Mikulášské náměstí / Mikulášské Square

(Plzeň) Plzeň Východní Předměstí
GPS: 49.7398661, 13.3882331

Mikulášské (or St. Nicholas) Square is one of the centres of the oldest part of the Eastern (formerly Prague) Suburb, unofficially called Petrohrad (St. Petersburg). The district took its name at the end of the 19th century from the famous "City of St. Petersburg" inn on the corner of Slovanská Avenue and Sladkovského Street. The name of the square itself changed several times over the years. Its original name, Mikulášské, is the same as the present. It was, however, renamed to Masarykovo in 1918, then back to Mikulášské under the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia again, and then to Odborářů (“Trade Unionists’) after the Communist coup. It finally regained its original name after 1989.

The square spreads along a ground plan of an irregular pentagon. It occupies the area of ​​two housing blocks complemented by a space at Slovanská Avenue, which runs along the short western edge of the square. From the northwest, northeast, and southeast sides it is delimited by the surrounding blocks of apartment houses and from the southwest by Radyňská Street. The rhythm of the block development is also visible in the layout of the square. A wide belt with a firm surface for pedestrians continues along the axis of Houškova Street, separating the park part from the space with the building of the Pilsen Grammar School closer to Slovanská Avenue. The grammar school building, which was founded as the 2nd Czech Technical Secondary School, turns to the centre of the square with a longitudinal façade, thus balancing the dominant impression of the other monumental school building – today's Church Grammar School (C11–808) – the main façade of which makes up half of the southern edge of the area.

The first historical references to the settlement of this territory date back to the 14th century. At the beginning of the 15th century, a Gothic church dedicated to St. Nicholas was founded here and still stands today. Shortly after it was founded, a cemetery was built near the church that was initially used for burials of the poor and non-Catholic. The importance of the cemetery grew after the Josephine reforms, which explicitly forbade burial inside the city walls. In the 19th century its capacity gradually became insufficient and was finally closed in the early 20th century.

The residential area of ​​“Petrohrad” began to grow intensely in the last two decades of the 19th century; families of workers from a number of local industrial companies or employees of the nearby railway station were among those looking for housing here. The population growth of the city and its territorial expansion at the time led to three monorail lines with regular electric railway operation to be launched in 1899. One of the lines on the Skvrňany-Nepomucká route passed through Mikulášské Square.

The growing city of Pilsen had to solve yet another urgent problem – a lack of schools. Classrooms were overcrowded and pupils often had to walk several kilometres to school. The City Council therefore decided to build a new municipal boys 'and girls' school. Due to the large number of new residents of ​​the “Petrohrad” neighbourhood, Mikulášské Square was chosen for its location. The project by František Auer, which proposed a monumental Neo-Renaissance building with a symmetrical façade segmented by risalits and completed with a domed roof, won the competition. The municipal school operated in the building until the 1980s, after which the City Pedagogical and Psychological Counselling Centre and the Faculty of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering were briefly located here. The building has housed the Church Grammar School since 1992. In addition to the school, František Auer also designed the layout of the park. The basis of the composition was a two-row alley of linden trees; the central area previously contained a body of water lined with ornamental flower beds.

The lack of municipal schools was not the only capacity problem of Pilsen’s school system. Growing industrial companies needed a steady supply of technically educated workers, but there was a lack of secondary schools with a focus on mathematics and science. In 1903, another decision was made – to build the 2nd Czech Technical Secondary School in the open area of Mikulášské Square. The authors of the final design were architects Ferdinand Havlíček and Rudolf Kříženecký. Debates on its exact location and subsequent realisation dragged on for more than ten years and the school was finally opened in February 1914. During the German Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, the rapidly developing school was transformed into an eight-year grammar school. After the war it was changed to a so-called “eleven-year school”, later to a twelve-year school”, and in 1969 back into a grammar school that still operates here today.

At the end of the 1940s, intense preparations for a new urban development plan were underway. The aim was to turn old-fashioned Pilsen into a modern metropolis complying with contemporary requirements. For these changes, the 19th-century housing areas, considered worthless at the time, were also to be demolished. “Petrohrad” was also initially destined for this radical change. The block estates were to be replaced by an abstract composition of slab buildings surrounded by greenery. However, the city did not have enough funds to realise these grand visions and therefore the plans became increasingly less radical as the years passed. Ultimately, the extensive demolitions were never carried out.

In the 1960s and 70s, however, several park adaptations were made to the square and a statue of Communist journalist Julius Fučík was installed. In the 1990s the park began to slowly dilapidate. The last reconstruction took place in 2010 and 2011 according to the design of a team led by architect Karel Hanzlík. Recently, a sculpture of J. K. Tyl was added to the square, but the overall layout has more or less returned to the original concept of the early 20th century.



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