Entrance and café building of Peklo club house
1937–1939

Pobřežní 2220/10 (Plzeň) Plzeň Jižní Předměstí
GPS: 49.7500681N, 13.3735247E
Architect:

The social climate in the Czech lands in the late 19th century favoured political and civic activities and so the Association for Construction of a House for Czech National and Workers’ Support Clubs (Spolek pro zbudování domu pro české národní a podporující se spolky dělnické) was established in Pilsen in 1885. Its efforts to build an administrative and representative centre for the workers' party led to the purchase of sites with a garden restaurant on the bank of the Mže River in the area popularly called Peklo (Hell) in the vicinity of today's Pobřežní Street. The label came from the image evoked at the time by the smoke from the chimneys of the local houses, which gave rise to “demonic” legends. The name Peklo is to this day attached to the workers’ building, which has undergone varied construction developments.

The Association’s plans acquired a concrete form in 1894, when a cultural hall extension was built onto the existing inn according to plans by the Pilsen builder Eduard Kroh under the building supervision of Jan Auster. In 1902, the builder Václav Pašek added to the hall the so-called “veranda” building, which consisted in large part of an orchestra pit facing the garden. The side wings of the building were reserved for the administrative purposes of all the associations based there and the ground floor functioned as a restaurant and the editorial offices of the Social Democrat newspaper Nová doba (New Era). Not even this extension satisfied the requirements of the associations, however. The solution adopted was to buy Emilian Fischer’s neighbouring villa dating from 1886 and to convert its forty rooms in the period 1905–1907. During the same period, a hall was built next to the villa according to plans by the builder Alois Hůla. It was completed by Jan Auster, who also drafted plans for a boxing arena situated beneath the social hall.

The entire new complex of the club house was inaugurated on 18 December 1906 and a year later T .G. Masaryk was among the public figures who lectured there. The building activity in Pobřežní Street did not abate in the subsequent years either; a series of modifications to the Peklo building was connected, for example, with the mounting of the highly popular workers' and entrepreneurs’ exhibitions that had regularly been convened in Pilsen since 1889. (The 10th jubilee exhibition had 6,000 exhibitors and more than 165,000 visitors.) A novelty was the "theatre of light images" or "electric theatre", i.e. cinema, which was presented first in a provisional pavilion on the opposite bank of the river and later in the large hall of the club house itself, which was reconverted for the Workers’ Cinematographic Cooperative (in 1909 it was given a new facade designed by Viktorin Šulc and in 1913 side entrances according to plans by Václav Pašek). In 1920, Václav Pašek extended the spaces of the Nová doba newspaper offices and drafted plans that were never realized for a printing works, which was to be erected in close proximity to the Fischer villa. While Pašek gave the main facade a Decorativist character, the facade facing the river was meant to have a utilitarian, industrial look.

Beginning in 1937, the city exhibition grounds were built in the vicinity of the workers' house on the basis of plans by Leo Meisl, Karel Krůta and Stanislav Smola (C2–2861). At the same time, a plan for conversion of Peklo was created in Meisl’s studio, which included demolition of the “veranda” to make way for a new four-storey building with a large hall, a café and restaurant, all facing the river. The low street facade of Functionalist shapes with a minimum of window openings was dominated by a monumental Neoclassical portal, accentuated by a flagpole. The facade was thus conceived as the visual termination of one of the road axes of the new exhibition grounds. Meisl did not, however, complete either the urban planning solution of the exhibition grounds or the plans for the new club house. The new Peklo entrance and café building was implemented in 1939 according to a design by Karel Krůta, Meisl’s former colleague from the Technical Planning Office for construction of the exhibition grounds. For the street-side section, Krůta chose a canted two-storey mass and conceived the main part of its facade as symmetrical. In the centre he situated the entrance, framed by pilasters and accentuated on the one hand by a marquee with a window above, and on the other by a relief frame on the upper floor. On the peak of the slightly higher entrance section he placed a large neon sign with the word PEKLO. He divided the other parts of the front facade, as well as the smoothly rendered rear facade, with only split windows of various sizes.

Attempts to continue modernising and adding to the club house persisted even during the Second World War, when Václav Neckář worked together with Bohumil Chvojka on further plans. The postwar fate of the complex reflected the spirit of the time; after the Social Democrats, the building was owned by the Revolutionary Trade Union Movement (ROH), the Fischer villa was converted in 1954 for the needs of the state army construction enterprise Armastav and, together with the other parts of the complex, served as a military garrison house. In 1957, the entrance and café building was modified according to plans by Josef Volhráb from the Pilsen branch of the state planning enterprise Stavoprojekt. The foyer and lobby connected with a new large staircase acquired their present-day appearance. Ten years later, the so-called "artists' cloakroom" was built onto the main hall. In subsequent years, the army building did not get the care it needed and so in 2001 had to be closed due to its poor condition. Since 2003, it has been in the ownership of the city, which has partly reconstructed it and adapted it for use as a cultural and social centre, which today houses the Patton Memorial Pilsen and since 2013 part of the company Pilsen 2015.

 

LV
 

Investor

Spolek pro zbudování domu pro české národní a podporující se spolky dělnické / Association for Construction of a House for Czech National and Workers’ Support Clubs

Sources

  • Archiv Odboru stavebně správního, Technický úřad Magistrátu města Plzně
 
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