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Metro Theatre

Bohumil Tesař

history of the theatresupplementtechnical dataHistoric equipment

Important events

(detail)1870 | construction

The house was built in a palatial Neo-Renaissance style in 1870 according to the design by architect Bohumil Tesař.


(detail)20. 's 20. century | reconstruction

The name Metro Palace was given to the house after an extensive reconstruction that was carried out in 1922–1925 by Karl E. Ort  and engineer Stanislav Bechyně.


(detail)1928 | OPENING OF THE CINEMA

The first design of the cellar cinema Metro is dated back to 1925, but the works according to the new project commenced two years later, the completion certificate was issued on 3rd April of 1928, the first production premiered already on 30th  March of 1928.


(detail)90. 's 20. century | reconstruction

Between 1991–1996, the venue was a seat of pantomime theatre GAG of Boris Hybner, for whom architect and stage designer Miroslav Melena created a small theatre area.


(detail)2003 | reconstruction

Conversion of the basement hall into a multipurpose hall for the Metro theatre was carried out in 2001–2002 according to the design by engineer Ivan Řezáč. A completion certificate was issued for the multipurpose hall in 2003.  


People

Bohumil Tesař |main architect
Karel E. Ort |architect
(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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History

The large house at the National Avenue 25 was built in a palatial Neo- Renaissance style in 1870 according to the design by architect Bohumil Tesař (1835–1890), an absolvent of the Viennese Academy and an assistant and building inspector by Ferdinand  Fellner in Vienna until 1858. After return to Prague, we worked under Josef Zítek and cooperated with him on the construction of the National Theatre. He was the  main building inspector at the beginning of the construction of the National Theatre (1868).

Václav Kleinhampl purchased the building N. 961 on the Viktoria Avenue of that time in 1919. The name Metro palace was given to the house after an extensive reconstruction that was carried out in 1922–1925 with essential participation of Karl E. Ort  (1881–1936), who was a professor of decorative arts school in Brno, and engineer Stanislav Bechyně, who designed a daring reinforced concrete construction.

The property owner established a famous delicatessen shop, cafe, wine shop and later cinema for a thousand spectators in the new space. The rest of the vast building served as an office building.

The first design of the cellar cinema Metro is dated back to 1925, but the works according to the new project commenced two years later, the building approval was issued on 3rd  April of 1928, the first production premiered already on 30th  March of 1928.

The theatre is accessible from National Avenue. Through a Neo-Renaissance portal, one enters into a glass arcade, where a ticket office is located in the ground floor and an entrance into a foyer of the former cinema. A simple architectural concept of the cinema hall of   27 × 16 m size was determined by strict lines of heavy prismatic columns and similarly distinctive lintels and continuous parapets in front of the balcony and both of its arms in the entire length of the side walls. Almost 700 seats were located in the stalls that were divided by lengthwise as well as crosswise aisles from over than 900 seats. All 25 boxes were concentrated on the balcony, six rows of seats ascended behind the seven front ones. There was a 10 m wide stage in front of a screen being 5,5 meters wide.

The Metro Palace was nationalized in 1945 and various users changed here up to 1989 and that caused dilapidation of the entire building. In 1968, conversion of the cinema into a public experimental studio of the Czechoslovakian Radio was permitted. The Radio operated here between 1970–1978. Temporal conversion of the cinema into a theatre was carried out in this period – the stage, dressing rooms and director booth on the balcony was newly  furnished. The Ministry of Finance decided in 1979 that the Metro Palace would be transferred from Czechoslovakian Radio to the District Enterprise of Housing Management (OPBH) and a  reconstruction of the cinema was carried out. The balcony was removed in the hall that was structurally dilapidated in 1985 and the space then served as a storage facility for Laterna Magica. The building was a seat of pantomime theatre GAG of Boris Hybner, for whom architect and stage designer Miroslav Melena (1937–2008) created a small theatre area, joined with the interior of the blues Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club, between 1991–1996.

In the present day, the Metro palace is in the possession of V. Kleinhampl’s descendants. A building inspector permitted a change of use of the cinema hall to multipurpose (gaming machines, laser games) in 2000. Conversion of the basement hall into a multipurpose hall for the Metro theatre was carried out in 2001–2002 according to the design by engineer Ivan Řezáč. A completion certificate was issued for the multipurpose hall in 2003.  

The space of the Metro Theatre- an oblong hall with a balcony along the rear wall- offers a possibility of various layouts of the area from the theatre with a sloping floor gradient and with a capacity of 211 seats or congress with a capacity of 182 seats to a dancing hall for 160 guests today. Apart of theatre productions, the area hosts conferences, company presentations, general meetings, seminars, meeting of executive boards, auditions, fashion shows and other events.

Sources and Literature:

–  Úřad Městské části Praha 1, archiv odboru výstavby, spis domu čp. 961/I

–  Český svět 24, 1928, č. 31, s. 20

–  Jiří Hilmera, Stavební historie pražských kinosálů: Část 2. Dvacátá léta, Iluminace 10, 1998, č. 2, s. 93–136, zde s. 128

–  Marie Zdeňková – Josef Vomáčka, Miroslav Melena: Scénograf a architekt, Praha 2011, s. 146

 

Tags: Austria-Hungary, Neo-Renaissance, terraced house, theatre hall

 

Author: Markéta Svobodová

Translator: Jan Purkert

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