ASAP Canteen / Warehouse / Automobile Repair Shop
1917–1918 / 2013

U Planetária 2968/2 (Plzeň) Plzeň Jižní Předměstí
GPS: 49.739397N, 13.362413E
Architect:

The First World War brought the Škoda company economic growth, which in turn increased its need to care for its employees. One way in which it met this need was to build a modern catering facility. The new canteen for employees, identified as Building No. 56 on the Škoda premises, was implemented in 1917-1918.

Although the building plans from 1917 are signed by Viennese architect Ludwig Tremmel, who was Škoda’s chief architect at the time, his participation in the canteen project was only formal in nature. In reality, the building was designed and implemented by a major Pilsen design and construction company, Müller & Kapsa. During the First World War, the company acquired the exclusive right to use the Hetzer structural system consisting of wooden profiles from boards and laths glued together with casein (a mixture of curd and lime). The company’s project architects applied the system for the first time as the structural framework of the main area of ​​the canteen, where the roof cover was made on a structure of frames with an elliptical crosspiece. It is worth mentioning that the second building on which the company Müller & Kapsa used the Hetzer system in 1919 was also a canteen designated for the employees of the Škoda munitions warehouses in the nearby village of Nýřany. In the 1920s, the company applied Hetzer’s glued beams in projects in Prague, Mladá Boleslav, and other cities.

The single-storey canteen building, with partial cellar, is situated on a gentle slope from the northwest. The authors of the project divided the premises spatially and operationally into two parts – the central canteen hall with a rectangular layout, where the fields between the wooden beams were filled with brickwork, was joined to lower brick wings with utility functions from the north, east and south. The entrance was situated in the western façade wall. Ventilation of the hall section was provided by three turrets in the longitudinal axis of the building. In 1922, they were accompanied by a tower for collecting exhaust air from the kitchen located in the eastern annexe.

As with other Škoda buildings of the time, the project’s authors based the exterior expression of the building on the contrast of full plastered surfaces, geometrically shaped lesene bare brick frames, and generous glazing. As evident from the drawings of October 1917, particularly the western façade is quite exemplary in this respect – it is symmetrically divided into nine rectangular fields, almost wholly filled with segmented windows and its entrance in the middle. The roof plane was intersected by a trio of dormers along both long sides of the building, the location of which coincided with the positions of the ventilation turrets.

However, as late as April 1917, a different solution was envisaged – the western façade was to be dominated by three large segmented windows with transom windows in the shape of pointed arches, breaking through the edge of the roof. These were complemented by smaller rectangular windows. (A similar concept, lacking the persuasiveness and lightness of this implemented version, was applied shortly after in the Škoda canteen in Nýřany.) The cladding of the extensions of the Pilsen building follows the same principles as the western façade. This is true for both symmetrically designed gable walls as well, which are dominated by a trio of windows with a semi-circular head.

For further history on building no. 56, it is necessary to turn our attention to Mladá Boleslav. In 1924, the local car maker Laurin & Klement was struck by a large fire, the consequences of which weighed heavily on the company. A year later, the company, whose obsolescent production continued to lose in competition with the brands Praga and Tatra, was rescued by a merger with Škoda Pilsen, which then carried the official name Joint Stock Company, formerly the Škoda Works in Pilsen. Following the merger, the canteen was converted into an automobile repair shop in 1927. The first car manufactured in the new company, which began in 1930 to operate in the structure of the industrial complex as a Joint Stock Company for the Automotive Industry (“Akciová společnost pro automobilový průmysl – ASAP”), was a Škoda Hispano-Suiza, a model driven by Czechoslovakia’s first president Tomas Garrigue Masaryk.

The construction works carried out by builder Emil Lorenz included a Classicist perimeter wall designed by architect Tremmel, as the original entrance had to be moved. The canteen was transformed into a space for assembling and disassembling vehicles, and an engine testing area with its own entrance was built into its south-west corner. The kitchen was adapted for the receipt of goods and to house spare parts and removed gear. New storage areas were placed in the annexes and basement as well. The changes were also visible in the building exterior – a columned portico was added to the original entrance and a ramp was built onto the northern façade.

Nationalisation of the factory after 1945 caused a separation of the Mladá Boleslav plant. Automobiles were no longer assembled in the building and after 1948 it began to serve again as a canteen. Over time, however, the building began to fall into disrepair (in the meantime, the dormers and other elements were removed) and was closed in 1986 due to its poor condition. At that time, its demolition was also considered, but never materialised, likely due to the high financial costs.

After a quarter of a century of disuse, it was decided that the building would be converted into a 3D planetarium in connection with the establishment of the Techmania Science Center in hall no. 55. Due to the serious disrepair of the structural elements of the building, the renovation implemented in 2013 in a project by Jan Soukup and Jitka Růžičková from Atelier Soukup (today Atelier Soukup Opl Švehla) called for an almost complete reconstruction of the building. The unique structural frame, which was one of the main reasons the building had been declared an immovable cultural monument in 2009, was dismantled, and the tie beams – with two exceptions – were replaced by replicas. In line with current thermo-technical standards, a new façade and window glazing were also constructed. In the former canteen, a pair of reinforced concrete domes has been erected – the smaller one houses a small planetarium and the larger one a so-called “Virtuarium”. The building also offers space for interactive exhibits on three different levels.


VF
 

Investor

Joint Stock Company for Automobile Industry

Sources

  • SOA v Plzni (fond Škodova strojírna; fond Závody V. I. Lenina Plzeň, n. p.; fond Škoda a. s.; fond Akciová společnost, dříve Škodovy závody v Plzni; fond ASAP – Desenský)
  • Archiv spol. Škoda Auto (fond Akciová společnost pro automobilový průmysl)
 
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