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Archa Theatre

Josef Gočár

alias Archa Theatre (1994 - ), E. F. Burian Theatre (1959- 1991), D34 (1933-1941), Army Artistic Theatre (1951-55), D46 - D51 (1945-1951), D34 (1955- 1959), Na Poříčí Theatre (1941-1945), D34 - D 41 (1933-1941)
history of the theatresupplementtechnical dataHistoric equipment

Important events

(detail)20. 's 20. century | Building erected
Construction of the Bank of Czechoslovakian legions in 1921-23 according to the design by Josef Gočár.
(detail)1939 | construction

The bank issued a call for bids to construct an extension to Gočár´s original building. Competition, with participation of architect Kamil Roškot, was won by the design by František Marek. The new building was realized in 1937-38 and building approval was issued on 16.2.1939.


(detail)1939 | Opening
A large hall, situated in the basement, initially intended to be a concert hall, commenced to be used by the E. F. Burian Theatre Company after partial adaptation since 1939.
(detail)90. 's 20. century | reconstruction
Adaptation of the theatre was carried out according to the design by Ivan Plicka and scenographer and architect Miroslav Melena, the latter focused on theatre technology facilities. Reconstruction commenced in September 1992 and approval of building was issued in May of 1994. The ceremonial reopening took place with a joint performance by Japanese dancer Mino Tanaka and musician John Cale.
(detail)1995 | award
Reconstruction of Archa Theatre was awarded on the international exhibition PQ 95 by a silver award.

People

(detail)Miroslav Melena |architect

A stage designer, an architect and a teacher died on August 8, 2008. He studied at the College of Pedagogy in Cyril Bouda’s and Karel Lidický’s studios and later at Theatre Faculty, Academy of Performing Arts in Prague under František Tröster. In 1967 he started working as a stage designer in Ostrava Theatre of Petr Bezruč, from 1969 he worked in Liberec Naive Theatre and later on he cooperated mainly with Prague Theatre Y. In the years 1980 to 1981 he was a head of stage design in Maribor. In 1972, at Serbian Novy Sad Triennale he was awarded a winning price for a setting designed for a play The Earl Monte Christo. Among the outstanding features of Melena’s stage designs belongs blending of scene and costumes in their almost provocative variability calling up reminiscence to surrealistic performances of the 20’s. However, next to scenography Melena gradually expressed himself more and more as a theatre designer – mostly as a head of multi-member team. Thus he gave a new resemblance to auditoriums and scenes of Brno Municipal Theatre, Prague Theatre Fidlovačka, Horácké Theatre in Jihlava, Municipal Theatre in Sokolov, Brno Reduta and lastly to Semafor Theatre. All of his stages distinguish themselves by ingenious stage design, and by dispositionally functional and smart to sight, sometimes also lively colourful appearance of the auditorium. The most salient among his projects was a solution of Prague Theatre Archa where a system of movable tables which fill the whole space enables a free open arrangement of the stage and the auditorium according to individual stage designer’s needs. As an exhibition designer Melena gave a very rich inventional shape to an exhibition of his teacher František Tröster’s life-work in 1991. Melena worked as a Head of Architecture Department at Faculty of Architecture and Arts, Technical University in Liberec. His creed of a theatre architect was expressed in an article he published in a cultural weekly magazine A2 (2007, issue 24). Here he confessed his love to Classical Theatre for its perfect solution of an audience and actor relationship, but also mutual relationship among spectators and their art experience. Melena did not agree with Baroque theatre’s introduction of stage portal which he called “absorber of theatricality”. However he did not hesitate to take over from the Baroque heritage a system of boxes or side slips. He believed their implication lead to a desired contact among the audience during the performance and to reach such goal a consistent arched tract of rows were to be used. Death caught Melena by surprise in the middle of his work on plans of a new Ostrava Theatre of Petr Bezruč, New Scene of Prague National Theatre and Brno Janacek Opera. (Jiří Hilmera)

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Ivan Plicka |architect
František Marek |architect
(detail)Kamil Roškot |architect - participant of the competition

Versatile in technical, art and philosophical side of architecture with visionary projects. He gradually proceeded from classicising Modern towards Functionalist abstraction. He used pure geometric volumes in his  monumental designs. Despite generosity and architectural austerity, Roškot always respected the conditions of the surroundings and characteristics of materials. His thinking is at best represented by the building in Ústí nad Orlicí that belongs among the most interesting works of the interwar architecture. However, the majority of Roškot’s designs has remained unrealized.

Text: ing arch Kamil Dvořák, DrSc, in: Architekti v českých zemích (Prostor – AD)

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Roberta V. Novák |interior designer
Ondřej Hrab |director

History

In the 1930s, the capacity of the Czechoslovak Legions´ Bank (N. 1046, 1921-23 according to the design by Josef Gočár) ceased to be sufficient for increasing operating demands, therefore the bank bought the building in Na Poříčí Street, former U Rozvařilů brewery, for the purpose of spatial extension. At the same time, the bank invited tenders for a solution of extension to Gočár´s original building in the form of a National style. The competition, for instance also with participation of architect Kamil Roškot, was won by František Marek. The new building was realized by Josef Blecha Building Company with cooperation of the firm Dr. K. Skorkovský and Lanna, the supplier of ferroconcrete structure. Approval for the building was issued on 16.2.1939.

This office building in Functionalist style had a town passage across the ground floor, with other operations affiliated to it. A large hall, situated mainly in the basement, initially intended to be a concert hall, commenced to be used by the E. F. Burian Theatre Company since 1939 after partial reconstruction. Emil František Burian (1904-1959), a poet, actor, stage director and member of the Devětsil group,  led an avant-garde, leftist orientated venue that not only presented translated plays, but original plays and drama as well responding to current social events. Theatre operated here under variable names even after a compulsory break caused by the Second World War. Partial building reconstruction of the interior was taking place in the1950s and 1960s.

The Prague municipal government announced recruitment for a position of a new director of  the E. F. Burian Theatre in 1991,in which Ondřej Hrab succeeded with his project.  Submitted ambition for the art space was to introduce unconventional, progressive mise-en-scenes conducted across individual genres. Adaptation for Archa theatre was carried out according to the design by Ivan Plicka and scenographer and architect Miroslav Melena, the latter focused on theatre technology facilities. Reconstruction commenced in September 1992 and approval for the building was issued  in May of 1994. Ceremonial reopening took place with a joint performance by Japanese dancer Mino Tanaka and musician John Cale.

Reconstruction of Archa Theatre was awarded on the international exhibition PQ 95 with a silver award. The distinct character of the theatre is provided by graphic styling by Robert V. Novák.

Present state

The theatre is accessible from the passage through four two-leaf doors, inserted into burnished metal frames. A monumental staircase that is divided into two symmetrically laid flights, seduces spectators to enter into the basement spaces of the theatre. A cloakroom is set into a recess between two flights. There is a clubroom for visitors on one side in the foyer axis and an entrance into the hall on the opposite end of the space.  Mentioned spaces are continuously used for short-term exhibitions.

Multifunctional space is divided into two halls, grand and minor that are available to be adjusted for various types of productions. Halls are interconnected by a system of movable walls and it is possible to reach a maximum capacity of 1200 spectators after their connection. The bigger of both the halls is bordered by a gallery and it is technically perfectly equipped to enable very variable usage of the space, where miscellaneous concerts or dance performances take place besides theatre plays. Flexible variability of the arrangement is secured by sliding, mechanically lifted boards of a square plan (of 4 x 4 metres size), and with their help it is possible to rearrange the hall into a form required by the character of the performance.

The premiere of the Leaving by Václav Havel under  David Radok´s direction was introduced in Archa in 2008.

 

Employed sources and literature:

- Archiv Odboru výstavby, Městská část Praha 1, čp. 1047.

- Rybár, Ctibor (ed.): Co je co v Praze. Praha 1989, s. 197.

- JH [Jiří Hilmera], čp. 1047/II in: Růžena Baťková (ed.), Umělecké památky Prahy. Nové Město. Vyšehrad. Vinohrady. Praha 1998, s. 555.

- Hilmera, Jiří: Česká divadelní architektura. Praha 1999, s. 173, 181, 292.

- Hrab, Ondřej: Divadlo Archa, Stavba VII, 2000, č. 6, s. 60.

- Svoboda, J. E. & Noll, J. : Praha 1945-2003. Kapitoly z poválečné a současné architektury. Praha 2006, s. 42, 291.

 

Tags: basement theatre, Functionalism, Interwar period, terraced house, theatre hall

 

Author: Vendula Hnídková

Translator: Jan Purkert

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