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Culture House Ostrov

Josef Sedláček, Jaroslav Krauz

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Important events

(detail)1954 | project
Architect Jaroslav Krauz in cooperation with the team of Josef  Sedláček presented a project of a multifunctional culture house in 1954 that was  a monumental, self standing,  two storey building “a top example of classicising movement of traditionalism of the 1950s by its architectural expression.“
(detail)1955 | opening
The laying of the foundation stone took place on 1st of May, 1954. A permit for operation of the building was issued only for a limited amount of days in May of 1955 before the ceremonial opening. The reason was permanent defects and shortcomings. Subsequent approval processes were ending always with a similar result – a partial permit for the usage of the building, enumeration of defects and a recommendation for their rapid elimination. The building was in fact being finished not until 1955 – 1961 especially in the interior part.
(detail)2003 | reconstruction
The culture house underwent the last major reconstruction in 2003 according to the design by Anton Jurica.

People

Josef Sedláček |main architect
Jaroslav Krauz |main architect
Václav Lokvenc |sculptor

History

The wide front facade of the House of Culture is turned westwards towards Mírové náměstí (the Peace Square) that is spread in the centre of the city between Masaryk  and Neruda streets; the rear wing of the building faces Tyl Street.

Construction of a theatre hall in Ostrov nad Ohří was closely related to massive building activity and boom of the city in 1949-1959. Ministry of Industry established the National Enterprise Jáchymovské doly (Jáchymov’s Mines) in 1946. It was necessary to procure adequate  housing conditions for an increasing number of employees. The enterprise board resolved the situation by making a decision of construction of an entirely new suburb; Jáchymov was not convenient for a larger complex due to the relief of landscape and thus the selection fell on adjacent Ostrov. A hitherto small city with a picturesque historical core stood at the beginning of its modern history.  

First houses of a new company suburb started to be erected after 1947.  The local plan came into existence six years later, it was worked out by the State Institute for Design of Towns and Villages in Ústí nad Labem, a work group for local plans in Karlovy Vary under direction of L. Kozák; only a layout plan was so far existing from years 1947, 1950 and 1951. Main architect of the Jáchymov mines Jaroslav Krauz participated in the final version of the design to a large extent. The definitive urban plan envisaged construction for circa 25 000 inhabitants. “The leading idea was to create a single urban unit instead of hitherto two – ‘the Old Ostrov‘ and  ‘the company housing development‘. The new, compact whole should have been designed as a full-value garden city‘ .“1

Twelve residential blocks of houses came into existence in the course of thirteen years, so called “stages“ (the last one was labelled the stage XIIa). The city was “enclosed” on the east side by the present street U Koupaliště. Following building activity, including residential units of  XIII.–XVIII. stage “is already another chapter of the development of a new city in Ostrov. The period of so called Sorela had ended with prefabrication and replacement of building technology to partial and later complete slab block.“2  The new city unit offered possibilities of commercial (a  shopping mall, buffet, candy store), educational (kindergartens, schools, music schools), services (a post office, saving bank, Municipal National Committee, hospital) etc. , apart the residential units. 

Great attention was paid to art and culture and with them related ideological education. Architect Krauz in cooperation with the team of Josef  Sedláček presented a project of a multifunctional culture house in 1954. The authors inserted the building into the east side of a large rectangular square that represented the central area of “New Ostrov” . The volume of intended building should have communicated with a visual counterpart – an administrative building – , however, that has never been implemented.

The actual construction proceeded rapidly. The laying of the foundation stone took place already on 1st of May, 1954 and precisely after a year, “a splendid culture house was opened in the newly built miner's suburb of the Jáchymov mines in Ostrov by Karlovy Vary.“3

The designing team created a monumental, self standing,  two storey building “a top example of classicising movement of traditionalism of the 1950s by its architectural expression.“4 It was encircled by residential and commercial complexes on the sides of the V. building stage (with numbers 28, 29 and 30); the front elevation has remained opened into a spacious square.  

Its representative appearance and impressive structure gives evidence that this expensive building should serve to working people as a real and only centre of culture and social life for the miners of Jáchymov and their families.“5  These poetic words of the director of the culture house Jaromír Berger were fulfilled not before 1961. It follows from the period correspondence and the proceedings that a permit for operation of the building was issued only for a limited amount of days in May of 1955 before the ceremonial opening. The reason was permanent defects and shortcomings. Subsequent approval processes were ending always with a similar result – a partial permit for the usage of the building, enumeration of defects and a recommendation for their rapid elimination. The building was in fact being finished not until 1955 – 1961 especially in the interior part.

The House of Culture should have served as a multifunctional facility with a wide range of purposes and possible utilization from the beginning. “ The theatre hall and cinema is the central part of the House of Culture where theatre and music performances, ceremonial meetings etc. take place. This hall serves as a cinema as well […] There is a grand hall located in the first floor for popular dances, dance lessons, social evenings etc.. This hall is also used as a rehearsal room for dance troupes, music groups, choirs. A foyer is adjacent to this hall, from which a buffet is accessible. If a popular celebration take place here, it is possible to unite the area of the foyer and buffet into a single operating area, to which an auxiliary kitchen is adjacent. .“6  There was an auditorium for various meetings and sessions in the ground floor part on the left being adjacent to a reading room, reading room of special literature, library and chess club. The designer inserted club rooms, billiard room, office etc. on the right of the vestibule. “The child theatre is located in an individual wing[…], room for special interest clubs was located in the basement.“7

Apart of a ceremonial hall in the first floor and a children puppet stage, Krauz also designed a large theatre hall in the building for amusement and cultural life.  We can read in the expert contemporary press  that “ the theatre hall and the stage part fit well to its practical purpose.“8

The architect emplaced it into an individual wing, adjacent perpendicularly to the main elevation. The stage occupies the ground and also first floor part of the wing, room of the technical background is adjacent in the rear to the left and right side.

The commencement of operation in 1955 did not avoid complications. The new hall was facing the same problems as the entire culture house: enduring building and technical shortcomings, with them related postponements of permits for initiation of operation etc.. Even several days before the ceremonial disposition of the Culture House to public use, there appeared a notion in the records of  “ furnishing of equipment for theatre stage that is in the stage of construction, especially in regard of activity of sprinklerového device.“Perhaps for this reason it was not possible to “run  […] theatre programme 10 in the firsts days after the building had been made accessible.

An array of building repairs and adaptations occurred in the course of the years in relation with  eventful operation, wearing and   transforming  requirements for technical and interior furnishing. Already in 1961 engineer Baum  worked out a project for an adaptation of projection cabin in the cinema (construction of a soundproof partition). The investor – the factory of  V. I. Lenin-  submitted an application for execution of a reconstruction of the theatre (cinematographic)  hall. “The adaptation is being carried out for the purpose of enlarging film programme with film out of a format i.e especially wide-screen ones. […]. Another reason is the acoustical adjustment of the hall, which will be serving especially for theatre productions. The modification is going to improve visibility especially for theatre  production.“11

A letter addressed to the building department of the Municipal National Committee in Ostrov states directly that “this adjustment (of the number of the seats) is necessary and indispensable for procurement of visibility, especially of the theatre. The existing state is completely inconvenient for low gradient of seats. Therefore it is not possible to remain with the existing number of seats[…]. It is true that the space of the hall is completely inconvenient in acoustics regard. There  are deaf  places in the auditorium that is a defect especially by theatre productions, where is not possible to amplify the volume by an electroacoustic way.12 A part of the adaptation was among other demolition of wall panelling, removing the floor of floorboards, a change of  gradient of the auditorium floor to “ gradual floor with horizontal levels 13  and furnishing with convenient seats. PVC newly covered floors in the ground floor and balconies, wall lamps were fastened on the balcony, lighting booth was moved into “ the space of the present gallery, which will be separated by a partition14 and a projection room was inserted into the so released cabin. They also mention decoration, painting and acoustics works. The original assumed year long deadline for implementation turned out to be insufficient in the end; operation of the hall was renewed not until April of 1966 due to enduring shortcomings.

An application for permission for  reconstruction of interiors, cinema cafe and foyer, comes from the 1979. An extensive reconstruction of the roof was carried out between 1984 and 1985 during which the building was covered by   asphalt roofing. The Ostrov Municipal National Committee had the space of the former Sazka and ballet hall be adapted into a club. The entrance staircase was reconstructed and the roof was repaired in the 1990s. In 1998, it was necessary to protect the building from leaking. An array of  rooms of the culture house had acquired new, commercial utilization after 1989 – for instance cellar rooms served as a gaming club henceforth, a betting shop came into existence in the ground floor or the hitherto cloakroom became a vending booth for confectionery and petty staff.

Other major building interferences were carried out in 1990. A tube for fresh air supply was installed into the projection cabin and cinema cafe.

The culture house underwent the last major reconstruction in 2003 according to the design by Anton Jurica.  Linoleum was removed from the hall, the stage was rearranged due to installation of new upholstered seats. “ The floor in the stage and auditorium area was furnished by new carpet of BATTA mark in grey colour.”16    Roofing of the auditorium levelled the height disparity between the forestage and stage and the floor of the projection cabin was heightened. The existing plaster and cladding were repaired, new paint was applied. Staircase levels were given new safety lightning. The project did not neglect disabled or invalid visitors, for whom two places were created in the auditorium.

The atelier Jurica a.s Ostrov submitted the design for reconstruction of the balcony in 2008. It was considered to dismantle and remove inconvenient wooden seats, to tear down existing wooden constructions of the floor including linoleum surface, to execute a new floor pattern in the location of side access ramps, to remove the wooden facing of the wall base and the balcony banister. Removed parts should have been replaced by new components – wooden rows of seats, carpeting, upholstered seats, renewed facing of the wall base and balcony banister. Designed modifications resumed on the reconstruction of the hall ground floor having been executed in the previous years. As it is apparent from the present appearance of the balcony, the planned reconstruction of the first floor part has not been carried out in the end.

Present state

The building is of T shaped plan; the wide front wing is extended by the theatre wing, laid perpendicularly and topped by a massive fly tower. The main volumes were complemented by shorter wings, attached on the sides to the ending of the theatre part, and another two abutting perpendicularly to edges of the front elevation. The original appearance, articulation and decoration of the building has remained preserved for a major part up to the present days.  The main elevation is dominated by three bays, a central and two corner ones, with a massive stepped gable-end. The ground floor is articulated by entrances (a protruding staircase amplifies the centrally located entrance), the storey part is broken by deep balcony niches – column loggia. Balcony lintels bear smooth unarticulated columns culminating in artfully formed and geometrizing vegetable capitals.

The surface between bays in the level of the first and second floor is rhythmically articulated by window bays, alternating with pilasters with stylized, foliage capitals. A smooth undecorated attic looms of the crowning cornice. The ground floor part of the entire front elevation is covered with banded rustication. Reliefs and sculptures complement the rich articulation of architectural elements in the front facade.  The selected motifs should convey the purpose of the building in a form of a simple symbol, respectively indicate the promoter of construction or emphasize characteristic features of the surrounding region. Thus on the   balcony parapet,  we can find a panel with a relief of a palette (art), thermal spring (health resort), miners gear (mining), ceramic (porcelain industry), spinning wheel (textile industry), representation of a lyre, book and two actors masks in the front side of the first level of the gables. The tops of side gables are occupied by sculptures of the Ostrov city crest , the central one is topped by a sculpture group of a harvester, miner and student.

The figural relief was created by sculptor and detainee Jaroslav Šlesinger.

Articulation and decoration of the side and rear facade is more modest. Krauz applied the same formal expression on its layout as he did on the front elevation. There appears again banded rustication in the ground floor, pilasters in the first with capitals, either flat or protruded, from intensely stylized plants and a high parapet above the crowning cornice. A new element was used below the windows – a parapet with a motif of  flutes.

Spectators enter into the culture house through the main entrance doors. A spacious hall is opened up behind a small vestibule that is dominated by staircases lying against each other interconnecting the ground floor with the basement and rooms in the first floor. The operator set up spacious cloak rooms in front of the left staircase banister with a decorative forged grid. On the east side, the vestibule ends by a large figural wall  painting with a motif of a May dance. The doors on both the sides lead into a switch room on the left and into a projection cabin on the right. The theatre hall is entered through a door on the edges of the vector wall of the hall. The hall has a capacity of circa 460 spectators.

The interior of the hall has been keeping the appearance from the half of the 1950s. The space gives the impression of austere, even perhaps coldly calculated representativeness and clear purposefulness. The words of Lubomír  Zemana, used originally for  characteristics of the House of Culture as a whole, encompass the atmosphere of the hall as well: “ The architectural,  artistic and craftsmanship style […] fully gives a true picture of its period- it is heavy architecture, respectable and infinitely self-asserting. However, there is perceptible

the sense for architectural and  art detail, the sense for refined material  and  craft.16  Behind the entrance doors, three staircase levels on both the sides of the hall are adjoined to access ramps that secure the access to the individual rows in the auditorium. Aisles slope down towards the stage in a moderate gradient, where they turn into a low, rectangularly coiled staircase to the forestage. The steps are partially covered by low prismatic pillars with the front side broken by a ventilation grid that is decoratively forged. The rim of the stage imitates the moderate arch of the auditorium. The acting area is composed of the already mentioned forestage and stage; the transition between them is visually separated by a massive rectangular proscenium arch with edges that are softened by a recessed moulding. The architect inserted side emergency exists in the level of front seats.

Krauz  inserted a balcony with projecting side galleries in the entire width of the hall above the rear seats and projection cabin. The access  leads on counter staircases from the ground floor of the hall through a small foyer in the first floor to a couple of side entrances. The appearance and layout of the first floor, the spectator´s part corresponds to the layout of the ground floor to a certain extent – here as well one enters into a square space behind the doors, one ascends through a short staircase and then one descends through one of two communication aisles. The location of a cabin with technical equipment between entrance doors coincides as well.

The architect constructed a balcony with adjacent galleries on a segmental plan; he concurrently solved the side adjoined ramps in an interesting manner. A gallery with a gradually lowered floor, narrowing by symmetrical segments, opens itself in front of a spectator from the view from the rear rows of seats towards the stage. Generally four equally large fields – boxes - were thus delimited. Spectators perceive the side balconies from the stalls differently. Here the division into individual boxes seems to be much more distinct. It is   availed how boxes decline downwards even in their soffits, thereby the individual steps clearly and exactly delineate the given flat. Concurrently the narrowing band of balconies is accentuated by parapets connected to each other in a receding cadence. The height and width graduation provides a dynamic element and pleasant “undulatory” movement to the interior.

Austere decoration of the hall is confined in essence to its architectural articulation. The walls are segmented by pilasters with fluted shafts and capitals with a tapered mirror, that is rectangular and set in the centre, with an ending in a subtle astragal ornament. The spans between them are filled with vertical fields covered by heavy dark covering, shaped into delicate curves in the borders. They come to panelled  plinth similarly as the pilasters. The abacus of the capitals carries an entablature, which flat is covered by alternating motifs of triglyphs and rosette targets. We can find a strip, that is similarly executed, just right under the ceiling. Below it, a smooth, unornamented strip, broken only by shallow pilaster strips,  runs along  the location precisely connected onto pilasters, that are set below.

Great attention was paid to decoration and articulation of the ceiling. Three oblong fields, lined up lengthwise, are flanked from the sides by small square boards  covered with ventilation grids, that are decoratively forged,  in frames made from stylized plants with a stalk and leafs, mutually interconnected by petal capitals. The perimeter of the ceiling, except for the rear side, is delimited by a festoon moulding. A double-row chandelier hangs from the central part that is the most large one. The lighting in the hall is secured by lights of a discoidal shape that are inserted into recessed mirrors in the soffits of the side balconies and little lanterns fixed above the side balcony arms  in the fields between the pilasters.

Decoration is dominated by a relief, that is spread in  the width and inserted above the lintel of the proscenium arch; a lyre, surrounded by laurel branches, is complemented by two theatrical masks (Comedy and Tragedy), with  stolons with linden leafs.

The House of Culture of the Ostrov City is listed together with the square in front of it in the list of the culture monuments since 12th May of 1998.

Notes:

1   Lubomír Zeman, Nový Ostrov: Soubor tradicionalismu 50. let 20. století, Ostrov 1998, p. 8.

2   Ibidem, p. 12.

3   Městský úřad Ostrov, odbor výstavby, dopis z 25. 6. 1956, adresát Ministerstvo státní kontroly Praha, odesílatel Jaromír Berger, ředitel Kulturního domu v Ostrově.

4   Lubomír Zeman, Architektura socialistického realismu v severozápadních Čechách, Ostrava 2008, p. 143.

5   See note  3.

6   J. Stašek – J. Suske, Kulturní dům v Ostrově: J. Krauz a kolektiv vedený J. Sedláčkem, Architektura ČSR XV, č. 3, květen 1956, s. 133.

7   Ibidem, p. 133.

8   Ibidem, p. 134.

9   Městský úřad Ostrov, odbor výstavby, zápis sepsaný 26. 4. 1955 v novostavbě kulturního domu na sídlišti JD Ostrov, okr. K.Vary, s. 2.

10 Ibidem, p. 2.

11 Městský úřad Ostrov, odbor výstavby, zápis sepsaný 9. 12. 1964 v Domě kultury v Ostrově nad Ohří.

12 Městský úřad Ostrov, odbor výstavby, Odvolání proti zamítnutí vydání stavebního povolení pro adaptaci kina v domě kultury v Ostrově nad Ohří, 6. 11. 1964, adresát Městský národní výbor, komise výstavby Ostrov nad Ohří, odesílatel Závody V. I. Lenina Plzeň, Závod Ostrov – Investiční výstavba.

13 Městský úřad Ostrov, odbor výstavby, zápis z výrobního výboru konaného 11. 1. 1965 v Domě kultury v Ostrově.

14  See note  11.

15 Městský úřad Ostrov, odbor výstavby, P. Pecher, Technická zpráva: Stavební úpravy kinosálu Domu kultury Mírové náměstí č. p. 733, Ostrov, 04/2003, p. 3.

16 Lubomír Zeman, Interiér, in: Dům kultury Ostrov – Das Kulturhaus in Ostrov – The Culture Centre in Ostrov, Ostrov s. d., p. 8.

Sources and literature:

– Městský úřad Ostrov, archiv odboru výstavby, spis domu č. 733 (Dům kultury)

Dům kultury Ostrov – Das Kulturhaus in Ostrov – The Culture Centre in Ostrov, Ostrov s. d.

– J. Stašek – J. Suske, Kulturní dům v Ostrově: J.Krauz a kolektiv vedený J. Sedláčkem, Architektura ČSR XV, 1956, č. 3, s. 133–135

– Lubomír Zeman, Nový Ostrov: Soubor tradicionalismu 50. let 20. století, Ostrov 1998

– Lubomír Zeman, Architektura socialistického realismu v severozápadních Čechách, Ostrava 2008, s. 17–62

 

Tags: Communist Czechoslovakia, Culture house, multipurpose facility, Socialist realism

 

Author: Kateřina Kohoutkova - Gabrhelíková

Translator: Jan Purkert

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