National House of the Czechoslovak Socialists in Pilsen with Hvězda cinema
1922

Pražská 40/35 (Plzeň) Plzeň Východní Předměstí
Public transport: Anglické nábřeží
GPS: 49.7470569, 13.3822810
Architect:

The Czech National Social Party, officially established in 1897, soon won supporters among patriotically minded workers and the lower middle class of the Pilsen population. For the purpose of “propagation of the nationalist awareness of the Czech working people”, the Pilsen officials soon began addressing the question of building their own club house (arranging repeated public fundraising collections), meanwhile making use of the spaces of the Tivoli entertainment establishment on Klatovská Avenue. In 1913, a year after founding of the party’s building cooperative, the first plans were drafted for construction of the five-storey National House on the site of the 19th century two-storey terraced residential and commercial building at descriptive number 40 in today’s Pražská Street. Construction work, for which all official permits had already been issued, was halted, however, by the onset of World War I. 

Following the establishment of the independent Czechoslovak Republic, the party changed its name to the Czechoslovak Socialist Party (and again in 1926 to the Czechoslovak National Socialist Party), and its Pilsen members continued their efforts to build their own premises. The new conditions, however, including the financial situation, demanded changes in the party’s construction programme. A party member and successful local builder, Václav Teřl, also known as the author of plans for cooperative houses in Vrchlického Street (C3–1668), therefore drafted new plans in 1921. On the basis of these plans, the following year the most essential modifications were carried out to the existing front building (descriptive no. 40), which held rooms for restaurant, office and residential use. The facade was given a new decorative look with a range of relief features, prominent among them a star in a polygonal gable. The right hand side of the facade had a passageway, with a glass marquee above the entrance, providing access to the courtyard, in which there was an extension according to Teřl’s plans with all technical equipment (including hot air heating, electrical ventilation, security system and insulation against rising damp and potential flooding, due to which the entire courtyard tract was elevated). The courtyard building contained another restaurant and a large theatre for use as a cinema, stage theatre, lecture and concert hall. At the time, it was the largest hall in Pilsen, with more than 900 seats. 

The decorative architectural concept of the complex, with rich relief ornament, characteristic also of other of Teřl’s buildings, did not, however, have a significance that surpassed the boundaries of the region. It is clear that the clients were satisfied that the building complied with conventional demands for architectural beauty and served its purpose well. Václav Teřl intended to execute in the future a second phase of the development, following stabilisation of the financial and credit markets, in which the existing two-storey block in front would be demolished and replaced with an appropriate building with modern facilities. Existing sources document that this construction aim was never initiated. 

On 20 December 1944, the front building was “severely and totally” damaged during air raids and subsequently underwent a series of repairs and alterations. In 1945–1946, the Czechoslovak National Socialist Party conducted repairs of most of the damage at its own cost (with the application of various tax incentives) under the supervision of the builder František Němec; the street-side wing of the front building was most probably never renewed to its original form and in 1945 was shuttered with planks. In the mid-1950s, when the building belonged to the state enterprise Czechoslovak National Film, the catering rooms were adapted. Modifications in 1956 included substitution of the makeshift wooden structure of the street-side tract with a masonry wall and demolition of the damaged building to a depth of 6.7m. The resulting open space was meant to be landscaped as parkland. In 1957, the Prague architects J. Hesoun and K. Hubený drafted plans for conversion of the whole complex, which were never implemented. 

The present-day solution to the volume of the complex with a new covered entranceway in place of the no longer existing front building, the remainder of which was demolished, arises from a reconstruction carried out in 1968–1969 according to plans by Zbyněk Tichý and Dagmar Chalušová. The building, which has been closed to the public since 1996, is at present conserved against a planned reconstruction. 


Sources

  • Archiv Odboru stavebně správního, Technický úřad Magistrátu města Plzně
 
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