Apartment building for employees of the Pilsen Bory Prison
1947–1949

Klatovská třída 2867, 2866 / 216, 214 (Plzeň) Plzeň Jižní Předměstí
GPS: 49.7220708N, 13.3606136E

The Justice Administration of the Czechoslovak state had an apartment building for its employees constructed between 1947 and 1949 in the foreground of the Bory Prison, which was established along the road from Pilsen to Klatovy and dates back to the 1870s. "On the eve" of the 1950s, a period notorious for its inhuman approach to many prisoners, a residential house was built just meters from the main prison gate in an architectural style that, paradoxically, drew from the best traditions of inter-war Functionalism that were so characteristic of the culture of democratic Czechoslovakia.

Although the penitentiary was built in the years 1874-1878 (designed by Emanuel Trojan von Bylanow and Franz Maurus) in the historicist Neo-Romanesque style, the author of the apartment house project managed to apply a traditional composition principle – axial symmetry – into his own concept. With his design of two mirror-inverted wings extending beyond the middle part of the building with two glass-walled staircases with entrances, he created a symmetrical façade facing east toward Borský Park. The overall L-shaped layout was achieved by extending the south wing (the reason for this was clearly to make use of favourable cardinal directions and ensure that the apartments received adequate sunlight). Four horizontal lines of continuous windows cut across all three areas of the east façade. These horizontals are offset by the perpendiculars of the retracted balconies with light metal railings. While these external walls extend in front of the reinforced concrete frame forming the structural system of the house, the other parts of the façade are in line with the structural framework. The basic operational setting of the apartments is easily recognizable: service rooms are oriented toward the north and west, facing the prison, while the living rooms face east and south. The building residents were thus spared having to confront the environment of the prison in their free time.

The house, although built during the post-war Two-Year Plan, offered its residents unprecedented comfort. In addition to cellar cubicles, the basement also contained a transformer station, central heating boiler room, two rubbish chute rooms, pram and bicycle storage room, a laundry, and drying room. Each floor housed four apartments – one in the north wing, one in the middle, and two in the south wing. On the ground floor the residential units were complemented by a doctor's surgery and waiting room (still visible in the differing windows on the façade). The surgery was made up of a doctor’s apartment with three rooms, a kitchen, and facilities including two balconies and a maid’s room (in the final inspection plans of 1949 this room is already labeled – acceptably for that time – as a dressing room). The surgery was also accessible from the vestibule of the apartment. Since the building’s construction, a three-bedroom unit has been located above this same area on the upper floors. Due to the surgery and waiting room, the second apartment in this part of the building was only conceived as a two-bedroom guest apartment, while the middle wing apartment had three rooms. The layout of the fourth apartment, situated in the north wing, was changed during construction – a small third room facing the prison was added to two rooms facing the park instead of the originally planned kitchen. A small kitchen then replaced the originally planned dressing room.

Although the apartment building is still of a high architectural quality, a recent façade overhaul and window replacement have deprived the exterior of a substantial portion of its original subtlety. Plastic windows with wide frames bring a disharmony to the minimalist façade, which was originally based on precise detail; however, their positioning in line with the facade is commendable. (In this manner, Modernist authors demonstrated the lightness of the exterior walls, which forfeited their supporting function). On all accounts, the current selection of colour is a clear detriment to the façade and indicates that the authors of its "revitalisation" failed to appreciate the fine architecture of this expensively constructed apartment house.


OM – PK

Investor

Czechoslovak state (Justice Administration)

Sources

  • Archiv Odboru stavebně správního, Technický úřad Magistrátu města Plzně
 
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