Sokol movement pavilion of pupils and youth in Pilsen

Štruncovy sady (Plzeň) Plzeň Východní Předměstí
Public transport: Na Rychtářce (BUS 28)
GPS: 49.7483948, 13.3846521

The Pilsen Sokol Club, one of the oldest (1863) and largest clubs in Bohemia, built its own “Sokol house” as early as 1896. Although this impressive Neo-Renaissance “palace” in Pecháčkovy Sady park (today Štruncovy Sady park), which was constructed according to the design of architect Josef Podhajský andranked among the most modern and largest structures of its kind in the country, its capacity had already become insufficient before the onset of the First World War (at a time when most rural Sokol clubs still lacked facilities). Therefore, a construction committee was set up in 1913 to resolve the situation. The committee’s members included local architect and member of the Pilsen Sokol club Hanuš Zápal. The committee’s original intention to attach a very complex extension to the existing building was interrupted by the war.

Soon after the First World War, the management board and the construction committee resumed negotiations, but agreed on building a free-standing pavilion instead of the originally planned extension. A plot adjacent to the existing Sokol house was selected for this purpose, which the municipality sold to the Sokol organisation in 1918. To save money, a temporary half-timbered construction was considered at first, which would be removed after the intended extension of the historic Sokol building. However, the City Building Commission disagreed with this plan, as the temporary facility would have disturbed the overall appearance of the area. Hanuš Zápal, in collaboration with a colleague from the Municipal Building Authority Karel Ulč, therefore redesigned the pavilion project into a “permanent, functional and neat, though perhaps not monumental” building. The new plan, in which the authors paid close attention to garden landscaping around the pavilion and a “graceful attachment to the main building”, was approved by an Extraordinary General Meeting in July 1920. Construction works took place over the course of the following nine months.

The core of the building was made up of a spacious exercise hall of a rectangular layout and a sophisticated gable roof frame made from so-called Hetzer glued timber, which had been used by the building company Müller & Kapsa for the first time in Pilsen in the design of the workers’ canteen (C10–56) on the Škoda factory premises. Hanuš Zápal gave preference to this material in his later projects as well. Two lower perpendicular wings with changing rooms adjoined the hall on both its shorter sides, which were finished with axially symmetrical facades with a low Classicist gable. The complex also included a small caretaker’s house located in the southeast corner of the complex in Tyršova Street. This building was connected along the western gable hall to the opposite northern wing by a covered promenade, the cladding of which consisted of a subtle trellis.

The clear compositional arrangement of the complex was decorated with sober facades with differently textured plaster structured by lesene frameworks and bare red brick jambs. The south front at the main entrance was decorated with four reliefs made by sculptor Vojtěch Šíp. Originally, a monument to Sokol members who had fallen in the First World War was planned for the entrance area.

The newly-built “home” for Sokol youths was warmly acknowledged by the contemporary daily press as a building “which only a few Sokol clubs in our republic can boast of” and which will raise “thousands of young Sokol men and women to suit the qualities of an ideal individual and for the struggles of life, in which one can only succeed with a true Sokol upbringing >> In a healthy body – a healthy spirit <<.” During his visit to Pilsen on the 2nd of October 1921, President Tomáš G. Masaryk, a faithful Sokol member, inspected the pavilion in person.

After 1989, the building was used to house a carpet shop. At that time, the pavilion began to deteriorate significantly. In 1994, it was damaged by a destructive fire that caused a substantial part of the building, including the aforementioned reliefs, to be demolished. Only the north wing and the caretaker’s house survived.


The Pilsen Sokol Club