Commercial and apartment building of Josef Špalek Sr. (with arcade)
1937–1938

Františkánská 129/4 (Plzeň) Plzeň Vnitřní Město
Public transport: Náměstí Republiky
GPS: 49.7459019N, 13.3778056E

In 1937-1938, another modern apartment building with a shopping arcade appeared in Františkánská Street next to the commercial building of Max Vesecký and his wife Olga. The plans were drafted by the studio of the Pilsen builder and owner of the building, Josef Špalek (1868-1960). The design was most likely created in 1936 by his son Antonín Špalek (1900-1972), who also supervised the construction work. The work of both Antonín Špalek and his father were at this time undoubtedly influenced fundamentally by Antonín's younger brother, the architect and town planner Josef Špalek (1902-1942), who, after completing his studies under Josef Gočár at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague, worked in the studio of Jaromír Krejcar and in 1927 designed for his uncle, Jan Rohrer, an excellent Functionalist villa in the Pilsen suburb of Lochotín. Thanks to his brother, Antonín Špalek was surely well acquainted with the Prague avant-garde architectural scene.

The new building was partly based on the layout of an original historic complex on the site, comprising two houses and an inner courtyard. The older structures had for some time been in an inadequate technical state; among other things, the sanitary conditions there were poor due to the lack of sewers. The city therefore approved their demolition, even though the State Heritage Office in Prague advocated preservation of the original street-side facade. The author of the plans situated in the unified basement or the new house a store room, boiler room and tenants' cellars. The central space of the ground floor is to this day a walk-through arcade linking Františkánská Street with the square. At the end of the passage, lined on each side by continuous glazed display windows and entrances to individual shops, a hall opens up that is lit from above by the original glass and concrete vault, the ends of which are black and white glass cladding above the display windows. There are two staircase opposite each other leading from the hall to the first floors of the front and rear sections of the building. The original black and white ceramic paving of the arcade has also been preserved.

The first and second floors of the rear “courtyard" wing each had two separate one-room flats, each with an entrance hall, kitchen, larder, bathroom and toilet, while the uppermost floor held a laundry room, a drying room and a terrace. The author of the plans designed the front part of the building facing Františkánská Street, on the contrary, as a five-storey wing. The first floor housed a private doctor’s surgery and each of the other floor had two spacious two-room flats with all facilities. The loft, as in the rear section of the building, held a laundry room and attic and facing the courtyard a terrace for beating carpets.

With its pure design of the main facade, divided up geometrically only by ribbons of rectangular windows and sills, the building to this day stands out from the surrounding block. The Purist, austere facade is given a special elegance by black opaque glass plates between the windows and vertical bands of white glass tiling on the corners, which meet beneath the overhang of the roof, composing a frame of the whole facade. The parterre with the entrance to the shopping arcade is dominated by a subtle slightly protruding plate glass display window with a rounded corner. Its wide overhead casing bears the inscription PASÁŽ u FRANTIŠKÁNŮ (Arcade by the Franciscans) executed in the technique of underpainting on black glass.
 

AK

Investor

Josef Špalek and Co.

Sources

  • Archiv Odboru stavebně správního, Technický úřad Magistrátu města Plzně
 
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