House of the Traders’ Cooperative
1935–1936

Husova 717/15, Skrétova 717/1 (Plzeň) Plzeň Jižní Předměstí
GPS: 49.7453237N, 13.3694815E

Characteristic of the period of the First Czechoslovak Republic was the considerable political consciousness of its citizens. Up to more than 90% of voters turned out for elections and many were directly politically active. The majority of the big political parties had already been founded during Austro-Hungarian rule, among them the Czechoslovak Traders' Party (Živnostensko-obchodnická strana středostavovská) formed in 1908, a liberal, centre-right party promoting primarily the interests of tradesmen and small businesses. The party’s considerable success in the elections of May 1935 and the associated growth in membership had an impact also in Pilsen and the party found itself short of suitable premises. In 1935, the cooperative Živnodům was established with the aim of building representative headquarters for the party. In the same year, the cooperative decided on the purchase and conversion of a four-storey Historicist house on the corner of the streets Husova and Skrétova. Originally a residential house, it had served since 1910 as an undergarment mill for the firm Rosenfeld and in the second two decades of the century was modified several times, always under the supervision of the Pilsen builder František Němec Sr. In 1928, Němec had added a fourth storey to the house according to plans by the architect Vilém Beer. Following the Živnodům cooperative's purchase of the building, the leadership of the Traders’ Party commissioned the architect František Měsíček in late 1935 to draft plans for the party’s social and administrative headquarters. Měsíček proposed converting the house practically from the foundations up.

In view of the investors’ requirements, Měsíček had to combine in one building a range of functions associated with representation of the party as well as the needs of its central offices. The variety of operations was also reflected in the interior layout of the building. On the right-hand side of the ground floor was a restaurant kitchen, a beer taproom and large hall. The left-hand side was adapted into a wine bar and café with a common dance floor. The first floor held the caretaker's flat, telephone switchboard, law office, conference room and archives as well as a two-room flat for tenants or restaurant employees, which was divided into men's and women’s sections, each with a separate entrance. The second floor was set aside for the requirements of the party and contained representative conference rooms, the offices of the board with a common waiting room, the secretariat and the rooms of the county administration, secretary, editorial office, automobile club and the bureau of traders and bureau staff. The third floor, designated as residential, was divided into nine lodging rooms and six hotel type rooms with facilities.

The interior design by the architect Čestmír Dobeš was derived primarily from the ideological and social roots of the party, which united tradesmen and entrepreneurs, and made use of their abilities and skills to realise his idea: "The Traders' House in Pilsen will be a showroom of craftwork used practically, which will hold educational merits for all its visitors and thus become a demonstration of advanced craftsmanship in the Pilsen county.” Today, almost nothing remains of the modern, functional and at the same time splendid furnishings. The facades, on the contrary, influenced by Czech Expressionist architecture, have, but for replacement of the ground-floor windows and doors, retained their original Modernist look of the 1930s (although the exterior of the building is in a relatively dilapidated state). Měsíček’s design for the Traders’ House is characterised mainly by the prominent horizontals of subtle string courses that connect the rows of double-light windows at the level of the sills and also pass through the windows below the ventilation fanlights. The geometric character of the symmetrically conceived street facades is emphasised in the centre by large expanses of brown-green ceramic tiles. The smoothly rendered end sections of the house are accentuated by vertical lesenes, considerably protruding from the face of the facade, and by the cases of the three-light windows. There were originally advertising signs on the sides of the rounded corner: the corner ledge was designed to hold a statue of Mercury, symbolising the boom of the Traders' Party.

The Traders’ House was inaugurated in the presence of a number of party delegates on the anniversary of the establishment of Czechoslovakia, 28 October 1936. Only two years later, though, the party was abolished and absorbed into the Party of National Unity (Strana národní jednoty) and in this form its activities were banned after the Second World War, at which time the house probably served briefly as a hostel of the Czechoslovak Tourist Club. In the last two decades the building has housed a strip club, which is advertised (in place of the statue of Mercury) by a neon figural design on the corner part of the facade.

 

LV
 

Investor

Živnodům, spol. s r. o.

Sources

  • Archiv Odboru stavebně správního, Technický úřad Magistrátu města Plzně
 
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