Karel Wanka’s apartment building
1914

Majerova 1561/2 (Plzeň) Plzeň Jižní Předměstí
GPS: 49.7286821, 13.3691811

Karel Wanka's exemplary apartment building from 1914 became one of the first buildings on Klatovská Avenue south of today's Náměstí Míru Square. The busy building activity, which had been transforming the former road to Klatovy into a representative town boulevard with often grand houses for well-situated burghers since the mid-19th century, only reached the wider surroundings of Chodské Square then. The construction of the four-storey building with a cellar, which had a wide open V-shaped ground plan and was situated on the corner of Majerova Street and Klatovská Avenue, was carried out for a prominent local farmer and real estate owner (including many of the surrounding plots) by the Pilsen-based company Müller & Kapsa according to its own project. The facades were probably designed by the architect Bohumír Hochman, a graduate of Czech Technical University in Prague and a student of Jan Koula or Josef Schulz.

The house shows the time of its creation in the relatively conservative morphology of its street facades, combining decorative forms of historicising styles and more progressive cubisising details. The outer cladding of the entire building is distinctly horizontally articulated. The base of the building with its main entrance from Majerova Street is lined with a low, stone-clad base intersected by small cellar windows. A light continuous string course separates the ground floor from the first and second floors and the third floor from the attic covered with a sloping roof. The front facade of the house is most markedly divided by a massive ledge under the window sills of the last floor, which are carved and plastically ornamented at the bottom. The vertical accent of the exterior is provided by "segments" of rounded bay windows at the level of the first and second floors and a rounded corner with three window axes, highlighted by downspouts on the sides and topped with a decorative parapet with a pair of pillars and vases.

The house is also decorated with a number of other traditional elements - window sills, rosettes, finely-profiled jambs, fluting, a strip of structured plaster on the ground floor and dormers in the attic. On the contrary, geometric details such as a wooden entrance door with a pattern of diamond envelopes, sharp-cut jambs of the entrance or the spatial "crystals" of the cellar window lattice were not common in pre-First-World-War Pilsen and represent an early example of contact with the Prague Cubist scene. Nevertheless, the geometrically shaped entrance portal was uniquely complemented by a deep figural relief of children with fruit bowls by the 24-year-old sculptor Otokar Walter. Seven years later, the Pilsen artist also created the allegorical stone reliefs located on the sides of the corners at the height of the second-floor windows.

Wanka's apartment building offered a dozen comfortable apartments with a rather unimaginative layout. On the first, second and third floors, there were three spacious three-room flats, whose interconnecting residential rooms windows turned into both streets with large, horizontally oriented windows. The kitchens were facing the courtyard; the greater part of the apartment service rooms, including the maid's rooms, bathrooms, toilets and pantries, were placed in the middle section of the house with their windows usually leading into internal skylights. The ground floor of the building offered one two-room, one three-room and one four-room flat with facilities. The underground floor housed the cellar units of the tenants and a modest flat of the caretaker; a laundry was situated in the attic.

The building, which is more than a century old, is currently in very good condition. At present, its front has retained its authentic appearance, including a rich register of ornamental elements.


KE – PK

Sources

  • Archiv Michala Béma
 
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