Gertrude and Willy Kraus’s apartment
1930–1931 / 1935–1936

Bendova 1107/10 (Plzeň) Plzeň Jižní Předměstí
GPS: 49.7412401N, 13.3702325E

Not far from Loos’ interiors in Klatovská and Plachého is another significant trace of the famous architect’s work in Pilsen – the renovated and now publicly accessible interior of Willy and Gertrude Kraus’ apartment at No. 10 Bendova Street. The fact that the 1901 Historicist facade of the corner house conceals a gem of modern architecture is betrayed from outside only by large three-light windows with vibrant green frames and an oriel above the street Kardinála Berana. These alterations were part of the reconstruction of the flat conducted in 1930–1931 at the instigation of the new owner of the house, Gertrude Taussigová and her fiancé, Willy Kraus. Gertrude, daughter of a chemical plant owner, married Willy, a chemist and sales representative of her father’s firm, in 1931.

The investors decided to commission Adolf Loos, who in the late 1920s and early 30s was often in Pilsen, to draft the plans for the modifications. The architect retained the traditional two-section layout of the flat, with residential rooms facing the street and service spaces facing the rear, but made a partial change to the floor plan by the removal of the partition wall between the living and dining rooms, thus creating, as in other cases, one unified, axially symmetric social space adorned with fine materials. He had all the built-in furniture and the coffered ceiling made from polished mahogany, complemented with cladding of green cipollino marble. He used this type of marble on pillars with inset glazed cupboards between them, optically dividing the functional zones of the living and dining rooms, and on the opposite walls, on which he also had large multi-pane mirrors mounted. The architect here used the optical effect of enlarging the space by means of infinite reflection, enhanced all the more by the coffered ceiling of highly-polished mahogany. Loos designed a sideboard ornamented with a decorative band for the space below the mirror in the dining area and in the living-room zone symmetrically opposite it, another of his favourite features – a pointed brick fireplace.  

In contrast to the dark-coloured social spaces, the corner bedroom was furnished in bright Finnish birch. The dominant piece of furniture here was the double bed (unfortunately no longer preserved). Loos made use of all the other walls for built-in wardrobes. For the space under the window facing Kardinála Berana Street he designed a dressing table with a built-in mirror. The modifications to the apartment according to Loos’ plans was executed by the Pilsen builder František Kvasnička, who five years later, when the Krauses needed a bedroom for their two young children, extended the flat with the addition of adjacent rooms.

On the eve of WWII in 1939, Willy Kraus succeeded in departing for London, but his wife and two children did not manage to follow him. In 1942, they were transported to Theresienstadt concentration camp and later to the ghetto in Zamość, Poland, which shortly thereafter was wiped out by the Nazis, and they died either there or in one of the Polish extermination camps. The house in Bendova was confiscated by the Reich administration offices. After the war, it was returned to Willy Kraus, but in 1954 it was taken away from him by the communists on the grounds of Kraus’ residency abroad. Due to the efforts of the art historian Věra Běhalová, Loos' interior was listed as a moveable heritage monument.

After 1989, the house was transferred to the ownership of the City of Pilsen, which a few years ago initiated renovation of the surviving parts of the rare interior and adaptation of the main space as a venue for small-scale social events. The reconstruction was carried out according to the competition-winning plans of the architects Ludvík Grym and Jan Sapák, who attempted to conserve all the original features (not only from Loos’ renovation) and to complete the interior using atypical contemporary seating, including new Thonet armchairs, a stylised bed in the bedroom and a glass display case in the former study. The contemporary interventions are therefore easily distinguishable from the historical layer. During the reconstruction, a remnant of the original bright-blue patterned wallpaper was found in the study, which served as a pattern for the manufacture of an effective replica. New hygienic facilities were installed in the flat as well as an office in the former housekeeper’s room.


LV

Investor

Gertrude and Willy Kraus

Sources

  • Archiv Odboru stavebně správního, Technický úřad Magistrátu města Plzně
 
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