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Smetana House

Jan Šula, Viktorin Šulc, Josef Velflík

alias National House (1902 - 1903)
history of the theatresupplementtechnical dataHistoric equipment

Important events

(detail)1741 | construction

Construction of Summer-house Karlov was carried out in 1741. Its hall was utilized for cultural life of the city.


(detail)1862 | Design

Architect František Schmoranz from Chrudim submitted design for a new theatre building, but the construction was not carried out due to lack of financial funds.


(detail)1873 | stage
Association of amateur actors settled on establishment of their own stage in grand hall in Karlov.
(detail)1883 | consortium

Consortium for theatre construction came into existence.


(detail)1894 | expert opinion

Josef Schmoranz from Slatiňany submitted an expert opinion about selection of new construction site. Simultaneously, a first architectural competition took place in 1894 for construction of theatre building in city park. First prize was awarded to design by Fr. Podhajský from Prague.  The building was not, however, realized.


(detail)1901 | assignment of construction

Builder J. Kreml was assigned to carry out the construction work according his design. It was not implemented.


(detail)1902 | Competition

Karlov was bought to be subsequently adapted for theatre and ceremonial festivals. An eight member building committee was appointed and a preparatory works took place in Karlov surroundings. Public tender was announced simultaneously for building designs in spring 1902. The winning design was the one by professors of industrial arts school in Plzeň Jan Šula, Viktorin Šulc a Josef Velflík.


(detail)1903 | assignment of construction
Summer-house Karlov was torn down and construction works were assigned to Josef Kreml from Litomyšl according the winning design by Plzeň architects.
(detail)1905 | Opening

After two years of construction works, ceremonial opening took place on Sunday 11. June 1905 with opera Dalibor by Bedřich Smetana.


(detail)1946 | Musical festival

Czech Philharmonic played My Country by Bedřich Smetana under the baton of Rafael Kubelík, the performance was named „Musical festival Smetana´s Litomyšl I“.


(detail)1958 | heritage site

Smetana´ s house was registered to the list of Immovable heritage sites.


(detail)1994 | encounter of presidents

Czech Suite by Antoním Dvořák was performed by the occasion of the encounter of seven Central European presidents in Litomyšl.


(detail)90. 's 20. century | reconstruction
Reconstruction of Smetana house took place in 1995–1996.
(detail)00. 's 21. century | renovation

Restoration of sculpture ornamentation on attic was made in  2003–2004.


People

(detail)Jan Šula |main architect

He belonged among relatively conservative generation proceeding from late Revival architecture and gradually absorbing incentives of Art Nouveau. They built on well accepted modernized Revival styles, primarily on Neo- Renaissance with Gothic elements and with application of Art Nouveau decorating, which was becoming to gain a steadily higher popularity.


(detail)Viktorin Šulc |main architect

He belonged among relatively conservative generation proceeding from late Revival architecture and gradually absorbing incentives of Art Nouveau. They built on well accepted modernized Revival styles, primarily on Neo- Renaissance with Gothic elements and with application of Art Nouveau decorating, which was becoming to gain a steadily higher popularity.

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(detail)Josef Velflík |main architect

He belonged among relatively conservative generation proceeding from late Revival architecture and gradually absorbing incentives of Art Nouveau. They built on well accepted modernized Revival styles, primarily on Neo- Renaissance with Gothic elements and with application of Art Nouveau decorating, which was becoming to gain a steadily higher popularity.


(detail)Josef Kreml |builder

Builder of Smetana House, bridge and arrangement of the garden.


(detail)František Urban |painter

His life work was dedicated to church art, especially to the wall decoration of the churches and designs of church windows. He was disciple of František Ženíšek, skilful in drawing and composition and became a decorator of large surfaces, stylized with an accent of Vienesse Art Nouveau.

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(detail)Marie Urbanová-Zahradnická |painter

Author of the drapery above the curtain in Smetana House.

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(detail)František Fröhlich |painter

Author of painting works in minor and grand hall in Smetana House in Litomyšl.

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(detail)R. Říhovský |painter

Author of act drop in Smetana House.


(detail)Antonín Popp |sculptor

Czech sculptor and professor on the UMPRUM.

In:

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(detail)Otakar Walter |sculptor

Sculptor and stuccoer, stone-cutting and stuccowork in exterior and on the bridge in Smetana House.

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(detail)Rudolf Hamršmíd |sculptor
Sculptor, stuccoworks and figuration of proscenium and bratticing in Smetana House.

(detail)Josef Kulhánek |sculptor

Stuccoer, author of  stuccoworks in interior of Smetana House.


(detail)Bedřich Pausar |other

He was responsible for design of stage machinery equipment, design and installation of sceneries.


History

In an attractive location behind the river in a fortification zone, the Summer-house Karlov was built in 1741 with a presentation hall in the first floor where was concentrated the cultural life of the city.

Construction of a new theatre building was being considered since the half of the 19th century and a convenient plot was searched for this purpose. The designs were worked out by Chrudim city builder and architect Fr. Schmoranz. The construction was delayed due to lack of financial means. A troupe of amateur actors settled on establishment of their own venue in the grand hall in Karlov. A consortium was constituted that took care of theatre construction. The objective became a multi-functional representative theatre building. The idea of restoration and reconstruction of Karlov to theatre purposes appeared for the first time in 1887. This intention failed due to higher financial requirements and insufficient support for a new representative culture building.

Theatre activity was prohibited in Karlov due to stricter state regulations for  theatre plays operation in 1895. New alternative locations were searched for during the following years. First architectural competition took place in 1894 for construction of a theatre building in the city park. The first prize was awarded to design by Fr. Podhajský from Prague.  The building was not, however, realized and the Association for construction of a theatre building for that reason demanded at least a provisional multi-purpose hall. A year later with the municipal support, there was accepted the design by builder J. Kreml, to whom was the construction assigned.

The idea of a building on the Karlov plot prevailed after all in 1902. It was appointed an eight member building committee at the same time  ensuring cooperation of the town and preparatory works were initiated in the Karlov surroundings. A public competition was announced simultaneously for building designs in the spring of 1902. From eleven designs, the winning design was the one by the professors of Industrial Arts School in Pilsen Jan Šula, Viktorin Šulc and Josef Velflík. The summer-house Karlov was torn down and a new multi-purpose theatre building was erected in its place. The ceremonial opening took place on Sunday 11th June of 1905 with the opera Dalibor by Bedřich Smetana in attendance of the whole city and prominent figures including F. A. Šubert, a director of the National Theatre.

 

The authors of the project

Velflík, Josef - Šula, Jan (1861–1916) - Šulc, Viktorin (1870–1946)

A trio of architects and higher industry school professors of Plzen who belonged among a relatively conservative generation proceeding from the late Revival architecture and gradually absorbing incentives of Art Nouveau. They built on well accepted modernized Revival styles, primarily on Neo- Renaissance with Gothic elements and with application of Art Nouveau decorating, which was becoming to gain  steadily higher popularity.

 

Building description

 

Layout

The Smetana House, a solitaire theatre building with other extra theatrical functions drew up for 500 persons, is situated in significantly sloping terrain of the  left bank of the Loučná river, in a modestly higher location, than the Karlov building used to stand. It is surrounded by a city park of the so called Rašín orchard. The building stands with its longitudinal axis collaterally to the stream of the river. There is an upper garden dedicated to plays and festivities behind the building. The difference between the height of front and rear facade levelling is 5,75 m, which causes, that front facade is higher by one storey. There is a summer garden with terraces on the left side by the restaurant,  naturally sloping terrain was left on the right side.

Total distribution of space volume  proceed from  enclosed composition with solid smooth lines, disrupted by a contrast of dynamic growth and gradation. Designers revived the classic composition principle of a theatre building, set by a longitudinal flat of symmetry, a contrast between lower volume,  crosswise unfolded front and rear structures with side bays and a structure of a high hall.

 

Exterior

Front facade is dominated by expresional means of Neo Renaissance supplemented with markedly applied motifs of Viennese vegetable Art Nouveau. The front facade is articulated by two three bay projections, a central five bay elevated structure with a monumental piano nobile with two windows rows, behind which is a grand hall and which is separated by a continuous balcony in a form of a gallery with a stone balustrade.

The parterre with banded rustication  is dominated by arched windows and arcades of three bay entrance, which is emphasized only by a canopy  over the central door in the facade  surface. Thus  dominanting entry is represented by whole augmented polymorphic frontage of the hall structure. Rectangular windows with a triangular gable encircled by rhythm of wide pilaster strips with rustic work are broken in the storey bay. Consoles are resumed on them  bearing a crowning  cornice in entablature and an attic with a balustrade.  

The hall area is lit by compound rectangular windows in the first row and above them by a frieze in a window sill. Rhythm of slightly protruded pilasters is inserted between them, pilasters are topped by female mascarons between volutes and filled up with floral ornaments with motifs of linden and gingko leafs. The important centres of the building are sculpturally accented. The attic of the hall building is crowned by a sculpture group  depicting two sitting allegorical figures of a young men (drama, music) in above life-size, with the city crest in the middle of a cartouche (in garden frontage with symbol of music, lyre). Cartouches and pylons are on the sides concluding elements in a shape of a stylized crown in the building corners.

The garden facade is an analogy of the front facade. It is lowered by one floor due to influence of ascending terrain separated by a supporting wall.  A staircase wing is in the centre with an entrance to the park and with a  terrace approachable from a passageway to the grand hall.

Side south-eastern frontage facing a summer garden restaurant, is seven-bay with a central shallow bay and with an entrance, located in its axis, into the restaurant with a protruded staircase. The arcade of large windows dominates the facade, which is surrounded by a centrally doubled pilaster order topped by volute capitals with inserted lyres. Monumentality of the view is supported by the gradational volumes of   roofs with a high ornamental chimney and cupola above the building closure.

Counter frontage with a retained naturally ascending slope has more modest ambitions. The five-bay facade is pressed round under a massive tower, with a break in the centre, where is one arch window between a couple of pilasters above the entry to a trap room. The attic of the front and rear building is decorated by massive concluding elements in the shape of a belt sphere.

The predominant construction of a stage tower protrudes above the right bay concluded trough a vault with an evaporator. It is encumbered by four decorative pylons in the corners. In the tower storey, three rectangular windows are always broken with the rhythm of equally high pilasters derived from the Tuscan order by each side.

 

Interior

Interiors and their functional arrangement were considerably influenced by the form of the construction site and demands for purpose  of the construction. The Smetana House is a unique construction of its category by its location in the slope with almost six meters of superelevation.

The authors of the project took ingeniously the advantage of the construction site inclination and main facade orientation, given by a broader town planning context in such a manner that instead of using simple rooted arranging of main and representative rooms of the entrance hall, auditorium and stage in the row one after another  in the construction axis, they located the vestibule under the grand hall and so they gained  room for a restaurant and minor hall situated in the front building. The problem of construction superelevation   was simultaneously resolved by this, the desired objective for a multi functional purpose met, height and monumentality of frontage gained and composition of volumes, formed in a style of not interchangeable for a theatre building with a clearly readable pattern, was not interfered with.  

A broad vestibule, accessible by three entrances, is vaulted by a cylindrical vault with lunettes, cloakrooms are located on the sides from the centre ascending staircase, there is a ticket office with an entrance to an innkeeper´s flat on the right and an entrance to a restaurant on the left. In Art Noveau style decorating and gilding supplement harmoniously toned walls and pillars with framing. It measure out 21,5 m in length, 5 m in width and height of the vault is 6,5 m without the cloakrooms.

The main wide one-flight staircase ascends on a spacious first landing in the form of a connecting corridor between a ladies room on right and a corridor to the restaurant on the left. It is possible to enter directly into the upper garden from the second landing. The space is subsequently opened up by a small cubic hall, where the staircase branches out into two flights, ornamented with a balustrade that leads into an elongated foyer in the first floor, located by the side of the  grand hall and connecting the front and rear building. Ionic capitals on columns in the foyer and on walls as well and consoles supporting architraves are prominent of plastic decoration.

A rectangular plan with a flat floor is used on the main hall of a traditional concept of multifunctional buildings. The main grand hall, labelled as a representative and dancing on the designs, the very centre of the entire building with size of 21.5 length, 14 m width and 12 m height, is provided by seven escape exits. Hanging hall galleries in the storey, distributed in three sides, are accessible by two entrances from the lateral staircase. A Barrier of an orchestra pit for 30 musicians, standing rooms in the stalls and gallery and front boxes as well were originally demountable and removable. Obliquely ascending construction, which is deposited in the trap room area,  is today mounted for improvement of a view by theatre productions.

Hall embellishment is dominated by Art Nouveau style in Neo Renaissance frame. A massive lunette cavetto on the ceiling and ceiling mirror, divided into three fields, is enriched by cornices with separating strips and swags, embossed cartouches and stencil painting with floral ornament. A large chandelier with 45 bulbs is hanged in the middle of the ceiling from a rosette with an inserted decorative grid. Trigonal cornices above the entrances and pillars between windows dominate the rich ornamental wall decoration, executed similarly as in the foyer. The balcony parapet is embellished by a festoon torus with sunflower blossoms alternating with eagles with spread out wings and masks of a gorgon medusa. Female masks with foliage and decorative grids covering heating filled with foliage are between windows openings and entrances into the hall. 

Large attention was paid to the proscenium arch with figural decoration of muses in spandrels and medallions with portraits of B. Smetana and J. K. Tyl on sides. There is a lyre in the crown of arch with the Crown of Czech Kingdom with inserted leafs. The proscenium stand 7.6 meters in length, 6.2 in height, and it is separated by a fire curtain weighed 2.5 tons, manufactured from heavy sheet metal on an angle framework and embellished by belt ornament derived from strapwork. There is a ceremonial curtain behind it by sculptor František Urban depicting the apotheosis of music.

The stage has 13.7 m x 9.85 m in size, the backstage 7 m x 5.9 m. The vault in the fly loft is in 17 m height above the hall floor, whilst 6.5 in the backstage. There are 36 bars on sides. There are two working galleries interconnected by bridges above the stage. The top located fly loft is accessible with an iron spiral staircase. Backstage rooms of male and female dressing rooms, offices and side staircase are spread out by the circumference of the stage.

There is a minor hall with 14.6 m length and 7.7 width on the left of the main hall in the front wing. It is dedicated for minor parties, lectures, meetings and other occasions. Interior decoration is more modest and more faithful to the Neo Renaissance concept. The walls are articulated by framing and cornices, the ceiling is divided into three mirrors, border ones are filled by paintings with names of B. Smetana and J. K. Tyl. The side room, originally labelled as a buffet, is adjacent to the minor hall.

Precast terrazzo with mosaic and friezes around the wall was used apart parquet floors. Door and window panelling is ornamented by specular, coloured, flute  and vanished glass. Lighting by wall-mounted arms, hinged ceiling lamps and chandeliers is carried out completely in the Art Nouveau spirit. 

The Smetana House theatre building Litomyšl is an important monumental representative piece of architecture of the late Revival Architecture style. It has preserved its original appearance up to today without considerable building interferences and serves its purpose.

 

Literature:

- Lněnička Jindřich, Smetanův dům 1905 – 2005. Litomyšl 2005.

- Lašek František Dr., Litomyšl v dějinách a výtvarném umění. Litomyšl 1945.

- Nejedlý Zdeněk, Litomyšl, 1000 let života českého města. 1934.

- Nejedlý Zdeněk, Dějiny města Litomyšle a okolí. 1903.

- Reichertová Květa, Litomyšl. Praha 1977.

- Růžička, J., Sršeň, L., 75 let Smetanova domu v Litomyšli. 1980.

- Skřivánek Milan, Vopálka Pavel, Litomyšl starobylé město.  Praha – Litomyšl 1994.

- Wirth Zdeněk Dr., Soupis památek historických a uměleckých v politickém okrese Litomyšlském. Praha 1908.

- Růžička Jindřich, Z historie stavby Smetanova domu. Litomyšlský kulturní zpravodaj 1975, č.6, s. 7-10, č.7, s. 9-12

- Obzor litomyšlský, Zvláštní vydání k otevření Smetanova domu 1/1905, č.2

- Slovo, list pondělní, IV/1905, č. 24

- Česká scéna III/1906, č. 1-2

- Hilmera Jiří, Česká divadelní architektura. Praha 1999.

 

Sources:

- Státní okresní archiv Svitavy se sídlem v Litomyšli (SOKAL), fond ML III: Stavební družstvo Smetanova domu, 1903-05

- Archiv Fakulty restaurování Univerzity Pardubice v Litomyšli, Fedorčák Jan, Smetanův dům v Litomyšli v kontextu vývoje architektury na přelomu 19. a 20. století. absolventská teoretická bakalářská práceIRKT o.p.s. Litomyšl 2005

- Archiv IRKT o.p.s. Litomyšl, Kopecká Jitka, Smetanův dům v Litomyšli, exteriér. seminární práce VOŠRKT Litomyšl 1995, inv. č. C 45

- Archiv IRKT o.p.s. Litomyšl, Kopecká Jitka, Smetanův dům v Litomyšli, stav po rekonstrukci a historický postup armování plastik na atice. absolventská teoretická práce VOŠRKT Litomyšl 1997, inv. č. C 45

- Archiv IRKT o.p.s. Litomyšl, Smetanův dům Litomyšl, restaurátorská dokumentace, inv. č. 01/96, 08/97, 22/97,

 

Tags: Art Nouveau, Austria-Hungary, Belle Époque, Culture house, detached building, Fin de siècle, multipurpose facility, Neo-Renaissance

 

Author: Jan Fedorčák

Translator: Jan Purkert

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