Anglické nábřeží / English Embankment

(Plzeň) Plzeň Jižní Předměstí
GPS: 49.744006N, 13.37964E

Anglické nábřeží (known as Německé nábřeží / German Embankment during Nazi occupation and Charkovské nábřeží in the years 1949–1989) stretches out along the left bank of the Radbuza River. It is delineated along its longitudinal axis by a set of three older truss railway bridges and a modern road bridge, Millennium Bridge, to the south, and by a bridge system U Jána (including the historical Second Prague Bridge) further downstream to the north. The old/new name of the embankment is a reminder of the friendly bond between the political representatives of the newly-founded Czechoslovakia and the UK during the time of the First Republic. 

Historically, the space along the Radbuza River was part of Říšské Předměstí / Imperial Suburb (situated to the west of the inner city) and Pražské Předměstí / Prague Suburb (developing to the east of the city centre), or rather the former Špitálské Předměstí / Hospital Suburb located between Mlýnská Strouha / The Mill Drain and the Radbuza. Until the second half of the 19th century, this area presented a topographically complicated belt of gardens, orchards and fields belonging to the farmyards and suburban houses built beyond the flood hazard areas.

The embankment acquired its present look thanks to channelling the flow of the Radbuza River through regulation, which was realised in several stages between the years 1897 and 1923, and the associated backfilling of the Mlýnská Strouha canal in the years 1921–1923. A prominent part of the whole project was the construction of Wilson Bridge (previously also Emperor and King Franz Joseph I. Bridge, Charles IV. Bridge, Victory Bridge and Stalin Bridge), carried out in the years 1912–1913 to the design of Václav Mencl and probably also Josef Farkač. This bridge structure, reconstructed in 2014, played an important role in the inter-war period, connecting the expanding city centre and recently established Central Railway Station with the Pražské Předměstí.

The planned development of public representative buildings was commenced in the area of the newly formed embankment, which were intended to present an image of Pilsen as a confident and modern city. A complex of three cooperative houses called “U Trojdohody” / At Triple Entente (C1–1698) was built on the attractive plots in close proximity to Wilson Bridge in the years 1923–1925. At the site of the former Řemeslnická beseda / Tradesmen’s House in the immediate vicinity, the municipal river baths with boat hire and a functionalist complex consisting of a choir house, prayer room and apartment buildings, known as Koranda’s Choir (C1–2142 and C1–2219), were built according to the designs of Jaroslav Fišer in the second half of the 1930s.

The space on the opposite side of Americká Avenue was created by the complete removal of two blocks of historical buildings in the 1970s. In the first stage of demolition works, terraced buildings between the no-longer-existing Královská Avenue (previously also part of Prokopova Avenue) and the embankment were torn down; in the second stage the buildings lining the eastern side of Goethova Street, including the Neo-Renaissance German Theatre (1869, Josef Niklas) and the adjacent German House were also demolished. The functionalist commercial and apartment building of the Prague Municipal Insurance Company was built in the vicinity of the theatre, on the corner of present-day Goethova Street and Americká Avenue, in the years 1936–1937. The author of the design was František Roith.

The space cleared by demolition is dominated by the large building of the State Bank of Czechoslovakia (1983, Vladimír Belšán – Miloslav Sýkora), which was reconstructed in the years 2012–2013 as the Pilsen headquarters of the Commercial Bank. The space in front of the eastern facade smoothly merges into the terraced embankment area. This oversized, architecturally not particularly well-planned, and difficult to use public space serves in the long term as a site of official political memories: in the years 1953–1962 a memorial to Stalin was placed here (Josef Malejovský – Richard Podzemný), only to be replaced by the Memorial of Czechoslovak–Soviet Friendship in the year 1983 (pedestal: Vladimír Belšán – Miloslav Sýkora; sculpting: Rudolf Svoboda). The tall marble obelisk, originally part of the object, was adapted into a memorial for the victims of Communist terror in 1993.

Situated further down the Radbuza River, in the northernmost block of embankment buildings, one can find the largest Functionalist realisation of inter-war Pilsen, the corner building of the Police Directorate (C1–1778), designed by František Čermák, Gustav Paul and Václav Neckář in the second half of the 1930s. The modern-day, visually dominant structure of this area is the complex of the former administrative and service building of Hutní Projekt, Armabeton and several other companies, and Restaurant Bohemia (1969, Vladimír Belšán – Jaroslava Gloserová – František Kozák – Josef Kylián – Jan Zikmund), whose construction was preceded by the demolition of the south side of Pražská Street (previously also Poděbradova Avenue and Avenue of Marie Škardová), a problematic act from the perspective of heritage preservation. The so-called Bohemka building also underwent a general reconstruction (2002–2004) which involved the construction of an extra storey on the roof of this high-rise building that serves as a café with a view of the city. The premises of the former Restaurant Bohemia, which acquired its present look in the 1990s, have been used mainly for administrative purposes for a long time now (nevertheless, there is a restaurant bearing the original name in the building as well).

JČ – MK – PK