Josef Špalek ml.

Date of birth: 1. května 1902 Plzeň

Death date: 1. dubna 1942 Moskva


Architect Josef Špalek Jr. was one of the prominent figures of the Czechoslovak inter-war avant-garde. He was a member of Devětsil, an association of Czech artists, and also of the architecture section of the Left Front, an organisation of left-wing intellectuals and also one of the founding members of the Union of Socialist Architects. In his work he focused primarily on experiments in the field of housing development and the social dimension of architecture and urban planning in general.

He was born in Pilsen in 1902, where he also graduated from the College of Civil Engineering. In 1923 he joined the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague, where he studied under Josef Gočár until 1926. After graduating, he worked in Pilsen. Initially, his designs were strongly influenced by Gočár's work and bore obvious Purist features. He left an indelible mark on his hometown thanks to the realisation of a progressive Functionalist villa (C8–558), which he designed at the age of twenty-six for his uncle, Pilsner factory owner Jan Rohrer. At the turn of the 1920s and 1930s, Špalek collaborated on several projects with his father, the builder Josef Špalek Sr., such as the project of the building of the County Sickness Institution in Strakonice.

At the same time he also started cooperation with Jaromír Krejcar. Together they created structures such as the Strakonice Building Plan or competition designs of the building of the Provincial Authority in Bratislava and the design of the so-called Greater Prague transport network. In this progressive study, entitled “Public Above All”, the architects proposed a gradual shift of individual car traffic away from the centre, replacing it with quality public transport.

Josef Špalek Jr. was also one of the architects interested in the idea of ​​collective housing. In 1930, he and Jan Gillar took part in a competition for houses with the smallest apartments in Prague-Holešovice with a CIRPAC project. In the same year, together with Gillar, Peer Bücking and Augusta Müller he also prepared a design of a collective house “L-project” for a competition to design a residential district in the area in front of the Nusle Bridge in Prague.

In 1933, Josef Špalek Jr. became one of the founders of the Union of Socialist Architects. In the same year he set out on a journey to the Soviet Union together with Jaromír Krejcar. At first, they only stayed for a few weeks, but then returned for a longer working stay at the turn of 1933 and 1934, joining the No. 1 State Project Studio NKTP (People's Commissariat of Heavy Industry) of the USSR, which was headed by the Vesnin brothers together with another prominent representative of Russian constructivism, Moisei Jakovlevitch Ginzburg. Krejcar left the USSR later, however, Josef Špalek decided to stay. He moved to the studio of Moisei Ginzburg, where he collaborated on the realisation of the Ordzhonikidze sanatorium in Kislovodsk.

In 1934 he also married in the Soviet Union and, three years later, received Soviet citizenship. From 1938 he lived and worked in Kislovodsk; he later moved to a villa near Moscow. During World War II, he fell ill and after a few months succumbed to disease. He died on 1st April, 1942.