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Municipal House of Culture Sokolov

Rudolf Wels

alias Miner's House, Braunhaus
history of the theatresupplementtechnical dataHistoric equipment

Important events

(detail)1922 | public competition

Ministry of Public Works announced a public competition for the design of  the Miner's House. Architects Rudolf Wels, Gustav Fritsch and  Ernst Wuhrmann  advanced into the second stage of the competition. Wels’ design won the competition.  


(detail)4.10.1925 | opening

The construction works commenced on 8th October 1923 and the house was finished two years later. The ceremonial opening took place on 4th October 1925.


(detail)60. 's 20. century | General reconstruction

General reconstruction, taking place between 1968-1970, had an absolutely essential significance for the appearance and general arrangement. Executed modifications were penetrative, insensitive and irreversible in many instances. The resulting appearance of the building was very different from the expression from 1925. “Miner’s House was reopened with a  great celebration on the day of miners on 9th September 1970.“


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

Partial interior modifications were carried out in the second half of the 1980s and in the beginning of the 1990s as well in connexion with a rental of selected rooms and areas to private subjects. In 1998, Sokolov city initiated a reconstruction of hitherto cinema Svět into a theatre, respectively a multifunctional hall.


(detail)1998 | Opening

Theatre was opened in November 1998. It emerged by adaptation of cinema hall in Miner's culture house according the design by Miroslav Melena.


(detail)00. 's 21. century | reconstruction

The structure underwent  reconstruction in 2005 and 2007. The main goal was to restore the  appearance from the period of  the City house of culture formation,  naturally with regard to the present usage and existing requirements and standards.


People

(detail)Rudolf Wels |main architect

Architect Rudolf Wels was one of the most remarkable personality of the interwar architecture in Czechoslovakia. He studied at the Viennese Academy by Friedrich Ohman. He attended there courses by Adolf Loose, whose influence on his future work in Vienna is very considerable. Rudolf Wels worked in Karlovy Vary from the 1920s. He reconstructed and built new structures for the famous glassworks factory Moser in 1921-1922. He also designed several sets of vases with art decor. These were successful on The International Exposition of Modern Industrial and Decorative Art that was taking place in Paris in 1925.

He designed Municipal House of Culture in 1923-1925 in Sokolov, where he built two school buildings as well in the next year – the German municipal school and Czech school. His most highly regarded works contain the building of the insurance company (presently health centre) on the Milada Horáková Square, spa house Bellevue and the building of Spa N. VI in Carlsbad. Rudolf Wels moved to Prague in the 1930s, where he founded an atelier with Guido Lagus. Wels was detained in Terezín in 1942 and next year sent to the concentration camp Auschwitz, where he was murdered.

Text: Michael Rund. In: Archiweb

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(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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Johann Hammer |architect
Gustav Fritsch |architect
Ernst Wuhrmann |architect
Egon Adler |painter

History

So called Hornický dům (Miner's House) is indubitably one of the most important buildings of Sokolov city. It stands in 5. Května Street and faces Náměstí budovatelů by its front facade. It belongs among  prominent architectural realizations from the First Republic period and being such, it is recorded in the culture monument list. It has been carrying  the name Městský dům kultury Sokolov (City House of Culture Sokolov) since 1992.

The history of Miner's House commenced in 1922. In that year, the Ministry of Public Works announced a public competition for the design of associational Miner's House, which, according to the criterions of mine district council, should have been composed of halls for the associational activity, offices, restaurants and flats. In the very own words of mine district councillor H. Grundl : “The expense should have been maximally 2.5 million Crowns. The house should have contained a hall with a gallery for 400 people, cinema for 400 people, restaurant and cafe, 12 flats (kitchen and room with pantry), WC for each 2 flats, 10 offices and cellars for fuel.“1

Architect Rudolf Wels from Karlovy Vary and architects Fritsch and  Ernst Wuhrmann from firm  Laubenbau Prague advanced into the second stage of the competition. Wels’ design proved to be more convenient in the end. On beneficiary request, the designer executed small adjustments and changes in the design as for instance a modification of the width of front facade, cinema and spa entrance and alternated the spa area etc.

The construction works commenced on 8th October of 1923 and the house was finished two years later. The ceremonial opening took place  on 4th October of 1925.

Wells created a monumental, self standing building, erected on “U” ground plan. The main front wing was adjacent to shorter, transversely sited  side parts. They were completed by rectangular, perpendicularly set wings, which protruded before the building volume in the breadth of two window bays. The architect left the inner block unoccupied, an economic yard came into existence here.

The front facade was accentuated by a gradually elevating staircase and balcony, carried by six massive columns. The front facade equally as corners of lateral wings was accentuated by monumental rectangular frames with bevelled profile. Designer used the motive of framing on the remaining surfaces as well. Independent windows were moulded in the form of chambranle, eventually window openings were merged into grouping in two, respectively six. Variable size and irregular position of windows impart a live, dynamic expression to the building. This impact is even enhanced by the last differently completed storey, flanked by a crown cornice and band of connected window sills. We can find the most eminent decorative element on the front facade. Sculptor Wilhelm Srb-Schlossbauer with cooperation of Willim Russ created an extensive embossed frieze One day of miner’s life. The authors presented everyday operation and activity of a miner on a lengthwise strip: Saying goodbye to the family, The way to work, Being issued with tools and lowering, bipartite Works in the mines, Raising and returning tools, The way home, and Home again (after daylong exertion). The relief was considered to be a work of Otto Gutfreund up to 1985 because of its high qualities.

Miner’s House was intended to be a multifunctional facility with a whole range of functions and possible utilization since the beginning. Apart cultural and social actions, which were occurring in the basement cinema or in the grand social hall in the storey, the visitors could improve their health in a tub or vapour bath, utilize a restaurant of cafe for refreshment, eventually visit a library with a reading room. “There were four flats in the level of the first floor […]. Another four flats were in the second floor[…]. Eight flats were located in the third floor ( above the library and offices).  Small rooms for occasional accommodation of staff were located in the attic in each wing.“2

The object underwent first larger modification in 1938. After the Sudetenland had been incorporated into Germany, Miner’s House began to be labelled as Braunhaus ( The brown house);   regional government of NSDAP established its seat in the building left wing, the original flats were adapted into offices. The building came under the competence of Hnědouhelné  doly a briketárny, národní podnik Sokolov ( Lignite mines and briquetting plant, national enterprise Sokolov). Only minor adjustments and adaptations were being realized in this period. General reconstruction, taking place between 1968-1970, had an absolutely essential significance for the appearance and general arrangement. Executed modifications were penetrative, insensitive and irreversible in many instances. The resulting appearance of the building was very different from the expression from 1925 – original reddish brown shade of outer facades was replaced by white Vračan marble in front wing, lime granite in pedestal segment, grey scratch plastering at other building walls (“ another colour was used allegedly because of the manufacturer of Šumavská vápenice – National enterprise Sušice did not have  convenient colour ingredient and thus GP decided to use colouring available on the market.“ 3).

A window band, opening above the embossed frieze on the main facade, was walled up, existing windows were replaced by new ones with different appearance, size and illogical structuring. “Original architectural elements were reduced and profiles of distinct architectural framing of entrance part of the building were destroyed, torn down. Thereby the original general expression lost its lightness and architectural refinement.4 The foyer in front of the grand hall was modified, vestibule columns were torn down, cloakrooms came into existence instead of them. Abolished flats served after adjustment as offices or rehearsal rooms, puppet scene was made out of former baths. Inner yard was altered into a winter garden by roofing, the builder removed original staircase in the  rear wing leading into restaurant and cafe equally as adjacent terraces. “Miner’s House was reopened with a  great celebration on the day of miners on 9th September 1970.“5

Partial interior modifications were taking place in the second half of the 1980s and in the beginning of the 1990s as well in connexion with a rental of selected rooms and areas to private subjects. Exchange of roofing material falls into the mentioned period. Adjustments and modifications of inner spaces culminated in 1998, when Sokolov city initiated a reconstruction of hitherto cinema Svět into a theatre, respectively a multifunctional hall.

 General overhaul of heating system was carried out after 2000. The structure underwent so far latest large building intervention in 2005 and 2007. Within the two stage revitalization, the beneficiary made the building facade be restored, new windows be inserted and entrance and hall part be adjusted. The main goal was to restore the  appearance from the period of  the City house of culture formation,  naturally with regard to the present usage and existing requirements and standards.

Wels designed cinematographic room for entertainment and culture utilization in Miner’s house. He put it into the basement of the front wing. According to the initial designs from 1923,   visitors should have entered from yard into the ground floor through a wide staircase. The final cinema appearance was, however, different in the end – architect relocated the main entrance into Odboje Street. Johann Hammer designed a modification, respectively enlargement of a projection room and female social facilities in 1930. Xylolite floor was restored in the cinema auditorium in 1944. We can note another building works in 1968 in relation with hall adaptation for  wide-screen projection.

The reconstruction in 1998 impacted most significantly the appearance and original arrangement of the space. One was talking about the new utilization of the cinema hall since the half of the 1990s. Beneficiaries (City authority Sokolov and City house of culture) let the study be worked out, thereafter a competition for engineering activity, a competition for project processing and competition for building contractor. The actual adaptation works were initiated in March 1998, they were finished in October of the same year. The ceremonial opening of the innovated theatre hall took place on 13th November of 1998.

Miroslav Melena and firm Gradior Brno cooperated on the reconstruction design and new stage appearance. Melena followed up with his previous rich experiences with theatre space arrangements, acquired for instance during the reconstruction of Archa Theatre (1993), na Fidlovačce Theatre (1998), during participation on the reconstruction of  Horácké Theatre in Jihlava (1992) or during general adaptation of drama scene of Brno City Theatre  (1995). Adaptation of the last mentioned institution could be considered as a certain prototype or a source of inspiration for the innovated Sokolov hall – both the spaces are almost identical by their  arrangement, appearance and even by their equipment as well.

Miner’s House  exterior has been only minimally affected by the executed construction works. Much more extensive and more demanding were the interior adaptations; the reconstruction affected  the actual theatre hall, technical and operational background and access area for spectators as well. Instead of original entrance from Budovatelů Street, which still serves as a staff entrance, the architect created a new foyer from the former puppet theatre in the right part of Miner’s House. The spectators descend from here into the basement- the theatre hall- through two opposite staircase flights.

Melena let the auditorium elevation be heighten and the floor of stage area be lowered here. Two semicircular  balconies came into existence on the sides of the hall. Projection room was transposed as well, two rooms for physically handicapped spectators were created. The space has acquired a new wooden panelling, furniture and corresponding technical equipment as well.

With executed construction adaptations, the amount of auditorium seats increased from original 348 to   present 352 (the number can be mounted by more 50 standing spectators).

The adapted space has been successfully created to be a theatre hall of city type, to which criterions only the absence of classical fly loft and orchestra pit does not correspond.

One enters into the area related with the theatre hall through the main entrance door of Miner’s House. We can find cloakrooms, communal for entire building, in the ground floor on the left. Oblong room is furnished comparatively scantily – by bar, tables and club stools. The space serves as a exhibition hall as well.

The spectators leave the ground floor foyer by one of the couple of opposite staircases and enter into the basement multifunctional hall. Technical booth with lighting and sound equipment was inserted between side entrances into the auditorium. Lateral staircases make accessible the individual auditorium rows in a slight inclination. First line of seats almost touches the front edge of the stage podium. The stage area ground plan imitates arched bending of the auditorium, triangle sectors jut  out of it on sides circa to the fourth row level. Semicircular balconies, which complete shallow niches in the ground floor, are mounted above them in the first floor.

Balconies as well as to them leading passages are delimitated by banister from horizontally laid wooden “rods” inserted into metal struts. Lateral communication flights provide an access into the stage background, ergo to the dressing rooms, social facilities, cleaning room and office. Passages serve as a free spectators area, fit with mobile stools, in the course of theatre productions.

Basement theatre location precluded the creation of classical fly loft, “ in the essence, even this issue is solved […], because there is a possibility of hanging the scenographic  elements into “fly loft” (only a possibility of lifting these elements into the open space above the auditorium). By us designed utilization mode of this equipment proceeds from the experience with an array of realized building and multifunctional spaces and it creates an original solution for the given location.“6  

Massive wooden ceiling corresponding to the auditorium dimension by its shape and size dominates the entire theatre hall. It consists of rectangular boards, combined into larger panels, with imbedded  tiny spotlights, sorted out into vertical rods.

The entire hall leaves an integral and compact impact. It is given by prevailing material usage- timber. Apart of already mentioned banister and ceiling, the architect used it to side walls panelling. Lengthwise laid boards are mutually separated by red lines revitalizing the space. Podium, floor and stools are wooden as well. Supporting seats parts is broken by six  minor squares, actual seat parts and soften by bright stuffing.

Miner’s House was awarded by golden medal on the exhibition for social care in Brussels in 1925.

Notes:

1   Michael Rund, Po stopách Rudolfa Welse: Život a dílo žáka a spolupracovníka Adolfa Loose, Sokolov s. d. [2006], s. 34.

2   Helena Kavková, Z historie sokolovského Hornického domu, http://www.mdksokolov.cz/historie_objektu.htm (searched on 18. 6. 2010)

3   Městský úřad Sokolov, Odbor stavební a územního plánování, Souhrnná technická zpráva, Revitalizace MDK-1.etapa, Původní stav objektu, 01/2005, s. 6–7.

4   Městský úřad Sokolov, Odbor stavební a územního plánování, Ing.arch. Jiří Opl – Ing.arch. Jan Soukup, Koncept revitalizace. Stavební řešení – textová část, 7/2006.

5   Kavková (pozn. 2).

6   Městský úřad Sokolov, Odbor stavební a územního plánování, Miroslav Melena, Technická zpráva. Divadelní a víceúčelový prostor v kulturním domě „Horník“ v Sokolově, listopad 1997, nestr.

Sources and literature:

– Městský úřad Sokolov, archiv odboru stavebního a územního plánování, spis domu č. 655 (Hornický dům – Městský dům kultury)

– Helena Kavková, Z historie sokolovského Hornického domu, http://www.mdksokolov.cz/historie_objektu.htm (vyhledáno 18. 6. 2010)

– Jan Rund, Stavby architekta inž. Rudolfa Welse v našem městě, in: Romana Beranová Vaicová a kol., Kniha o městě Sokolov, Sokolov 2005, s. 88–99

– Michael Rund, Po stopách Rudolfa Welse: Život a dílo žáka a spolupracovníka Adolfa Loose, Sokolov s. d. [2006]

 

Tags: Culture house, Interwar period

 

Author: Kateřina Kohoutkova - Gabrhelíková

Translator: Jan Purkert

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