AESCULAP commercial and apartment building

Americká třída 90/11 (Plzeň) Plzeň Jižní Předměstí
Public transport: U Práce (BUS 27, 35, 57, TROL 10, 11, 12, 15, 16, 17, 19)
U Práce (TRAM 4)
GPS: 49.7439114N, 13.3740511E

The preserved inscription on the main facade of No. 11 Americká Avenue – AESCULAP – indicates that this large early-1930s building was associated with the medical profession, because it is a Czech version of the Latin name Aesculapius (in Greek Asclepius), son of Apollo, who was known as a physician capable of healing any ailment and even of resurrecting the dead. The symbol of a snake (representing life that is constantly renewed) entwined around the staff of Aesculapius is used to this day as the emblem of the medical profession.

The investors of this major construction project were the Pilsen doctors Alois Vaško and Otakar Hecht and Hecht’s wife Marie. In 1933, they decided to build a five-storey commercial and apartment building with doctors’ surgeries on the site of a former house and courtyard buildings belonging to the Czech Pilsen Brewery. (The development of multifunctional buildings similar to Aesculap was financially supported by the state in the 1930s, because it was one of the solutions to the continuing housing crisis associated with the financial difficulties of the time.) The issuance of planning permission was preceded by the concerns of the neighbours over the intention of the investors to build garages in the courtyard. The local Jewish community, in particular, had concerns about excessive noise and odours that could disturb religious services, as the courtyard of the planned building was directly adjacent to the Old Synagogue dating from 1859. The expert review judged these fears to be groundless, however, and the demolition of the original building and construction of the new one were approved in May 1933. Within a year, the new building, the plans of which were drafted by the architect Rudolf Černý, was erected by the Pilsen construction company of Mandaus, Doubek, Pechman & Co.

The operational and layout design of the symmetrically arranged building corresponded to its varied functions. The transversal axis of the building consisted of a shopping arcade lined with display windows and shop doorways, while there were other large glazed expanses, as well as a taproom with access through to a restaurant located in the courtyard, situated facing the street. The courtyard was closed by garages and on the western side by a wing intended for the caretaker, which contained a small flat and workshops. The first floor was entirely designed for the requirements of the doctors; here there were nine surgeries with waiting rooms and amenities. The three floors above had a total of 12 flats of various sizes - from one-room flats with a kitchen, up to three-room flats, which had the traditional layout of service spaces facing the courtyard and living spaces facing the street.

The symmetrical concept of the building is legible also in the main facade, which is given dynamism by a pair of three-storey oriels with connected windows. The mass of each oriel is banded at the level of the window sills and lintels by pairs of cordon string courses. Similarly highlighted is the first floor of the whole building. The large three-leaf and four-leaf windows of the three uppermost floors are accentuated in the smooth facade by means of wide window cases. Due to the string courses especially, the otherwise conservative facade may evoke the forms of some contemporary or earlier buildings by the architect Jiří Kroha, a pioneer of so-called “Orthogonal Expressionism". Černý was very well acquainted with Kroha’s work, among other things due to a competition for the design for the Pilsen cinema Elektra, in which the two jointly won first place. The group of buildings that included the cinema was finally erected in 1930–1932 according to Rudolf Černý’s plans (C1–1981).

Aesculap serves to this day primarily for medical purposes, and apart from surgeries and a pharmacy on the ground floor, the restaurant is also still in operation. With the exception of plastic windows and the appearance of the parterre, its exterior also corresponds to its original form.



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