Triple Entente group of cooperative buildings
1923–1924

Anglické nábřeží 1697/12, Americká 1698, 13 / 46, 44 , Prokopova 13/15 (Plzeň) Plzeň Jižní Předměstí
Public transport: Mrakodrap
Goethova
GPS: 49.7431259, 13.3797115

The present-day block of apartment houses was built on the site of a former municipal farmstead, into which a number of poor families and small traders moved at the end of World War I. The unsightly complex next to Wilson Bridge (1913) in close proximity to the historic centre had been a cause of concern for City Hall for several years. According to prewar plans, a modern Neo-Classical spa designed by the architect Bedřich Bendelmayer was supposed to be built on the site next to the old Municipal Baths (1871). This plan was abandoned, however, and the modified project was only implemented around 1930 on the embankment Denisovo nábřeží.

In 1922, the city decided to definitively resolve the issue of the neglected farmstead and offered the site for sale in a public tender for the construction of a hotel. None of the tendered offers satisfied the stipulated requirements, however. Due to a renewed deepening of the housing crisis that the city had already encountered before the war, the Council decided in September 1923 to sell the land to a trio of prominent Pilsen construction cooperatives linked to three political parties – the People’s Construction and Housing Cooperative (Social Democrats), the Trade and Civil Cooperative (National Democrats) and the Zádruha Civically Beneficial Construction and Housing Cooperative (Czechoslovak Socialists). The housing crisis was subsequently at least partly mitigated thanks to generous state support, as enshrined in the Act on the Construction Industry in the form of concessional loans and tax relief.

In view of the fact that there were three cooperatives collaborating on the development, the group of apartment houses became known by the name U Trojdohody (Triple Entente). The Trade and Civil Cooperative was the first to prepare plans and in November 1923 Josef and Václav Pašek designed the six-storey terraced house at No. 46 Americká Avenue with a conventional pitched roof. The construction work was carried out by the architect Rudolf Pelc and the building as a whole was completed in December of the following year. The ground floor, facing Americká Avenue with four plate glass display windows, contained shops with amenities, a store and an office, and the upper floors held high-standard two-room and three-room flats with complete amenities.

According to the initial designs, the main facade was to be richly ornamented in the Art Deco style. At a joint meeting, however, the representatives of the cooperatives and the city agreed on a unified style of the facades of all three buildings as well as corresponding height ratios. The concept of the arrangement and finishes of the street facades of the whole block was designed by the architect Hanuš Zápal, then the chief construction advisor. The austere facade of the Trade and Civil Cooperative building is highlighted on the second floor with a cantilevered four-axis balcony with a metal balustrade and is otherwise decorated only by simple, elegant geometric ornament and stucco inscriptions concerning the history of the construction.

At around the same time, the Zádruha Cooperative began construction of the adjacent corner apartment house No. 12 on the embankment Anglické nábřeží. This time the plans were the work of the local builders Tomáš Dobrý and Antonín Kurel. Zádruha entrusted the actual implementation to the proven firm of the architect Rudolf Pelc. The six-storey building with a rounded corner and the main entrance facing Anglické nábřeží is erected on an irregular L-shaped ground plan. While the cooperative reserved the ground floor with display windows for commercial purposes, it situated on each of the upper floors four two-room flats with amenities. The rounded corner of the building is accentuated by a narrow balcony and a circular superstructure above the cornice. In this case also, the facade was originally intended to be more decorative, but Zápal replaced it with sparse curved ornamentation in a pattern of circles and semicircles and further emphasised the expanse with the use of shallow oriels and lesenes that reinforce the verticality of the building.

The People’s Housing and Construction Cooperative only commenced building work under the supervision of the architect and builder Karel Bubla in December 1923. Thanks to its modern structural design, however – a reinforced concrete frame with masonry expanses – the job was completed in only one year. The house, No. 44, was designed in such a way as to create on the exposed site a dominant feature to visually close the present-day Americká Avenue before Wilson Bridge. The work of the architects Karel Bubla and Hanuš Zápal satisfied the council’s concept of a representative development of the former farmstead. The ground plan of the so-called “Skyscraper”, which with its eight stories was the tallest residential building in the city in the mid-1920s, is divided into two sections. The gently curved wing facing Prokopova Avenue follows the street line of the original buildings. Roughly in the middle is situated the main entrance, above which a bust of Josef Skupa by the sculptor Jiří Hanzálkaj was mounted in 1967. A semicircular staircase and three-storey extension project from the main mass of the building into the courtyard.

The corner seven-storey part, with the facades divided by three-sided oriels joined by a balcony on the second floor, is terminated at the level of the eight floor with arched arcades and two pavilion-style superstructures with a clock, crowned with a reinforced concrete cornice. The six-storey wing on Americká Avenue is divided above the fifth floor by a prominent cornice that connects freely with the string courses of both next-door buildings. Although the roof with semicircular dormer windows give the impression of a mansard when viewed from the street, most of the building has a flat roof.

The author of the plans set on the ground floor the usual commercial facilities and on the upper floors a total of 32 flats of various sizes, from one-room to four-room. Similarly to the neighbouring houses, Hanuš Zápal applied to the entire facade of the Skyscraper only muted curved ornamentation and lesenes, which subtly reflect the reinforced concrete construction of the building. The ornamental details of the facades were originally distinguished by colour, but in the 1990s the entire block was unfortunately given a sprayed grey ‘Brizolit’ surface render, which entirely masked the contrast between the light and dark expanses. Nevertheless, the Triple Entente group of apartment houses was listed in 1994 as a cultural monument.


AK

Investor

People’s Construction and Housing Cooperative, Trade and Civil Cooperative and Zádruha Cooperative

Sources

  • NPÚ ÚOP Plzeň, Evidenční list nemovité památky, č. rejstříku ústředního seznamu 12876/4-4914.
  • Archiv Odboru stavebně správního, Technický úřad Magistrátu města Plzně
 
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