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Kolowrat Theatre

history of the theatresupplementtechnical dataHistoric equipment

Important events

(detail)17. century | construction

The chamber stage of the National Theatre is located in the attics of the Kolowrat Palace that
was built in the second half of the 17th century. Giovanni Domenico Orsi  is considered to be the author of the unpreserved designs.


(detail)30. 's 20. century | reconstruction
Conversion of the palace to  commercial use took place in several phases. Modification was designed in 1927 by Jaroslav Polívka, and from 1930 by Otto and Karel Kohns.
(detail)80. 's 20. century | reconstruction
The palace was incorporated into the National Theatre in 1953 that established administrative and technical support here. After the reconstruction of the historical building of the National Theatre had been completed  in 1983, extensive renovation of the Estate Theatre begun. Its component was reconstruction of the  Kolowrat palace as well. It was carried out by Miroslav Řepa similarly as the renovation of the theatre.
(detail)2.12.1991 | opening
Not until the course of the reconstruction, there appeared a plan for establishment of a chamber stage (fringe theatre)  in the palace. The simple variable space was coming to existence without any. The Kolowrat Theatre was opened on 2nd  December of  1991 when  the play Opening Hours by Felix Mitterer premiered here.

People

Otto Kohn |architect
Karl Kohn |architect
(detail)Bohumil Hübschmann |architect

Czech architect. He asserted himself as a remarkable designer of modern buildings, especially in Prague.

In: Adéla Anna Vavrečková: Živé příběhy. Divadelní budovy v Olomouci a v Moravské Ostravě. Brno 2007. Diplomová práce. P. 41

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History

The chamber stage of the National Theatre is located in the attics of the Kolowrat Palace on the Ovocný trh, few meters from the building of the Estate Theatre. The Kolowrat Palace (N. 579, Ovocný trh 6) was built in the second half of the 17th century. More precise information is not available. It was being constructed after 1672, it was stated as already completed in 1690. Giovanni Domenico Orsi (1634–1679) is considered to be the author of the unpreserved designs. Not before 1697, a large part of the neighbouring house U Hroznu (the present N. 1087, Ovocný trh 4) was purchased in addition. The Kolowrat Palace was completed with reconstruction of this part that took place until 1725 and its street frontage was remarkably likened to the older elevation of the main wing. Only the main, street wing has been preserved up to the present from the originally four wing building with a courtyard being complemented with a new yard extension in the location of the N. 1087, from
which only a part has remained in the depth of the street wing.

Conversion of the palace to  commercial purposes took place in several phases. Modification was designed in 1927 by Jaroslav Polívka, and from 1930 by Otto and Karel Kohns. A sala terrena was demolished in the garden in 1929 as it was been damaged by backfill from construction of the surrounding buildings. The grand garden of the palace was gradually sold out by the owner to building parcels in Na Příkopech and Hornická streets. Demolition of the yard area of the palace followed in 1931. Bohumil Hübschmann elaborated a design of a modern building to be erected in the location of the former wings and of reconstruction of the old part of the palace, which component was the design of a cinema in the basement as well. Only initial steps were carried out for realization of this project in the 1930s: the foundations of the palace were walled up and the entire yard excavated and adjusted. The construction    had been not completed because of the war, after which only a skeleton construction was temporarily adjusted for a warehouse of the Children House and offices. 

The palace was incorporated into the National Theatre in 1953 that established administrative and technical support here ( for instance the management of drama section in the present days). Apart of continual building interventions, mostly in a degrading  and utilitarian manner, directly in the building, its appearance was influenced by construction of the metro as well – one exhalation was inserted directly in front of the garden facade of the palace.

After the reconstruction of the historical building of the National Theatre had been completed  in 1983, extensive renovation of the Estate Theatre begun. Its component was reconstruction of the  Kolowrat palace as well. It was carried out by Miroslav Řepa (* 1930) similarly as the renovation of the theatre.

The reconstruction interconnected the basement of the Kolowrat Palace with the underground area of the Estate Theatre and Ovocný Trh. Renovation of the interior stressed the removal of modern degrading modifications, restoration of the original layout of the palace and restoration of the decoration that was recently discovered (truss ceilings). The facade renovation of the operational building was arranged with regard to the fact that it composed a visual end of undeveloped space that was in the location of the present Myslbek Palace. The Kolowrat Palace mainly serves as an administrative and technical support for the drama section of the National Theatre even after the reconstruction.

Not until the course of the reconstruction, there appeared a plan for establishment of a chamber stage (fringe theatre)  in the palace apart of rehearsal rooms. At first, its location in the basement was being considered in the location of the present theatre club. Not until the final phase of the reconstruction, it became clear that it would be more suitable to insert the small theatre into the attics. 

The original plan was that the attics would be for accommodation of external guests of the theatre. In the next phase of planning, a drama rehearsal room was inserted here and  a decision was taken to insert a theatre studio here only at the last moment. It was possible to accommodate a stage area into the extensive loft area with a truss that was well maintained without the necessity of   building adaptation  for „ realization of chamber plays, based on the concentrated work of actors in the first place.“  The simple variable space was coming to existence without any project – rather it was about the solution of technical issues as distribution of lights etc. than architectural adaptations. The Kolowrat Theatre was opened on 2nd  December of  1991 when  the play Opening Hours by Felix Mitterer premiered here.

The Kolowrat Palace was returned to  Kolowrat-Krakovský family within the so called restitutions and it serves not only to the theatre but for instance as a background for the endowment fund Kolowrátek. The National Theatre has rented the palace – and therefore the Kolowrat Theatre – for a symbolic price so far to 2013.

Present state

The Kolowrat Palace stands in the frontage on the south east side of the Ovocný trh, nearby the stage section of the Estate Theatre. The symmetrical  two storey elevation of the palace has eleven window bays and five dormer-windows. The three bay facade of the more recent part recedes on the right. The main entrance is framed by a portal with a broken pediment. The ground floor is with  rustication, the upper floors are articulated by a series of oblong windows with frontons and pilaster strips and the facade is topped by a distinctive crowning cornice. Before the construction of the Estate Theatre (1781–1783), the palace was oriented towards an undeveloped area, the theatre building only permits a side view in the present days. The main wing of the palace along the street is adjoined perpendicularly by the operational building in the rear on the left (N. 1087).

A two flight staircase leads from the left side of an arched gateway into the upper floors; the club in the basement is accessed through a small staircase. The spectators area is located in the second floor. One descends from the hall by the staircase to the cloak rooms in a hall with windows to the street, the corridor of the left leads to a rehearsal room that is inaccessible to spectators, the one on the right to washrooms. Another staircase from here leads directly to the attic hall.

The spectators that can not reach the theatre through staircase use a lift with the assistance of employees in the rear operational wing. Dressing rooms are located in the attics of the operational wing that is inaccessible to spectators. Several stairs surpass the level difference between the floor of this wing and the old palace wing, through which one can go into a room behind the actual theatre and from here directly to the hall. The actors’ entrance is located on the left from the spectators’ view, another doors on the right leads into a technical room, where a recording studio and acoustic direction is located.

The oblong area of the hall with 10,9 × 17,7 m size is interrupted only by a wooden banister above the top of the staircase. The character of the room is determined by the visible structure of a collar roof, from  which lights and all the other technical equipment are suspended. The flats among the trusses are plastered and whitened, partially supplemented with acoustic panels. The simple equipments is complemented by black curtains along the shorter walls and in  the dormer-windows in front of the window embrasures. The hall is not articulated into auditorium and stage area at all. The distribution of seats on the floor and rostrums is variable and is determined only by the requirement of specific productions. The capacity of the hall is 86 seats.

Sources and literature:

– Archivní materiály technicko-správního odboru Národního divadla

– PV [Pavel Vlček], heslo čp. 579/I a 1087/I, in Pavel Vlček a kol., Umělecké památky Prahy: Staré Město a Josefov, Praha 1996, s. 387–389

 

Tags: Baroque, Contemporary era, theatre hall

 

Author: Jiří Bláha

Translator: Jan Purkert

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