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Naive Theatre Liberec

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Important events

(detail)1863 | construction
In 1863, several townsmen built a three storey hotel Union in the location of the present house. A dancing hall in the rear wing, the present theatre auditorium, came into existence with hotel rooms above it in 1890; The hotel was closed  in 1909, when the city placed a German people’s library here and the Museum of Natural History was moved here with its collections; a sort of  an education  house became of the hotel and restaurant.
(detail)9.9.1953 | opening
A music theatre was opened in ground floor room on 9th September of 1953, an audio facility of  the Phonographic Company (later Supraphon). It underwent a reconstruction in 1956, by which its minor hall with 60 seats was furnished with all the needed equipment. It is not clear where the hall was located.
(detail)60. 's 20. century | reconstruction design

The designs for  large reconstruction of the Naive Theatre were elaborated at the end of the 1960s by Karel Hubáček. A generous project, from which only a minor part has been implemented, is dated back by literature to the years of 1967–1968. Hubáček with his colleagues worked on the final version in the following years as well; the preserved project task was finished not until the autumn  of 1973.


(detail)70. 's 20. century | reconstruction

Apart of a project for complete reconstruction, partial designs of first phases of reconstruction emerged thus in November 1973, a building permit was issued for this phase on 2nd October of 1974. The completed construction was handed over to utilization – with a large delay against the originally planned deadline – in October 1978.


(detail)90. 's 20. century | reconstruction
Another phase of reconstruction works was carried out in the theatre in the 1990s. It was begun with repairs of the yard facades in the summer of 1994 and finished by repair works on the outer facades between August and November 1998.

People

Karel Hrda |architect
Václav Smola |architect
Zdeněk Patrman |architect
Václav Bůžek |architect
(detail)Karel Hubáček |architect

His most famous work is the Ještěd tower, which is considered by some as the one of the most original buildings in the Czech Republic. This structure is on the list of UNESCO. He was the member of the atelier "SIAL".

Source: Wikipedia

More theatres

Milan Kulich |architect
Mirko Baum |architect
Otakar Binar |architect
Josef Patrný |architect
Jiří Košťál |architect
Jana Chmelová |architect
Karel Wünsch |painter
Miloš Koška |sculptor
Jan Schmid |other

History

The  inn Reichenberger Hof (Liberec Court) used to stand in the location of the present house N.  32/18 v Moskevská Street since the beginning of the 19th century. In 1863, it was bought by several townsmen, probably creditors of the hitherto owner, and they built a three storey hotel Union, which was transferred into into  ownership of the city of Liberec in 1900. A dancing hall in the rear wing, the present theatre auditorium, came into existence with hotel rooms above it in 1890; shortly afterwards two storey porch was built on an adjacent plot sloping towards Pražská Street. The hotel was closed  in 1909, when the city placed a German people’s library here and the Museum of Natural History was moved here with its collections; a sort of  an education  house became of the hotel and restaurant.

A Czech people’s library was located here after the Second World War. A music theatre was opened in ground floor room on 9th September of 1953, an audio facility of  the Phonographic Company (later Supraphon). It underwent a reconstruction in 1956, by which its minor hall with 60 seats was furnished with all the needed equipment. It is not clear where the hall was located. According to Roman Karpaš, it was at least in the beginning (before the reconstruction?) in the location of the present snack bar and smoking room by street frontage, but it is not possible to exclude so far that we would find it in the same location in the following years as it is today.

At latest by the beginnings of the 1960s – more precise data is not available- , the Music Theatre  and library left the house and a puppet theatre moved here successively.

A professional puppet theatre commenced to operate in Liberec already in 1948, at that time as a branch of the countrywide Central Puppet Theatre. A hall of YMCA (the abolished cinema) in Revoluční Street was adapted for its operation before the opening on the 13th of October.  The company evolved into the independent Regional Puppet Stage. The theatre was renamed ten years later to the North- Bohemian Puppet Theatre ( the previous name the Regional Puppet Stage appears even later in a “subhead”).

The management of the puppet theatre and technical operation moved already in the beginnings of the 1960s into released rooms in Moskevská Street, but the theatre hall had remained for several years in Revoluční Street. Productions were moved to the Moskevská Street after a general adaptation of the building and hall rearrangement  had been carried out in 1968. The troupe made its presentation in its new building on the 2nd of November of 1968 under a new name the Naive Theatre and it has been functioning under the same name up to present days.

The new Naive Theatre became a seat not only for  puppeteers, but the drama Studio Ypsilon that came into existence in 1963 as a theatrical troupe performing at the beginning in a cinema hall of Liberec garrison. The entire official name of the theatre was then the Naive Theatre: Regional Puppet Stage / Studio Ypsilon.

The designs for  large reconstruction of the Naive Theatre were elaborated at the end of the 1960s by Karel Hubáček (1924–2011), one of the founders of the presently renowned Liberec atelier Sial and the author of the television transmitter and hotel on Ještěd hill. A generous project, from which only a minor part has been implemented, is dated back by literature to the years of 1967–1968. Hubáček with his colleagues worked on the final version in the following years as well; the preserved project task was finished not until the autumn  of 1973. Cooperation of Liberec architect with the Naive Theatre was apparently intensive: the first  exhibition of the Sial occurred  in the room of the theatre in December of 1968 and  theatrical designers participated in the art arrangement of expositions of the Liberec Display Market that were designed by the Sial.

Hubáček did not probably participate yet on the adaptation of the operational rooms that was necessary before the commencement of theatre operation. The theatre was being adapted at latest from 1966 according to documentation in the building archive; originally intended minor maintenance works evolved into major interferences into wiring and partial layout modification as a result of a change of the purpose of individual rooms. The designs are signed by J. Procházka from the design branch of the High Industrial Building School.

In his design, Hubáček intended to attach a new building of another hall to the existing room of the theatre in the clearance to Pražká Street on the other side of the block. A bigger auditorium in the new hall should have served to evening drama performances of the Ypsilon Theatre and so it should have had a dimension for adult spectators; a small exhibition hall with upper lighting should have been located in the upper floor of this part according to the plan. Both the theatre halls should have been adjacent to a joint stage and backstage in the middle of the block. A technical and workshop wing with dressing rooms and other background should have been located in the location of the house towards Jezdecká Street; the other side of  the stage   part should have been occupied by a large foyer, joint for both the halls, with an exit to a garden in the middle of the block being arranged as an atrium.

The main entrance to both the halls was designed from Pražská Street (the existing main entrance from Moskevská Street should have become a staff entrance). The difference in height levels between  Moskevská and Pražská streets allowed  Hubáček to insert a generous vestibule with a cash desk under the entire new auditorium; the auditorium should have been entered in the storey through a foyer in the yard. There should have been a small balcony in the new hall with a capacity of 300 seats; a footbridge accessible from above should have crossed the auditorium ceiling, supplied by the same system of acoustic  boards lowered from a steel grid as in the puppet hall. The design counted with utilization of the new hall for movie projection and both the hall could have served as a concert hall for more than 500 spectators at once.

The facades of the newly designed parts carried elements typical for Hubáček’s work of that time. The structure should have been carried by a ferro-concrete frame with fillings of disclosed brick walling and with glassing by glass blocks, octagonal windows should have been inserted into panels from enameled sheets. The idea of unveiling pointed brickwork in the interiors might resemble for instance the future Hubáček’s adaptation of the Minor Theatre in Liberec.

The main Hubáček’s collaborator on the project was Václav Bůžek, Zdeněk Patrman is signed under the model and also Václav Smola, Karel Hrda a Milan Kulich are mentioned on the project assignment as other authors.

More detailed description of Hubáček’s layout goes beyond the limits of this text. The design would deserve more attention – and not only in comparison with a remarkable set of other Hubáček’s theatres (a design of the theatre DAMU in Prague South City, 1980–1982; a design for the theatre Goose on a String in Brno Orlí Street, 1983; completion of the Králíček’s design of the Goose on a String in Zelný Trh, 1985 – 1993, and finally – with Jiří Hakulín – the DISK Theatre, 1996–1998; the cinema May in Doksy , 1958–1963, belongs here as well with Vlastimil  Kolář and O. Binar, and the concert hall in Teplice, 1981–1986, with  Jaromír  Stráský , O. Binar, Zdeňek  Patrman  etc.). Hubáček said on the beginning of designing of the Disk Theatre in an interview with Rostislav  Švácha: “ I have never been given any other time such a opportunity to architecturally express everything, what a theatre needs.” – and he noted even five years later that he had “for instance few theatres” in a drawer.

An uncommon two halls layout with a joint stage, to which the narrow parcel between parallel streets almost encourages, did not appear in Liberec for the first time. Such a layout was already designed by a collective of A. Zikmund, M. Řepa, F. Rozhon a V. Kučava in the design for the unrealized culture house of the Regional Union Committee in Pardubice in 1959; a theatre stage should have been bound  here by a stage of a reversely oriented musical hall behind a joint backstage. In 1965, therefore only shortly before Hubáček’s Liberec design, a construction of a theatre in Tábor had been finished according to the design by Václav Drozd from Stavoprojekt from České Budějovice, who designed with cooperation of Irma Antonovičová a new auditorium linked to an auditorium of the old municipal theatre in the right angle (this is probably the only realization of the junction of two halls by one stage in the Czech Republic.)

Another of Sial architects, Mirko Baum, was working concurrently with Hubáček on another variant of an extension design of the Naive Theatre, which he defended as a dissertation on ČVUT. A model from 1968–1969 has been preserved in the theatre alike as the model of Hubáček’s design did. A first phase of adaptation designed by Hubáček that had been realized even before the completion of the designs for a general reconstruction was an auditorium and other spectators’ spaces adaptation in 1968. Otakar Binar cooperated with  Hubáček on the adaptation and he participated mainly in the appearance of the interiors and interior furnishing – alike as in other constructions with hotel on Ještěd hill in the first place- (for instance we can encounter similar chandeliers in the bar as in the parlour in the hotel Ještěd). A chamber hall came into existence after the adaptation that according to the later evaluation “surpass all the existing parameters and  […] became not only a Liberec issue by itsgenerosity and  perfect furnishing, but  an example and norm for construction of all the other theatres for children by us.

A reconstruction of the main theatre entrance into an appearance of a rectangular portal with a steel canopy, designed already in 1967 by engineer Jíra, had not been executed. The facade was repaired in 1968 and on 7th of November, therefore a week after the opening of the theatre to public, a final approval for the first phase of the reconstruction was tentatively issued. However, a full-scale inspection of the building took place not before the 5th January of 1969, detected shortcomings were removed not until March of 1970 and only then an official application was submitted concerning a permit for launching operation of the theatre.

Reconstruction of heating was carried out between March 1970 and January of 1971 and two dwelling units were set up in the upper floor. A reception was inserted on the right of the main entrance in 1972.

Theatre was played up to the beginnings of the 1970s in an inconvenient stage in a provisional extension, with a small acting area (3,2×2,9 m) and low fly loft, where it was not possible to emplace either footbridges for  puppeteers nor common fly bars; a props storage room was not existing. Apart of a project for complete reconstruction, partial designs of first phases of reconstruction emerged thus in November 1973: a top priority construction of a new stage and afterwards provisional storerooms and dressing rooms behind it in the clearance towards Pražská Street (from where a ground floor hat shop disappeared only by this occasion). Store rooms in Pražská Street should have served only to the time, when a new hall and operational building would be constructed; the projection assignment supposed that the entire construction would be realized up to 1982. We only know roughly the progress of the works:  a building permit was issued for this phase on 2nd October of 1974; they worked still on formwork of the stage and on an extension of dressing rooms and store room in this year. The framework that was caried out by Stavokombinát Liberec, was being finished not until 1977. Newly constructed room then reached to the existing flat of artist Pavel Kalfus , which was necessary to liquidate. The theatre was solving among other repeated complaints about leaking into a clothes shop in the house Jiskra (Brouk a Babka) on the neighbouring parcel in Pražská Street.

Theatre was played on tours in the course of the construction of the new stage and in a hall, provisionally adapted in the hotel Česká Beseda by their own help.  The completed construction was handed over to utilization – with a large delay against the originally planned deadline – in October 1978. A generously designed new stage with a high fly loft was designed for puppet plays and drama; it was still being furnished by stage technology in the following years. The Studio Ypsilon became independent in the same year and moved to Prague. An  attempt for  affiliating drama operation to the puppet theatre in a directive manner did not succeed and thus space for evening performances opened up for the puppeteers. By this probably disappeared one reason for continuation of the reconstruction, which further phases had not been realized for lack of funds as well.

It became quite clear in 1982 that Hubáček’s design would not be realized. A reconstruction was carried out in this year in the house N. 18a (ID. 56 and 59), which was endeavoured to be acquired since the beginnings of the 1970s and which should make way  for a new construction of an operational wing according to the  Hubáček’s design. Workshops and other operational rooms were inserted here according to the design by J. Pavlů from Severočeská konstruktiva Ústí nad Labem; it is not possible to exclude that Hubáček cooperated in this part as well.

Perhaps in this period, a rehearsal room in the first floor was built in the location of the former tailor’s shop and workshop, used as a studio hall with a capacity of 60 seats as well. Hubáček participated in gradual completion  of furnishing of the building and its decoration throughout the entire 1980s.

Pavel Švancer from  Liberec Stavoprojekt designed an adaptation of the provisional storehouse elevation towards Pražská Street with stylized figures;  curved frontage from irregular segments that was designed by Hubáček in 1973 have not been probably implemented. Another phase of reconstruction works was carried out in the theatre in the 1990s. It was begun with repairs of the yard facades in the summer of 1994 and continued a year later with a  reconstruction of the roof  and the lodging house in the 3rd floor. Interior was adapted in the summer of 1998: wiring was repaired and changes affected among other various rooms in the ground floor. O. Binar again designed the new appearance in the spirit of original reconstruction for the end of the 1960s. Wall panelling was replaced for instance; textile covering on the walls was replaced by panels covered by information about premiers. The repair works of the outer facades between August and November 1998 were finished by a large inscription the Naive Theatre / Liberec/ Moskevská 18 on the blank facade of the house N. 18a.

A new reconstruction of operational rooms was requested among other by pressure from the city for releasing the parcel in Pražská Street. The house N. 18a was reconstructed from November of 2002 to August of 2003 according to the design by Josef Patrný Sr.. A two storey props store room came into existence behind the entrance from Moskevská Street as well as a new daring, operationally well arranged layout of dressing and technical rooms that was crowned by a generous extension of a  cabinetry in the upper floor. Released storage rooms in Pražská Street were demolished and a multifunctional house stands in their location according to the design by  Jiří  Košťál and Jana Chmelová.

So far the last more distinct adaptation was an exchange of hitherto ochre leatherette on the double seats in the auditorium for green textile covering in 2005.

Present state

The Naive Theatre is based in the house between Pražská and Moskevská Street that both ascend towards Dr. E. Beneš Square. The front elevation facing Moskevská Street is composed of the higher house N. 18 and on the left from it, the lower house N. 18. The houses stand in a slope that manifest itself in different height levels of entrances and windows together with  different heights of storeys.

A two storey elevation of the house N. 18 to Moskevská Street has been preserved in essential features in its appearance from the end of the 19th century. The plinth in the entire height of the ground floor is accentuated by rustication, triangle frontons cover the windows in the high first floor, horizontal ledges shield minor compound windows in the second floor. A low mezzanine under the roof is above a massive crowning cornice.

More simple decoration was applied on the facade of the lower house on the left having two storeys and an attic mezzanine. Its windows are compounded in storeys into vertical bands of rectangular decorative fillings. A gate leads to a lift to props storage room apart to an independent ground floor shop.  The side blind facade is turned towards a vacant parcel on the corner of Moskevská and  Jezdecká streets; an inscription in a characteristic art style appeared on it by the last adaptation. Remnants of an older house have disappeared from the vacant parcel in Jezdecká Street only recently. A construction of a new house is being prepared.

The main entrance in the right part of the front elevation leads to a minor staircase. A reception is located behind it on the right as well as an entrance to a staircase to the upper floors. On the left, we approach the foyer with an entrance into a spacious buffet and smoking room by the street facade; furnishings of all the rooms including panelling and lighting was designed by O. Binar.

We can find a cloak room and several art pieces in the foyer: a glass sculpture by Josef Kochrda on a prismatic pedestal, a curved mirror by Karl Wünsch, metal sheet relief perhaps by Miloš Koška and  a mobile from wire and colourful  wooden cubes by Jan Schmid.

The auditorium is entered from the foyer with a couple of two leaf doors. The ground floor hall without a balcony is furnished by child double seats, it has a capacity of 192 seats. Red side walls are covered by bright textile boards with written information about all the mise-en-scenes. Wooden panelling of the rear wall is interrupted only by a narrow window of the  lighting and sound cabin. A steel grid under an ceiling, painted in black, holds not only spotlights, but first of all a compact regular raster of timber strips that are – apart of its main acoustical function – a distinct component determining the character of  the whole space to a large extent.

Well equipped stage without a distinct proscenium arch is meant for operation of  puppet and drama stage. There are five lifting tables in its floor. Movable portal towers enable to change the depth of the forestage.

The upper floors of the house and especially the house 18a contains rehearsal and dressing rooms and technical operations, props storage room with a scenery elevator and cabinetry in the loft extension in a shape of the half of a prism with 14 faces.

The Naive Theatre is not a typical example of theatre architecture by its position in the inside of a block of flats. Hubáček’s and  Binar solution of the hall and almost unknown project of an unrealized reconstruction belong to the most interesting part of what had been created in the 1960s and 1970s  despite its preservation of a traditional scheme of an oblong hall in front of a proscenium stage arrangement.

Sources and literature:

– Magistrát Liberec, archiv stavebního úřadu, spis domu Moskevská 32 (Naivní divadlo)

– Státní okresní archiv v Liberci, fond Naivní divadlo Liberec 1973–1977 (projektový úkol nerealizované přestavby)

– archiv Naivního divadla (modely nerealizované přestavby ze 70. let)

– František Sokol (red.), Naivní divadlo Liberec 1949–1979, Liberec 1979

– Svatopluk Technik – Vladimír Ruda, Liberec minulosti a současnosti, Liberec 1980, s. 204 (situační plán a popis nerealizované přestavby)

– František Sokol (red.), Naivní divadlo Liberec 1949–1999, Liberec 1999

– Svatopluk Technik, Liberecké domy hovoří II, Liberec 1993, s. 6

– Roman Karpaš (ed.), Velká kniha o Liberci, Liberec 1996, zejm. s. 445, 456–457

– Rostislav Švácha (ed.), SIAL, Praha 2010, zejm. s. 32–33, 278 a 311–312 (zmínky o projektu přestavby a fotografie modelů)

 

Tags: Communist Czechoslovakia, terraced house, theatre hall

 

Author: Iva Karásková

Translator: Jan Purkert

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