Commercial and apartment building of the Prague Municipal Insurance Company
1935–1937

Goethova 356/5, Americká 356/41 , Prokopova 356/10 (Plzeň) Plzeň Jižní Předměstí
Public transport: Muzeum
Mrakodrap
GPS: 49.7435731N, 13.3787512E
Builder:

In 1935, the Prague Municipal Insurance Company decided to convert and modernise its headquarters on the corner of today’s Goethova Street and Americká Avenue. Despite several adaptations in the 1920s, the existing four-storey apartment house with a café, built at the beginning of the 20th century, no longer satisfied the new requirements of the hygienic standards of housing. The insurance company therefore resolved to build in its place a new building, whose architectural concept would better represent the modern financial institution. In 1935, the Prague architect František Roith was commissioned to draft the design for the new commercial and apartment house. The final approval of the whole project was, however, long delayed by the objections of the city’s art council and technical committee.

The debates over the new building, which the committee members regarded as too cumbersome and somewhat inappropriate for the given locality, given the proximity of the museum building, continued until 1937. The main issue consisted of the form of the side facades, which on economic grounds František Roith had designed as merely rendered (as opposed to the elegant main facade with ceramic tiling). The management of the institution ultimately acceded to the wishes of the municipal authorities and agreed to the use of ceramic tiles from the Horní Bříza ceramic works also on the side facades.

In 1936, the local construction firm Josef Špalek & Co. demolished the old building and in the summer of the following year the Prague company LANNA launched construction. The building of the Prague Municipal Insurance Company represents in the Pilsen environment an exceptionally valuable example of Functionalist architecture. Together with the Mutual Fire Insurance Company building (C1–2222), the Triple Entente group of apartment houses (C1–1697) and the chapel and apartment houses of the Evangelical Koranda Congregation (C1–2142, C1–2219) it created a new representative metropolitan space next to Wilson Bridge (Wilsonův most, C1–MFJ).

The seven-storey corner building with a flat roof set on an irregular U-shaped ground plan, with rounded, glazed corners and a receding uppermost floor, had for its time a range of technical mod-cons – central heating, a mechanical ventilation system and a combined elevator set between the flights of the staircase, which extended into the courtyard. The two subterranean floors contained the technical and utilitarian facilities of the building (cellars, fuel stores, a pair of laundry rooms and an ironing room) as well as the storage spaces of the individual shops. The main entrance to the building and to the first floor, which was reserved for the insurance company, was set in an arcade on the ground floor linking Goethova Street with the embankment Anglické nábřeží, illuminated from above via a concrete and glass-block roof. Otherwise, the whole of the ground floor was given over to commercial use and the shops there operate to this day. The author of the plans situated flats of various sizes on the upper floors (with rooms and kitchens facing the street and social amenities facing the courtyard or ventilation shaft).

The ground floor exterior, with partly preserved stone cladding, has expansive display windows and on the rounded corners the glazed expanses of conservatories on each floor. The main facade is emphasised by a projecting section, while the receding uppermost floor with a rendered facade is surrounded by terraces. The facade is ornamented by a pair of sculptures by Karel Štipl of female figures symbolising Family and Home, between which was originally mounted a bronze relief with the emblem of the insurance company, which had to be removed during the war. The expanse of the facade on the Goethova Street side is divided by a regular pattern of rectangular windows, while that facing the embankment is given rhythm by alternating rectangular and French windows.

Apart from conversion of the bank hall on the first floor into flats in the 1940s and a number of minor alterations, the building of the former Prague Municipal Insurance Company has been preserved almost in its original state and in 2002 was listed as a cultural monument.


AK

Investor

Prague Municipal Insurance Company

Sources

  • Nové stavby v Plzni, Več. Čes. Slovo, 1937, 3. 8.
  • NPÚ, ú. o. p. v Plzni, Evidenční list nemovité památky, č. rejstříku ÚSKP 51970/4-5277.
 
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