Hanuš Zápal

Date of birth: 7. 2. 1885 Krašovice u Dolní Bělé

Death date: 28. 11. 1964 Kralovice

List of objects


Hanuš Zápal, one of the most prominent architects of inter-war Pilsen, was born on the 7th of February 1885 in Krašovice (Pilsen–North) into the family of a country teacher. He attended the grammar school in Rakovník, and in the years 1903–1909 studied architecture at the Czech Technical University with Professor Josef Schulz and Professor Jan Koula. He also gained his first work experience with Professor Koula before and after finishing his studies, which gave him an opportunity to take part in the renovation of the Pilsen Town Hall. It was this time, no matter how short, that had a strong influence on Zápal’s relationship with Pilsen. Afterwards, he worked for Antonín Balšánek on the preparation of construction plans for the Municipal House in Prague. His last internship was with Bedřich Bendlmeyer at the turn of the years 1909 and 1910. In April 1910, the young architect started working as a temporary engineer with František Auer at the City of Pilsen Building Authority. After a year-long probation, he was appointed as an engineer, which also entitled him to the right to domicile in Pilsen. Prior to his retirement in 1931, he also held the positions of Chief Building Inspector and Technical Councillor.

Hanuš Zápal’s first independent work as an employee of the Building Authority was designing the complex of three school buildings on present-day T. G. Masaryk Square (C1–1530). Eventually, only the building of the Business School was realised to his design in the year 1913. Although generally his layout was close to Wagnerian Neo-Classicism (with some traces of the influence of A. Balšánek and J. Koula), Zápal already used elements of Modernism in the details. In principle, it was the positive reception this building received from the public that defined the further direction of Zápal’s work in Pilsen – he was subsequently entrusted with projects of the most significant public buildings, in particular schools, realised in the 1920s. From the position of being a Building Authority employee, he also influenced the architecture layout of many residential houses built in the years 1919–1930, including some specific details.

In January 1923, Zápal was sent by the City Council on a study trip around important new crematory premises in Germany and Switzerland, and he was subsequently commissioned with preparing the architecture design of the new crematorium in the Central Cemetery in Pilsen. The crematorium ranks among his most impressive works, distinguished in particular by the contrast of the simple exterior and the interior in Baroque style. In collaboration with prominent regional sculptors V. Šíp and O. Walter Zápal, he also designed several tombstones (e.g. the gravestone of the writer Karel Klostermann). In the mid-1920s, Zápal’s health deteriorated so much that the architect asked to go into retirement. However, his request was not accepted and so he immersed himself in work again. He was finally granted retirement in July 1931, at the time of the realisation of the Functionalist project of Pik School (the Luděk Pik Grammar School today) in Pilsen–Doubravka, whose construction he supervised. This school building is probably his most progressive work. Having retired, Zápal was still active as an architect as much as his health allowed him, especially in smaller towns and villages around Pilsen.

Apart from design work, Hanuš Zápal was also very active in heritage conservation and education in the area. He founded the Club for Rescuing Mariánská Týnice, was a member of the Friends of Antiques Circle, supported the Union for the Rescue of the Church U Ježíška in Pilsen, and after WWII he was the chair of the Heritage Conservation Department of the Ethnographic Society in Pilsen. He supervised the renovation of historical tombstones in St. Bartholomew’s Cathedral, repairs of the St. Peter and Paul Rotunda in Starý Plzenec, and renovations to the church U Ježíška and Radyně Castle. He also initiated the rescue of valuable historical portals and their secondary use within the set of municipal social care houses which he designed.

Yet the most significant act of heritage preservation was his credit for renovating the pilgrimage site in Mariánská Týnice, which he was systematically involved with from the early 1920s until the first half of the 1950s. He also contributed articles, especially on Mariánská Týnice and the church in Vejprnice, to the national history and geography magazine “Plzeňsko” (Pilsen Region), which was published from 1919 on. Hanuš Zápal was also member of the first Union of Pilsen Visual Artists founded in 1919, however, he never became a member of the new Association of West Bohemian Visual Artists established on the fundaments of the first Union in 1925. After the activities of the Club for Rescuing Mariánská Týnice were banned for political reasons in the first half of the 1950s, Zápal left Pilsen and alternated between living in Prague Smíchov and Lednice near Kralovice, where he died on the 28th of November 1964. He is buried in the family tomb in Rakovník. As an appreciation of the work of its prominent architect, Pilsen started to award the best architectural feat in the area of the City of Pilsen with the “Hanuš Zápal Award”.

Hanuš Zápal’s designs are characterised by a rare sensibility for the harmonious integration of the new structure in the urban organism; his urbanist solutions also involved park adaptations of the immediate surroundings, thus creating dominant public spaces. In so doing, he cultivated both the environment of Pilsen and of Pilsen region municipalities. He didn’t hesitate to adapt his style to the surrounding buildings, meaning he is often accused of a lack of invention and a certain academism, which is rather a lack of understanding of his work. His buildings are characterised by well-thought-out mass and layout solutions and a great sense of detail. In his work of the first half of the 1920s, Hanuš Zápal applied elements of classicising Modernism, Cubism and later National style (steep roofs, triangular and semi-circular dormers, distinct two-colour facades, giant order, curved decor, coffered ceilings in interiors). In the second half of the 1920s, he begins to use Purist forms and tended towards Functionalism. This tendency manifested itself most distinctly in the building of the Piks School in Pilsen, which is characterised by a maximum simplification of the bulk of buildings, richly glazed ribbon windows and smooth facades. Yet Zápal also returned to a traditional, conservative approach to building in this period (such as in the representative villa of the Burghers Brewery in Pilsen).



Selection of other works

Masaryk School, Jiráskovo náměstí, Pilsen (first designed as early as 1914)

Kostinec hut on Krkavec Hill near Pilsen

Crematorium with columbarium, Central Cemetery, Pilsen

Secondary School of Economics, Ústí nad Orlicí

Masaryk Institute for Disabled Children, U Borského parku Street, Pilsen (old people’s home today)

School for Gamekeepers, Domažlice

Masaryk State School of Economics, Opava

Pik School, Opavská St. (Luděk Pik Grammar School today)

Sanatorium of the Heller Association of Škoda Works Workers in Janov near Mirošov

School in Horní Bříza
School in Kaznějov
School in Železná Ruda

Design of the St. Anthony of Padua Church in Pilsen–Skvrňany
Church of Czech Brethren in Kralovice
Masaryk School in Plasy

Design of a Czech Brethren Church in Přeštice

Fire station in Kralovice