U Práce

(Plzeň) Plzeň Jižní Předměstí
GPS: 49.743909N, 13.372902E

The space called U Práce acquired its name as the former site of the printing presses of the newspaper Práce. It arose at the location of the intersection of two important city avenues: Klatovská, heading south from the historical centre; and Americká, leading west from the central train station. Americká Avenue continues in the same direction beyond Klatovská Avenue, becoming Tylova Street. As both busy boulevards are burdened with both private and public transport, the space at U Práce is a bustling public space. Its significance is further emphasised by the Thank you, America monument, commemorating the liberation of Pilsen by the US Army at the end of the Second World War. 

A path following the track of present-day Americká Avenue is represented for the first time on a map from the year 1410. This path leading from Doudlevce in the south joined the road to Klatovy (later Klatovská Avenue) at the city gate. The route of the path was given by the wall of the Litické Předměstí / Litice Suburb and approximately corresponded to the present shape of the street, including a widening in its upper part. A small pond was kept on this spot for a long time, disappearing in the first half of the 19th century.

After the Second World War, the place was chosen as the site for a memorial to the liberation of Pilsen by the US Army. The art competition of 1946 was won by the sculptor Oskar Kozák. A ceremony laying the foundation stone took place in early May the following year, however the Communist coup of February 1948 thwarted the plans for the memorial. A peaceful commemorative ceremony was organised on this spot on the 5th of May of the same year. Pilseners covered the lawn around the foundation stone with flowers and small American flags. The ceremony was interrupted by security forces and all festive decorations were removed by People’s Militias overnight before the 6th of May. Subsequently, the foundation stone was covered and surrounded by socialist construction slogans and finally removed probably after a demonstration in the spring of 1986. 

Favourable conditions for the construction of the monument only arrived after the fall of the former regime in the year 1989. In 1990, a new foundation stone was laid to mark the occasion of a visit by President Havel and the US Ambassador Shirley Temple-Black. Three years later, an art competition for a new look for the memorial was won by Vladimír Preclík, who designed a sculpture of a flag with a broken pole falling to the ground. This concept symbolised the tragic consequences the decision to halt the progress of the US Army at the demarcation line behind Pilsen had for Czechoslovakia. However, Preclík’s concept was rejected by the public – probably not resonating with the ethos of the time. 

An open working group then created an alternative design. One of their key members, the painter and opponent of the Communist regime Jiří Kovařík, proposed an analogy to the Arc de Triomphe for the site. This option was not well received either, due to the imperial overtones of the motif. Further discussions resulted in the current form of two granite pylons with golden inscriptions, a round bronze map and a fountain. The architect Jan Soukup prepared the project, and the sculptor František Bálek was the author of the bronze map of Europe with the advance of the Allied Forces marked out. Nevertheless, the monument is officially considered a group work without a specific author.


JČ – MK

Sources

  • Osobní rozhovor s tehdejším náměstkem primátora města Plzně JUDr. Janem Blažkem, 23. 10. 2014
  • mapy.plzen.eu
 
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