Smetanovy a Kopeckého sady / Smetana and Kopecký Parks

(Plzeň) Plzeň Jižní Předměstí
GPS: 49.744818N, 13.375831E

The belt of Smetanovy a Kopeckého sady constitutes the southern part of the ring gardens at the site of the former municipal fortifications. Smetanovy sady spread from the building of the J. K. Tyl Theatre to Bedřicha Smetany Street, where they are continued by Kopeckého sady towards the Museum of West Bohemia in Pilsen. 

The ring gardens were established in the year 1803 after the medieval fortification walls had been torn down. The archdean’s garden was founded in the space of Smetanovy sady, which was taken over for the requirements of a military exercise ground in 1811. After protests from the nearby grammar school, a botanical garden was set up – by order of Emperor Franz Joseph I. – in place of the garden. In 1846, the whole area including present-day Kopeckého sady was renamed Štěpánské náměstí / Stephen Square (keeping the name for several dozen years) and alleys were planted out. They were replaced by small gardens and, subsequently, a decorative orchard was founded. In 1880, a picturesque recess with a small waterfall and pond inhabited by waterfowl was formed on the location of the present-day theatre.

The history of Kopeckého sady (named after the Pilsen mayor Martin Kopecký, who was largely responsible for the foundation of the ring gardens) corresponds with the development of Smetanovy sady. Several fountains were set up and park modifications were made here in the year 1880. 

The ring gardens gradually became a presentable space of the city which important municipal buildings directed their facades towards. Among them was the building of the present-day Education and Research Library of the Pilsen Region, which is the result of a Dominican monastery Classicist reconstruction in the year 1805. Its original look was returned in the early 1990s. It includes the so-called Branka (“Little Gate”) at the mouth of Bedřicha Smetany Street. Branka is part of a clock tower standing on the site of the original Litická Gate. Opposite the library – on the corner of Smetanovy Sady and present-day Jungmannova Street – the grand Neo-Baroque building of Hotel Slovan (originally Waldek) entered the space, built to the design of the Fellner & Helmer design studio in the years 1891–1897. At the turn of the century, the street front of Kopeckého sady was complemented by the Neo-Renaissance building Měšťanská beseda. This opulent building was designed by Alois Jan Čenský.

In the year 1902, the building of the Theatre of the Royal City of Pilsen (J. K. Tyl Theatre today) was added to the range of important public buildings in the area, on the site of the former waterfall. This representative Neo-Renaissance building, constructed to the design of Antonín Balšánek, became the dominant feature of the whole space. The theatre was extended via an operational and technical part in the direction of Sady Pětatřicátníků / Gardens of the 35th Infantry Regiment. This extension also involved the reconstruction of the space in front of the theatre facing Smetanovy Sady – a smaller water area with a statue of Rusalka (the water nymph) in the centre was created, a staircase was built (replaced by a footpath in the recent reconstruction of Sady Pětatřicátníků) as well as a semi-circle terrace with a statue of J. K. Tyl by the sculptor Alois Sopr from 1986.

Sculptures found their place in the park as early as in the 19th century – be it the Josef František Smetana monument from the year 1874 by Tomáš Seidan or the monument of Martin Kopecký from 1861 by Antonín Wildt. The meteorological booth in front of Měšťanská beseda dates back to the beginning of the last century. A statute of mother and child by the sculptor Jiří Hanzálek was installed in the middle of the fountain near Martinská Street in the year 1964. The statue of Bedřich Smetana, who studied in the nearby building of the present-day Education and Research Library in the years 1840–1843, dates from the 1970s. Its author is Alois Sopr. The drinking fountain from Slivenec marble situated on the connection of Bedřicha Smetany and Jungmannova Streets was created by the sculptor Karel Němec in 1993. 

The current look of Kopeckého sady dates back to the years 1991–1992, to the design of Pilsen branch of the Stavoprojekt company. The section of the gardens between Františkánská Street and the Museum was adapted according to the design of the AWIDA studio in the year 1998.