Houses for Pilsen Police and Post Office employees and military professionals
1924–1929

Edvarda Beneše 1731, 1730, 1729, 1732 / 12, 10, 8, 6 (Plzeň) Plzeň Jižní Předměstí
GPS: 49.7354367N, 13.3726039E

The large residential complex in Edvard Beneš Street constitutes a typical example of First Republic "small flat” development, which was intended as a solution to the housing crisis that had persisted since the end of WWI. In 1919 an act had been passed to support primarily the construction of cheap flats (35–80 m2 of living space), with tax relief and other benefits for the developers. In the next eleven years the act was amended seven times, each new amendment triggering a wave of building activity, primarily among newly created housing cooperatives and municipalities. This was simultaneously a challenge for a range of architects to attempt the most economical and practical flat development possible.

The Pilsen set of houses for Police and Post Office employees and military professionals was designed by the Prague architect Josef Karel Říha. Říha, influenced by his professor, Jan Kotěra, who had dealt with the issue of cheap housing in workers’ colonies prior to WWI, specialized in the 1920s in the development of apartment houses throughout Czechoslovakia – from Prague to Carpathian Ruthenia.

In 1924 Říha designed for Pilsen a complex of three large houses with facades facing Edvard Beneš Street and a dominant corner wing at the junction with Stehlíkova Street, where Říha’s buildings are joined by houses for state employees designed by the architect Václav Neckář (C3–1831). The two sets of residential houses are linked by a common landscaped courtyard, into which the three residential sections of Říha’s houses extend. The four storeys of these houses are divided into small one-room and two-room apartment units. Each flat had its own balcony, loggia or gallery and the two-room flats were each equipped with a bathroom with a bath. The architect turned the galleries into a defining feature of the facades, placing them receding in the sections of the street facade above the entrances. Another prominent feature of the facades consisted of string courses running along the entire circumference of the residential block above the first and fourth floors and a massive, three-section cornice.

Josef Karel Říha’s rectangular, relief concept of the facades was probably inspired by his contemporary, Jiří Kroha, who drew the plans for the Regional Industrial School erected in 1923 in Mladá Boleslav in his “Orthogonal Expressionist” style, characterized by intersecting rectangular frames. In his Pilsen set of houses Říha achieved the greatest expression in his handling of the corners; the dramatic feel of this section of the building is enhanced by its height extended by one floor (in comparison with the rest of the complex), an avant-corps slightly protruding into Edvard Beneš Street, the displaced corner combined with loggias of trapezoidal floor plan and, of course, prominent string courses lining also the masonry balustrades of the balconies, the parapets and the windowsills. Unfortunately, the effective shaping of the facades is today greatly undermined by insulation cladding in inappropriate pastel colours.

 

LV
 

Investor

State Administration for Construction of State Residential Homes / Státní správa novostavby státních obytných domů

Sources

  • Archiv Odboru stavebně správního, Technický úřad Magistrátu města Plzně
 
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