Apartment and commercial building of the Trieste insurance company Riunione Adriatica di Sicurtà
1930–1932

Smetanovy sady 114/15, Klatovská třída 114/1 (Plzeň) Plzeň Jižní Předměstí
Public transport: U Práce
Husova
GPS: 49.7449944N, 13.3729845E
Architect:

The insurance company Riunione Adriatica di Sicurtà was established in 1838 in the then Austro-Hungarian town of Trieste. During the first two years of its existence, it opened several branches in the territories of the Monarchy (in Vienna, Prague and Budapest), as well as elsewhere. In the early 20th century, the company expanded also to other European countries.

The increasingly successful company required suitably representative branch offices, which applied in the interwar period also in Czechoslovakia, where a whole series of ‘Palác Adria’ buildings emerged, the most important of which was the Prague one, erected in 1922–1925 according to plans by the architects Josef Zasche and Pavel Janák on the corner of Jungmannovo Square and Národní Avenue. The building, in the then modern Decorativist style, was complemented with sculptural ornament by Jan Štursa, Wilhelm Srb-Schlossbauer (who replaced the previously approached Otto Gutfreund), Bohumil Kafka and others.

In 1928 a study was prepared for the insurance company’s Hradec Králové headquarters on the basis of a design by Josef Gočár and Bohumír Kozák. In the same year, the company approached Kamil Roškot to design for Prague the so-called Palác Adria II opposite Zasche and Janák’s building on the corner of Jungmannovo Square. The management of the institution wanted the building to have a clock tower, but the architect did not agree, and so the building was completed in 1931 in a somewhat altered form by the German-speaking Prague architect Fritz (Friedrich) Lehmann, who also designed another two buildings for the company, in Ústí nad Labem and Pilsen.

Although all three of Lehmann’s buildings for Riunione Adriatica di Sicurtà appeared within a space of four years, each is designed in a different architectural style. The Ústí nad Labem building was designed in the spirit of German Expressionist architecture and is dominated by a tower-like corner with a clock, similarly to the one in Prague, which, however, is conceived in Neo-Classical Modernist style. In contrast, the Pilsen building, erected in 1930–1932 by the local building firm of František Holcbechr, has Functionalist forms. The six-storey building on an exposed site on the corner of Smetanovy Sady and Klatovská Avenue replaced a two-storey house with an inn and entered into an inter-generational dialogue with the opposite Neo-Renaissance building, presently housing the J. K. Tyl Theatre, which was erected in 1897-1902 according to a design by Antonín Balšánek.

Fritz Lehmann took advantage of the layout of the site to design a grand building corresponding in scale to the metropolitan character of Klatovská. In order to create sufficient entrance space to the commercial ground floor, the architect set the footprint of the building slightly back from the street line on the Smetanovy Sady side. He then successively worked up several variations on the design of the front facade – with stone slabs, Decorativist horizontal bands of cladding or pointed brickwork, with a prominent flagstaff carrying the company name, or with landscape format windows. The facades, most of which consists of a five-storey high projecting section with a rounded corner and a flat roof serving as a terrace, are covered – with the exception of the parterre and mezzanine – with light-coloured ceramic tiles, which were originally complemented with dark-coloured reveals and expanses between the two-light and four-light rectangular windows. The mezzanine is clad in marble slabs, emphasised by cordon string courses and ornamented with reliefs of Mercury and Ceres by Ladislav Šaloun. The parterre, with expansive display windows and entrances to the shops, also had stone cladding. While the ground floor served the requirements of the investor, the upper floors held a range of luxurious flats, most of them with three residential rooms, a bathroom, kitchen and maid’s room.

Other interwar branch buildings of the insurance company also had a multifunctional character, whether the Liberec branch, erected in 1929 according to plans by Max Kühn, or the Ostrava offices completed in the same year and designed by Bauer and Kotěra’s former student Karel Kotas. In 1932, Kotas became the company’s main construction engineer, drafting plans, for example, for the company’s rental buildings on the corner of the streets Žitná and Příčná in Prague and conversion of the Hotel Esplanade. In 1937-1938, the monumental Brno headquarters of Riunione Adriatica, which now operated in 26 countries worldwide, was erected on the basis of Kotas' plans. Riunione Adriatica di Sicurtà’s operations in Czechoslovakia terminated in 1945 with its nationalisation. The former owner of the building, which retained its original appearance and since 2002 has been listed as a cultural monument, was commemorated until recently by the name of a diner on the ground floor.
 

LV – PK

Investor

Riunione Adriatica di Sicurtà insurance company

Sources

  • Eduard Gärtner, Palác Riunione Adriatica v Liberci a jeho architekt (bakalářská práce), FF MU, Brno 2009.
  • Markéta Holubová, Architekt Karel Kotas a jeho tvorba pro velká města. Brno, Ostrava, Praha (diplomová práce), FF MU, Brno 2010.
  • Archiv Odboru stavebně správního, Technický úřad Magistrátu města Plzně
 
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