor to the residential part of the premises, which contained two apartments on the first, second and third floors, three apartments on the fourth floor, and one apartment, a laundry and an attic in the loft. The apartment house was also equipped with a public lift and a freight lift.

In the 1950s, the cinema was named after the journalist Julius Fučík, who spent his childhood in Pilsen and used to play children’s roles at the local theatre where his father was employed as an actor at that time. The plan to adapt the building into the Chamber Theatre, the smaller stage of the J. K. Tyl Theatre, dates back to the year 1957. Based on a project by the architect Svatopluk Janke, active in the Pilsen Stavoprav at that time, the construction was enlarged by the court yard extension and an additional storey above the main auditorium, where the backstageof the theatre was situated. The ground floor housed furniture and props storage rooms, the first and second floor showers, dressing rooms, rehearsal rooms, a costume storage room and the wig room.

In 1964, the engineer Anton Husár drew up a plan for an interior refurbishment endowing the theatre’s environment with a distinctive colourfulness which he complemented with artworks – a curtain realised according to the design of Slavoj Nejdl and Bořivoj Rak, and lights by Pavel Grus. The so-called Blue State Lounge was furnished with atypical furniture and the adjacent snack bar was decorated with a statue by Jiří Hanzálek. Although final building approval wasn’t granted until June 1966, the first night of J. K. Tyl’s play Tvrdohlavá žena was held as early as in December 1965. Nevertheless, the theatre only started permanent operations with its 1966/67 season. The last performance at the Chamber Theatre took place in May 2014. The building’s future is unknown at present. 


LR – PK

Sources

  • Archiv Odboru stavebně správního, Technický úřad Magistrátu města Plzně
 
C0C1C2C3C4C5C6C7C8C9