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Theatre of Puppets Ostrava

Gabriela Minářová, Petr Hájek

alias Regional Puppet Theatre
history of the theatresupplementtechnical dataHistoric equipment

Important events

(detail)1995 | Competition
The first prize was obtained by the design by Prague architects Petr Hájek a Gabriela Minářová.  Ostrava architect Evžen Kuba was the chairman of the jury, also engineer Jiří Gebrian and architect Igor Saktor belonged to its members.
(detail)26.9.1999 | Opening

The theatre was ceremonially opened on 26th September 1999 by performance of Bagpiper of Strakonice by Josef Kajetán Tyl with Vlastimil Pešek direction and international puppet festival Spectaculo Interesse Ostrava 99 from 27th. September to 2nd October. The description of the building could be mainly made with usage of terms Postmodernism, postmodern reception of interwar architectural Modern, New Modernism or Art Deco.


(detail)2010 | reconstruction

Design of annex by Prague architects Petr Hájek and  Gabriela Minářová came into existence in 2009, being  realized since 2010, the completion is planned to be finished in 2011.


People

Gabriela Minářová |main architect
Petr Hájek |main architect
Ivan Zachar |architect
Tomáš Volkmer |sculptor

History

The  Russian folktale “the Father Frost” was the premiere performance on 12th  December 1953 in the new professional Regional Puppet Theatre that had emerged in room of a former amateur puppet theatre the Wooden Kingdom. The theatre thus received the building on the corner of present Masaryk Square and Grand Street, a Neo-Baroque civic building  N. 52 (Masaryk Square č. 33) with indications of incoming Art Nouveau from 1898, built according to the design by local architect and builder Felix Neumann. It was not originally a building with a hall for theatre productions. There was a cafe Union in the interwar period in the first floor of the building. But precisely the entrance and operational rooms in the ground floor and rooms of the former cafe served to theatre not as a provisional measure, but as a permanent seat until 1999, although the period Regional National Committee envisaged construction of a new theatre stage already in 1954.  Only repairs were carried out instead, from which the most important one was realized in 1968.

The building was returned in restitution proceedings to descendants of the owners, to whom it had been nationalized. It was evident at the same time that the house does not meet the current theatre requirements and that it was not possible to adapt it more distinctively for theatre purposes, because the location did not allow to enlarge existing rooms, nor spectators’ nor operational. The statutory city Ostrava proceeded to selection of a vacant plot and to invitation to tenders for abovementioned reasons. Its subject was an architectural solution of a new puppet theatre building in Pivovarská Street and its incorporation into the area of the former exhibition grounds Černá louka. The competition organizer demanded from participants  to create a conceptual design of volume conception of an administrative and exhibition building that would constitute a new part of exhibition grounds and an integral whole  together with the theatre. This part of the competition has not been realized. The competition took place in 1995. Ostrava architect Evžen Kuba was the chairman of the jury board as its independent member, also engineer Jiří Gebrian and architect Igor Saktor belonged to its independent members. Dependent members were vice chairman and stage designer of Puppet Theatre Miroslav Matějka, director of Puppet Theatre Jarmila Hájková, deputy of mayor Milan Balabán, deputy of mayor among others for culture area Zbyněk Pražák, delegates of city district Moravská Ostrava and Přívoz Milan Adámek and  Ludmila Lukášová and representative of statutory city Ostrava architect Petr Vencelides.

Local architects apart for one exception were awarded in architectural competition, despite of it, the first prize was awarded to the design by Prague architects Petr Hájek a Gabriela Minářová, as it will be described here onwards. The second prize was not awarded. But they decided to appraise two competing designs by an increased third prize. The design by Ostrava architect Aleš Student won the increased third prize. The second increased third prize was gained by the design by Ostrava architect Ivo Klimeš. The first prize was won by the design by two  Ostrava architects Petr Lichnovský and Dušan Rozsypal, second prize by the design by two local  architects Josef Havlíček and  Vít Klimeš, the third prize by the design by Havířov architects Josef Kiszka and  Barbara Potyszová and the fourth prize by the design by a twosome of Ostrava architects Milan Sýkorský and Radim Václavík.

The jury evaluated well arranged operation of the competing design by A. Student and further on that : „an interesting element of the design is a  solution of the  entrance portal referring to a  Classical principle of historic „stone“ theatres.“ On the other hand, they objected that facade ornamentation „does not have an organic and convincing effect“ and that  „demanded parameters of the height of fly facilities were not fulfilled.“ The jury’s attention was captured by the auditorium, foyer arrangement and the relation between the auditorium and stage in the design by I. Klimeš. They reprehended his „ostentatious“ architectural expression „alien by its concept to the character of a city core development“ and that „he does not respect perception of a child spectator“ with  selected scale and that „the building leaves a stark and distant impression.“

The jury evaluated the with  first prize awarded competing design from the ttown planning point of view, from the operational relations point of view and for that reason that it „ succeeded in solving operational relations and simultaneously in coping up with central composition of the volume in counterbalanced proportions. Bright, clear volume within the scale of the city historic core takes also into consideration the child spectator.“   The juryevaluated positivelyalso to integration of three art pieces into the theatre appearance: „the engagement of art pieces is solved ingeniously:  caryatids of fairytales creatures as supporting columns.“ The jury opinion in a favour of the layout concept of the design is illustrated by continuing of the abovementioned evaluation: „ the connection of the stage with the production complex and scenery storeroom is solved ingeniously, the  production complex is well situated in a viewpoint of a sequence of workrooms. The stock of lights corresponds to required parameters, further on, it is complemented by a light bridge situated above the auditorium with two entrances.“

A building permit for the puppet theatre construction was issued on 30th  May of 1997,  a building approval is dated  15th  September of 1999. The official  opening of the theatre took place on 26th  September of 1999 with  a performance  of the Strakonice Bagpiper by Josef Kajetán Tyl under Vlastimil Pešek direction and the international puppet festival Spectaculo Interesse Ostrava 99 from 27th September to 2nd  October.

Present state

The Theatre of Puppets is a detached building on the border of a continuous housing development of the Ostrava centre and the park in the Černá louka exhibition grounds. This park is indistinct in this location, it is rather transition between a residential block in the centre, disrupted by demolitions, and a periphery, urbanistically only in general features formed area of the former exhibition grounds, which has its best years behind. A solitary building expands around the centrally located auditorium and stage in the spatial arrangement. The concept of compact volume  corresponds to the spatial layout as a contrast to disintegration of the local town planning situation. The centre of the composition is a central fly tower with a  facade from firmly fixed aluminium shutters in steel frames. Individual parts of the house, covered by flat roofs, are according to the author’s report  “aligned according to the size so the spatial layout of the theatre gradually  culminates in a spiral, which rotates around the building.” The spiral culminates on the north side in the second floor level by an attic with a pergola above the scenery storeroom, whilst the volume of  the vestibule, opened up to outer space by a glass facade, with the main entrance on southwest side having two altitudinal levels –on the north ground floor part,  there is a terrace in the first floor level, whilst above the south part of the vestibule, an administrative floor protrudes up with a firmly incorporated  non-transparent volume.

The terrace on the northwest side (over the vestibule part) and the balcony on east side have iron banisters in the form of obliquely fixed steel rods finished  by volutes creating a sort of an oblique decorative grid from steel.

Each volume of the theatre is different by its material solution of facades. The ground floor part with a vestibule is opened up with already mentioned glassed walls in wooden frames. The administrative floor with a non transparent volume on the southwest side is built up from a sandwich wall, covered by decoratively conceived ecru brick facing. According to the authors, the volume  was meant to be supported  “by steel columns with capitals symbolizing fairytale characters, which will be elaborated from different materials ‘dressed’ on steel  columns according to the designer’s intents. “  Steel columns do not have capitals in the end and the sculptures have remained individual wooden objects with an iron framework, fixed onto columns shafts. Stage designer Tomáš Volkmer created the sculptures according to fairy tales subjects. They are from  northwest Kasperl, king, queen, devil and angel. Before the construction works on a theatre extension had commenced in June of 2010, a two storey bay of a two flight staircase was connected from the south on the vestibule in the ground floor and on the administrative part in the first floor. The staircase bay was covered by a glassed facade with a steel-wooden framework. The rear theatre facade, facing Černá louka with a storeroom for scenery and other operational rooms interconnected with the stage, is articulated by vertical grooves from limestone- cement plaster with a front engrained stucco coating.  

The vestibule with a cloakroom on the west side was given an appearance of a circle sector around the auditorium volume and is opened up to the northwest and southwest sides. Paving from glossy gray and black stone comes out in a spiral from the centre of the theatre building. Spiral paving configuration passes over to the space in front of the building in Pivovarská Street. Paintings with fairy tale motifs decorated originally the vestibule ceiling, however, they were damaged by raining in and they have not been renewed thereafter. One passes through oblong passages to the auditorium on the south and north sides. The theatre is arranged as a synthesis between the  principle of a proscenium stage and a studio scene. The spatial layout has proceeded fully from the conventional proscenium layout. On the other hand, a wide portal without a portal wall, a technical footbridge over the auditorium and dark paint in the auditorium without any more distinctive architectural articulation proceed from the selected spatial principle of a theatre studio. 

The auditorium arena has 22 degree angle of ascent. With the regard to the theatre purpose, double seats for three children or two adults were selected. The capacity of the auditorium is therefore variable: from 176 adults up to 260 child spectators. The organic auditorium shape has among others acoustic reasons, because, as the authors’ report claims, “ it enables balanced sound distribution throughout the entire auditorium.” From this follows the bended formof the decoratively conceived ceiling and plasterboard walls with soundproofing, preventing reverberation. The entrances on the north and south side of the vestibule lead into the auditorium in the ground floor level, two entrances for technical and actors needs lead from a circular corridor of the administrative part. The proscenium arch has 11 × 4,2 m size, its components is a false proscenium with portal towers movable along the width of the entire proscenium arch. The proscenium, being mounted by hydraulics equipment, has three levels of the stage, auditorium and orchestra pit. The stage has 17m width, 14.5 m depth and 5 m height. There is a pit for wayang puppeteers in the line of the proscenium arch with 0,8 m depth, 6m length and 2 m width. The height of  the draft shaft is 12m. The stage is equipped by 14 mechanic flylines with 160 kg weight. A marionette construction, adjusted for stage needs, is  its component.

It can be transferred into a painting shop, because the stage is connected with it by a wide gate. Lighting bridges are situated around the stage in the height of 4.2 m. Lighting equipment consists of the control system LT Hydra and the dimmer unit NovaLighting in a total number of 110 dimmer circuits(2,5 kW). Electroacoustics consists of the mix console Soundcraft K2 (24/4/8/2) and required supplemental systems – microports, SFX processors and so on for smooth operation of   productions.

The theatre has a rehearsal room with lighting equipment and blanking drop, cabinetry, painting shop,  locksmith's workshop, puppet workshop, puppet storeroom, storage for scenery, costume workshop are in the east and north building part,  art studio, foyer, administrative block, relaxing space for actors and staircase are in the south and east part. In the course of design completing, due to the investors will, basement rooms disappeared from it, where should have been a large rehearsal room, usable as an alternative stage as well, in the ground floor then an independent buffet or restaurant and theatre background area.

As the theatre does not have sufficient spatial capacities as an outcome of that development, especially for the actors’ and spectators’ background, the investor decided to additionally build this alternative stage to it. Elaboration of an extension design was assigned by the city to the authors of the original architectural solution. These created an extension project in a form of a prismatic tower with an alternative studio stage for 60 spectators with an outdoor amphitheatre for 100 spectators, interconnected by an insertion block to the original theatre building on the south side in the location of the existing connecting staircase. A plastered tower with a flat roof and vertically conceived door and window openings should be decorated by a plastically conceived astronomical clock. The construction begun in June 2010 and should be finished in 2011.

The new building of puppet theatre represents a comparatively well managed example of new theatre architecture. The authors, according to their own words, were striving to emancipate themselves from the strong influence Czech minimalist architecture and from modern tradition of the Czech Neo Functionalism. They endeavoured to pick up on the alternative tradition of Modernism, especially on Art Deco and other movements in architecture of the 1920s and 1930s. Compactness and integrity of the building contrast conveniently with the articulation and richness of shapes and selected materials and colours. On the other hand, the theatre still represents an isolated, systematically functioning solitaire in the given locality without any more distinct succession onto the surrounding housing development, albeit the integration of the building into a bigger urbanistic complex was planned in the original design. The second negative side was the already mentioned, by investor (the city) initiated building reduction against the competing design due to presently unimportant economic reasons. This should be remedied by a new extension, designed within the intentions of the original architectural concept from authors of the architectural appearance of the theatre.

Literature:

– Divadlo loutek v Ostravě: Veřejná anonymní soutěž, Architekt XLII, 1996, č. 11, s. 29–33

Divadlo loutek Černá louka 26. září 1999, Ostrava 1999

– Martin Strakoš, Divadlo loutek v Ostravě, Architekt XLVI, 2000, č. 10. s. 38

– JŠt [Jiří Štefanides], Divadelní budovy a sály, in: Kulturněhistorická encyklopedie Slezska a severovýchodní Moravy I. (A-M); Ostrava 2005, s. 192–193

– JŠt [Jiří Štefanides], Divadlo loutek Ostrava, tamtéž, s. 196

– Martin Strakoš, Průvodce architekturou Ostravy, Ostrava 2009, s. 136

 

Tags: Contemporary era, detached building, Postmodern architecture, puppet theatre

 

Author: Strakoš Martin

Translator: Jan Purkert

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