Modified interior of Olga and Otto Beck’s flat in Antonín Müller’s apartment house
1928

náměstí Míru 1076/2 (Plzeň) Plzeň Jižní Předměstí
GPS: 49.7315747N, 13.3707664E

In 1900, two almost identical three-storey houses were erected on two adjacent sites on the north side of the square today called Náměstí Míru. The houses have eclectic facades ornamented with medallions of prominent historical figures of the building trade. Antonín Müller and Vojtěch Kapsa, the founders of one of the largest construction firms in Czechoslovakia, Müller & Kapsa, designed and built the houses for themselves and their allied families. While the ground floor of the houses served as the company’s office, the upper floors were occupied by the two families. The buildings provided all the comfort and convenience available at the time, due primarily to their equipping with the most modern technologies, including DC current supplied from a generator at the owners' own sawmill on Klatovská Avenue, which powered not only their own houses, but also newly erected buildings in the neighbourhood, which the prospering firm often had a hand in developing.  

When Antonín Müller died in 1927, his son František decided to move the company headquarters to Prague, where he also had his own villa built in the district of Střešovice according to plans by Adolf Loos and Karel Lhota (the well-known Villa Müller), and subsequently decided to lease the Pilsen house at No. 2 Náměstí Míru. The first tenants were Otto Beck and his wife Olga, who moved the furnishings of their former three-room apartment on Klatovská Avenue 12, designed in 1907–1910 also by Loos (C2–455), into the new building. The Becks therefore commissioned the same architect to modify the interior design for the new spaces. Loos took on the assignment together with his former partner Karel Lhota, and Bořivoj Kriegerbeck, an employee of Müller & Kapsa, took on the task of the transfer. This circumstance testifies to the timelessness of Loos’ early interiors, which even after two decades looked up-to-date and satisfied the taste of the clients.  

As in the Becks’ former flat, the central feature of the new living room was a pointed brick fireplace. In collaboration with Loos, Kriegerbeck set around it free-standing and built-in seating of various shapes. The walls had light-coloured tiling, with a contrasting upper band of fabric wallpaper. This was repeated in the bedroom, the entire perimeter of which was equipped with built-in maple furniture. The alcove housing the beds was wallpapered with light-coloured muslin and there were also light-coloured window curtains. A subtle artistic accent of the room consisted of hanging lamps above the bedside lockers. The dining room was also furnished in harmony with Loos’ propensity for symmetry, with a centrally placed table and a dominant mirror on the axis of the entrance into the living room.

Loos was connected to the Beck family not only by his work, but also by marriage – in 1929 the famous architect wed Otto and Olga's daughter Claire, a promising photographer, in Vienna. Although her father did not approve of Claire’s marriage to the aging Loos, he subsequently supported the newlyweds financially and contributed to the renovation of their Vienna flat. Despite the fact that Claire lived with the temperamental architect only for a short time, she left us a valuable account of his opinions on his collaborators and on architecture, politics and art in her book Adolf Loos – A Private Portrait. In 1941, Claire and her mother (her father was already dead) were deported to the Theresienstadt concentration camp, from which they never returned. Olga Beck had managed previously to sell some of the furnishings of their Pilsen apartment, but the remainder was lost during the war. 

In 1948, the Müller house was nationalised and three years later the local branch of the state architectural and engineering organisation Stavoprojekt came up with a proposal for converting it into a boarding school. In 1958, the same institution modified the building for the use of the County Institute for National Health (OÚNZ) in Pilsen, with the inclusion of a dental surgery for children and adults and a doctor’s flat on the second floor in the rooms of the Becks’ former apartment. Further extensive modifications to the interiors of the whole house occurred in 1977, when the health centre was converted for dentistry training as part of Charles University’s Medical Faculty in Pilsen, and in 1988 the ground floor of the building was again converted into the drug control laboratory of the Regional Institute for National Health (KÚNZ). The building still serves the purposes of health care today. 


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Olga and Otto Beck

 
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