Jiráskovo náměstí / Jirásek Square

(Plzeň) Plzeň Východní Předměstí
GPS: 49.736789, 13.391848

In the second half of the 19th century, industrial development in Pilsen led to the rapid growth of the city. The speedy development of quiet suburbs began and a large number of large gardens with villas and courtyards with homesteads were predominantly forced to give way to apartment buildings. In the Prague Suburb (then called the East Suburb) the construction proceeded from the central train station along Slovanská Avenue. The traditional block layout was based on regulatory plans from the 1890s, which were modified over the years; however, their basic composition principles remained unchanged.

Despite this fact, the monotonous regularity of a consistently rectangular grid was soon questioned as a central concept for planning new parts of the city. As early as the turn of the century, architects introduced irregular blocks, wide spacious roads and more generous public spaces in urban planning. This trend was confirmed by the regulatory plans reworked by the City Building Authority staff around 1910 and by the general regulation plan of Vladimír Zákrejs in the late 1920s.

Urbanists' efforts to create enough properly functioning public spaces were also reflected in the area of the present Prague Suburb. One of the most important and welcoming public spaces was Jirásek Square, one block east of busy Slovanská Avenue. It appeared in the plans after the year 1900 when it was already surrounded by housing development in the north-east part. As construction near the square progressed continuously from the district of Petrohrad southward, the basic shape of the space and the trace of most of the streets leading away from the square respected the orthogonal block structure. The ground plan of the square in the shape of a narrow rectangle was created by omitting three housing blocks in a rectangular grid between Houškova and Radyňská Streets. The southeast edge of the square, formed by a semi-circular ending from which four streets radiate, already indicated the new direction of urban regulation. The construction of most of the houses surrounding the square was completed during the 1930s.

The square is intersected and divided into two unevenly large segments by Farská Street, southeast of which extends the complex of the Dominican Monastery with the Our Lady of the Roses Church and monastery garden. Originally, the rest of the square was formed by a green area that was adapted into a park in the 1930s. Weekend markets and circuses were often held here.

The church was built in 1912 and 1913 to serve the newly founded parish for the Prague Suburb and the neighbourhoods of Božkov, Hradiště and Lobzy. Architect Antonín Möller designed the Catholic house of worship as a three-nave basilica church with one transverse nave and a nearly 60-metre-high tower finished with a simple pyramidal roof. The lateral side of the church with late Art Nouveau forms – a style fairly uncommon in sacral architecture – fluently extends to the monastery of the Dominican Order, which was entrusted with the administration of the new parish. A monastery garden, originally divided into six rectangular segments designed for growing different kinds of fruits and vegetables for the Dominicans’ personal use, was attached to the monastery from the southeast. Unlike the pavements along the perimeter of the square, which were paved with granite slabs (so-called Pilsen Pavement), cheaper marble pavement (so-called Prague Mosaic) was fitted around the monastery grounds for financial reasons.

Before the First World War, the city decided to construct a building for the 3rd Municipal Boys and Girls School (C12–878) complex in the Prague Suburb. The city bought a large plot of land at the southern tip of Jirásek Square and in 1914 commissioned the architect of the City Building Authority Hanuš Zápal to draft a project. Zápal prepared three versions for the building’s design but did not complete the project until after the First World War. He designed the building symmetrically on a U-shaped ground plan – the main façade with a central avant-corps finished with a triangular gable was oriented toward the square. Both side wings with separate entrances for girls and boys faced the yard.

After its opening in 1923, the school bore the name of Thomas Garrigue Masaryk, the first Czechoslovak president. During the Second World War, the school was repeatedly confiscated for military purposes and after the liberation it served as lodgings for American soldiers for several months. After 1948, although retaining its original function, its name was changed; the school bore the name of Czech writer Alois Jirásek for several decades.

During the war, the monastery faced severe pressure from the German Gestapo. Due to the occupation of other monasteries, the Germans gradually moved Pilsen Redemptorists and Franciscans here; eventually, the building served as a Wehrmacht military hospital and in May 1945 as a convalescent home for former concentration camp prisoners. Further changes came in February 1948. After the forced departure of the Dominicans in 1950, the monastery premises were used by a variety of municipal institutions, especially the District National Health Institute (OÚNZ) Pilsen-North. The garden was split up into smaller gardens and a part was used by a kindergarten and elementary school. In 1948 trolleybus line No. 12 on the Skvrňany-Božkov route was also opened in a part of the square behind the monastery garden and in front of the school building.

The square experienced a major blow in the1970s when a six-storey apartment building grew up on the site of a planned but never completed block of houses directly opposite the monastery. This insensitive intervention into the space and atmosphere of the square still is still perceived with considerable discontent by the majority of the Slovany neighbourhood’s inhabitants. Part of the original park area by ​​the building is now used for parking. In the 1970s, a new railway medical centre building was also to be constructed in the monastery garden. This plan was never implemented; the garden, however, was left largely abandoned and became overgrown with wild plants.

After the fall of the Communist regime in 1989, the monastery was returned to Dominican administration, which restored its operation. The elementary school also readopted the name of T. G. Masaryk. The public space of the square has experienced few changes and its condition is marked by the dilapidated surfaces of the walkable areas and the poor state of vegetation. The long-term goal of the Pilsen 2 – Slovany district to revitalise Jirásek Square was revived in 2012 by an initiative of the pupils of the Masaryk Primary School, who proposed making the monastery garden accessible to the public. The local district town hall continued this idea three years later with a planned project to revitalize the square. This was prepared in close cooperation with the Pěstuj prostor (“Foster the City”) organisation, the Dominican Monastery Pilsen, the Masaryk Primary School and with the contribution of pupils and teachers of the Pilsen Church and Sports Grammar Schools.

Thanks to the success of the project’s intentions, which emphasised the participatory dimension of the event, works on project preparations commenced in 2016 in the grant call of the Karel Komárek Proměny Foundation. The design of the re:architekti studio won the architecture design competition in the spring of 2017. Implementation of their renovation project is to begin in 2018.
 

MR – PK

Sources

  • Historie Jiráskova náměstí (1765 až 2016), Obnova Jiráskova náměstí a klášterní zahrady v Plzni, http://jiraskovonamesti.plzen.eu/historie, vyhledáno 21. 12. 2017.
 
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