Building of the Czech State Technical School
1915–1920

Chodské náměstí 1585/2 (Plzeň) Plzeň Jižní Předměstí
GPS: 49.7377421N, 13.3717775E

Technical education has existed in Pilsen since 1876, when the German Technical School was established. In connection with Czechs taking control of the Pilsen City Council in 1881 and thanks to the efforts of the former councillor and later Pilsen mayor Václav Peták, as well as Czech deputies in the Imperial Council, the Czech State Technical School was established already in 1885. Its first seat was originally the rented house No. 13 in the corner of the streets V Šipce and Havlíčkova. Eight years later, the school moved to a new building – No. 15 in Tylova Street.

Due to the further development of the school and the insufficient capacity of the building, the city announced an open call for the construction of a representative residence in today's Chodské Square near the Neo-Renaissance elementary schools from the late 19th century. The winning design came from a conservative Prague architect Ladislav Skřivánek, who worked as an assistant at the school between 1900 and 1902 (one of the designs in the competition – of a Neo-Renaissance building – was made by the school’s Professor Viktorin Šulc).

However, Skřivánek didn’t finish the project until 1913, a year before the First World War broke out (it was in the same year that the institution took the Technical School of Civil Engineering under its auspices), which further complicated the implementation of the project, postponing it until 1915-1920. Until then Chodské Square had already been dominated by two towers of the New-Romanesque Redemptorist church of St. John of Nepomuk, built in 1908-1911. In the difficult years of WWI, the German Technical School also started the construction of its new seat. The building was designed by its professor Ludwig Tremmel (C6-1615) for a plot near the present Náměstí Míru square.

Ladislav Skřivánek designed the three-storey building of the Czech State Technical School on a U-shaped ground plan. Both side wings, oriented toward Kozinova and Soukenická Streets, slightly project in front of the facade facing the square while following the "conically" tapering shape of the land. The symmetrical solution of the central façade, accentuated by a pair of half-cylindrical bay windows, highlights the central avant-corps with a bossaged entrance portico and an even number of window axes. The risalit was crowned with a "picturesque" stepped gable, a typical element of the so-called Czech Neo-Renaissance. Thanks to it, the building even on the outside demonstrates its language foundations in a self-demarcation against its German competition. The monumental character and dominance of the avant-corps are further enhanced by a mansard roof topped with a lantern.

The gable, turrets of the side bays, lantern and the base of the Cyclops wall refer to historicism in architecture; however, the simple facades lacking decorative relief elements reveal Skřivánek's "cautious" inclination to modern architecture. The only decorative element remains the classicising reliefs on the corner risalits of the front under the main cornice. The Allegory of Architecture (left) and Industry (right), as well as the republic’s coat of arms (in the gable) were created by Pilsen sculptor Otokar Walter in 1919.

In the clearly arranged interior layout, Ladislav Skřivánek concentrated classrooms, drafting rooms and workshops in the side wings, while situating important common spaces in the main tract. A prominent position among them was granted to the centrally located staircase hall connected to the vestibule of the courtyard section of the avant-corps. There were other community rooms facing the square as well: a library, main lecture hall, teachers' offices, director's office, staff room, and large rooms for building collections. The architect placed the modelling room and showers in the basement, where natural lighting was provided by skylights or so-called “English courtyards”, and a photographic studio was located in the attic.

In the ground floor in the courtyard, closing up the free side of the letter U, Skřivánek placed a gym (although in the early construction plans there are also collections here, and after the completion of the building the room served as a lecture hall). The school workshops remained in Tylova Street. The new workshop building, designed on a U-shaped ground plan as well, which was to close up the whole plot eastwards, never materialised. The eastern part of the plot was to be landscaped into a park. The inner courtyard of the school was to be arranged in a similar manner, with a fountain and sculpture by Emanuel Halman in the centre.

The decoration of the interior was mainly concentrated in the representative staircase hall with a traditionally designed split staircase, the impression of which, thanks to the subtle metal railings, is not cumbersome despite the massive posts with ornamental endings. The festive character of the hall is enhanced by large segmented windows and a number of decorative elements: wall pilasters, plaster reliefs and above all the ornamental ceiling painting with Czech lion. The shift to modern simple forms was more pronounced in the solution of the library on the ground floor and the staff room and headmaster’s office on the second floor, which were the work of Oldřich Starý in 1919, who taught at the school in 1912-1919 and later became one of the pioneers of Czech Purism and Functionalism.

Even before completion, the school building, built by Müller & Kapsa and later the builder J. Kovařík, was also used to accommodate soldiers, workers and prisoners of war. It was finished two years after the foundation of Czechoslovakia; the building of the German Technical School, used after completion for mechanical engineering courses, was built two years later (1922). Both buildings represent the last school buildings in Pilsen that were strongly influenced by Historicism. Schools designed and constructed after the foundation of the republic – for instance the Beneš School (C5-1692) or the Higher Business School (C8-517) designed by Hanuš Zápal – took on distinctly modern characteristics.

The school underwent further construction development in the post-war period. In 1953, part of the basement and ground floor in the end section of the northern wing were modified into a kitchen, a student canteen and an after school care club. In the 1960s a new, larger gym was built in the middle of the courtyard and set between the courtyard risalit with the main staircase and the original gym. At the end of the 1960s and beginning of the 1970s, an indoor swimming pool was constructed as an extension of the southern wing of the school in Kozinova Street. In 1990, central changing rooms were added to the basement of the school. Since 2016 the building of the Secondary School of Civil Engineering has been an immovable cultural monument.


AW – PK

Monument preservation

The house is immovable cultural heritage, listed under registration no. ÚSKP: 105784.

Sources

  • Archiv Odboru stavebně správního, Technický úřad Magistrátu města Plzně
  • Archiv města Plzně
 
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