Foreigners House of the Joint Stock Company, formerly the Škoda Works in Pilsen
1928–1931

Karlovarská 563, 450 / 83, 81 (Plzeň) Plzeň Severní Předměstí
GPS: 49.7655113, 13.3634412

At the end of the 1920s and beginning of the 1930s, The Joint Stock Company, formerly the Škoda Works in Pilsen, built a representative complex of buildings to accommodate foreign inspectors, important visitors, and other officials of the company travelling to Pilsen on business. The set of houses located in a spacious garden lining Karlovarská Street was built in stages between 1928 and 1931.

In 1928, the company started with an adaptation and extension of the historicist villa no. 81 built in 1898 in the south-eastern part of the plot originally belonging to the merchant František Hamáček. Under the leadership of well-known Pilsen builder Josef Špalek Sr., the house was converted into an accommodation facility and was extended on the north side to include a two-storey annexe with eight rooms facing the street and the garden. The entire building was visually unified by a smooth “Brizolit” cement façade with light tones, from which the entrance tower’s avant-corps was lined by a distinctive profile in the plaster. Despite these adaptations, the building’s traditionalist character was preserved to a great extent, mainly due to the historicist "tower".

Similar morphology, characterised by a composition of horizontal and vertical motifs and sculptured geometric elements of the façade (cornices, window ledges, pilasters, or areas between windows), was used on the separate and newly built four-storey hotel. It was realised at the northern edge of the plot by František Kvasnička’s company at about the same time. This modern flat-roofed building, oriented with its longitudinal axis perpendicular to the main street, housed the primary portion of the accommodation facilities, i.e. as many as 38 guest rooms. Architect Julius Kopp, employee of the company’s construction department, prepared the project, which also included a basement that housed technical rooms and all facilities needed for gastronomy. Kopp was most likely the author of the reconstruction of house no. 81 as well.

Both free-standing buildings were linked by a representative Functionalist two-storey wing in 1930–1931, designed by the leading Modernist architect of inter-war Pilsen Jaroslav Fišer, who also worked in the construction department of the company. As in the case of the adaptation and extension of house no. 81, the project was implemented by the firm of Josef Špalek Sr.

The new connecting wing, which stood out in terms of its architecture among the surrounding buildings, became the social hub of the whole hotel complex – a position previously held by the ground floor of the new three-storey building, accessible from the north through a columned portico. The genesis and development of this project, which was primarily aimed at constructing a new function hall, were quite lengthy; its implementation was preceded by the design of several variations. The first study proposed a single-storey annexe attached to the entrance hall, staircase, and dining room in the new hotel building. The second alternative envisaged a connecting wing between the hotel and house no. 81, which would contain a gambling parlour in addition to the function hall and connecting corridor. Another similar proposal was drafted, calling for two function halls, one on top of the other. Eventually, however, the board of trustees chose a project in which the extension was not conceived as a mere connecting passageway with a function hall, but as a representative entrance wing – the social centre of the entire hotel complex.

The main entrance, facing the garden and flanked by two stairways, was followed by a representative entrance hall, a cloakroom, and sanitary facilities in a raised basement. The symmetrical layout also included offices, a room for staff (left), and guest rooms (right). The whole area of the first floor was occupied by a representative hall divided into three parts. The broad middle field was illuminated by a sizeable, segmentally arched ribbon window in the garden frontage and hipped skylight fitted in the barrel vault (the roof, rendered as a steel riveted construction, was originally to be done in a gabled roof shape). Both side sections of the layout were covered with a flat roof and lit by wide windows also facing the garden. At the level of the first floor, the street façade was dominated by large rectangular windows illuminating the corridor. To ensure sufficient illumination and sunlight in the main hall, it was separated from this space only by a glass partition.

The entire complex, part of which included an older house, no. 79, on the southern border of the premises, was completed with an array of artwork. The garden, for example, housed sculptures by Otokar Walter, the author of the decorations on the nearby buildings of the Higher Business School (C8–517) and of the Jubilee County Children’s Home (C8–585).

From 1973 to 1975, the Foreigners House underwent significant and (for the time) very professional building interventions, especially in terms of its interior. The project was prepared by Pilsen architect and painter Klement Štícha. The newly established and artistically atypical halls and rooms were luxuriously furnished and complemented by high-quality works of art and features by Pilsen artists Ladislav Fládr, Stanislav Stak, Zdeněk Kejzlar, or Břetislav Holakovský. The interior of the building, now operated as part of the CD Hotel Garni complex, has been preserved in almost completely intact condition. It is one of the most authentic examples of “total artwork” (i.e. Gesamtkunstwerk) in Czechoslovakia from the first half of the 1970s and deserves monument protection.


AŠ 

Sources

  • Archiv Odboru stavebně správního, Technický úřad Magistrátu města Plzně
  • Petra Cinkaničová, Osobnost plzeňského malíře a architekta Klementa Štíchy (diplomová práce), katedra historie FPE ZČU, Plzeň 2014.
  • Hotel CD (dříve Cizinecký dům), Křížky a vetřelci. Katalog drobného umění na území Plzně, http://krizkyavetrelci.plzne.cz/katalog/soubor/2/, vyhledáno 4. 12. 2015.
 
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