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House of Culture and Trade Unions (DKO)

Vladimír Machonin, Věra Machoninová

alias Regional House of Trade Unions, Culture House of the Revolutionary Trade Union Movement
history of the theatresupplementtechnical dataHistoric equipment

Important events

(detail)1955 | architectural competition

The competition for a design of the Regional Culture House in Jihlava took place at the end of 1955, won by Věra and Vladimír Machonin’s, preliminary and technical design was submitted in 1956 and operational design then in 1957.


(detail)30. 12. 1961 | opening

The house of culture was ceremonially opened in 1961. The structure and its main room have been operating up to the present days only with minimal modifications.


(detail)1994 | reconstruction

Both the wings were raised by one storey with an extension according to the design by the author of the original building Věra Machoninová in 1994.


People

(detail)Věra Machoninová |main architect
She worked for a State project institute and together with her husband founded their own architectonic atelier Alfa in 1967. In 1974 they orchestrated the department store Kotva according to their design. Their collective work was forbidden in the time of normalization and thus Věra Machoninová herself became an author of a project “the House of Dwelling Culture”(a department store of furniture in Prague 4), which was finished in 1977. She was wining in public architectural -urbanist competitions for the construction of a central square of the town of Štětí (1996) and the city center of Jablonec nad Nisou. (1999)More theatres

Miloslav Mašek |architect
M. Nováková |sculptor

History

Apart of economic objectives, one of the important assignments of the first and even second Five-Year Plan of the planned socialist economy in Czechoslovakia in the 1950s was to procure full “ cultural life to the broadest possible masses of the society “.  This aim was to be achieved by construction of culture houses, which represented a new building type in Czechoslovakia that was imported from the USSR, where the idea of community centres was born in original labourers’ clubs. According to the words of the  trade press of that time, such a building should have provided spatial conditions for all the branches of cultural and social life in one architectural unit. Thus buildings were coming into existence that were oversized and located on the edge of historical city centres and sometimes even in their centres at the expense of their existing old buildings. The main ambition of these new cultural devices was the centralization of the existing cultural life of an entire region with a goal of gaining maximal control over the community life, often at the expense of the existing traditional cultural centres. It was not different in Jihlava of that time, where the municipal representatives of that time condemned for instance the Horácké Theatre to a gradual demise. Similarly as in the majority of cities, the construction  of a monumental culture  house was decided here as well by the Central Council of Trade Union, which was concentrated on organization of social and recreational activities and  management of buildings serving to it.

An architectural competition for a design of the Regional House of Trade Unions in Jihlava took place in 1955 in a period of a turning point of styles, which was demonstrated in architecture as a diversion from hitherto Socialist Realism that had been officially promoted. For architects, that meant first timid attempts for a follow-up on contemporaneous architectural events beyond the western border and a return to the architectural tradition of pre-war Czechoslovakia. That was manifested in the submitted designs of the mentioned competition as well. Architects Věra Machoninová and Vladimír Machonin gave preference to a loosened ground plan over a constricted, classical one in their implemented design so it suit better the existing town structure. Thus a semi-closed space came into existence evoking almost a feeling of city cosiness and intimacy. On the other hand, classically compact or even puristic appearance was induced by the front elevation, which resumed the monumentality of the pre-war Czech modern and was not disintegrated by archaic and historicising details, which were required in this period.

A sop to the regime was only window mouldings in the first floor, parapet of the entrance portico and dormer-windows of a saddle roof, which appeared only within study sketches. A fully specific solution was insertion of a theatre and musical hall that were the main and indispensable rooms of all the emerging culture houses of that time into an uncommon position of one above the other. This layout brought about a lot of  constructional requirements aimed especially to insulation of both the halls, at the same time it enabled integration of their entrance vestibules into  continuous vertical space, which is mirrored by the high entrance portico and glass facade that is covered by it. The portico and main spatial volume of the building were located in the close vicinity of an important city communication and enabled visitors to naturally distinguish the most important and representative sections of the building. Although the building exterior still makes reference to the period of its emergence to some extent, the building interior is dominated by playfulness of the Brussels style, which was used by architects in their own designs of furniture, lights and interior accessories. At the same time, they attempted to induce the atmosphere of traditional historical interiors of similar importance by means of facing and ceiling layout of both the halls.

The authors, Věra and Vladimír Machonin’s, who later became a distinct couple of the Czech architectural stage especially in the 1960s and 1970s, also designed other important buildings as for instance the spa hotel Thermal in Karlovy Vary, shopping mall Kotva or building of the Czech embassy in Berlin. In the time of the competition in Jihlava, they belonged to the young incoming generation of architects and the construction of the house of culture in Jihlava was their first significant implementation.

The competition for a design of the Regional Culture House in Jihlava took place at the end of 1955, preliminary and technical design was submitted in 1956 and operational design then in 1957. The house of culture was ceremonially opened in 1961. The Jihlava Region was abolished in 1960 and the constructed building was given the new name Cultural  House of the Revolutionary Trade Unions in Jihlava. In the present days, the  building tenant is the company DKO Ltd., which name was translated into the present name of the cultural centre.

The structure and its main room have been operating up to the present days only with minimal modifications. The part of the building serving originally to club rooms and offices of ROH is rented for a major part today. Both the wings were raised by one storey with an extension according to the design by the author of the original building Věra Machoninová in 1994.

Present state

The layout of the building could be divided into three parts, to which three oblong wings correspond in the ground plan. The main and representative section of the building is the west wing with the musical and theatre halls adjacent to a frequented   road. In its south-east corner, it is adjoined perpendicularly by the central wing, originally divided into small club rooms and halls. To them on the north, the east wing is adjacent in an obtuse angle that used to be an administrative wing for the Revolutionary Trade Unions Movement. The dominant section of the culture house building with the musical and theatre hall has the elevation oriented towards west into a semi-closed area between the other two building wings. The most important part of the building is naturally emphasized by a massive portico that is carried by low columns with marble cladding. The authors inserted two large bright vestibules serving to the adjacent halls one above the other in the interior side of the portico.  

The lower vestibule serves as a main entrance area for the theatre hall. A three-flight staircase in its middle, which follows the rounded plan of the theatre auditorium by its shape, enables an access to semi-closed foyers in the lowest level of the theatre stalls and balcony.

The architects inserted other two staircases that  lead  from the ground floor into the first floor to the musical hall, closer to the entrance section of the lower vestibule and assigned a special area to it within an oblong service wing that serves both the vestibules at once. The vestibule in the first floor is two-level, the entrance to the actual hall is stressed by another staircase in the middle of its layout. The auditorium of the lower theatre hall has a horse-shoe shape in its layout on a steep gradient. The only balcony, reaching approximately to the third of the auditorium plan by its extent,  has an impressively undulating plan, highlighted by a parapet of brown colour, which sharply contrasts with original beige seats. A chandelier, which concept  evokes a shape of an oval stucco mirror, is inserted in the middle of the ceiling apart of spot lights. The musical hall has an oblong plan with a stage, which is tightly adjacent to the fly loft of the lower theatre hall in its layout. The interior is faced by panels from pear wood, the ceiling imitating a coffered ceiling, carries oval lights from milk glass.

A small theatre hall, originally a puppet theatre, and an oblong ballet hall are a component of the central wing that is adjacent to the west wing.

The Machonins cooperated on the realization of interior with architect Miloslav Mašek and several other artists. František Jiroudek is an author of a suspended painting in the vestibule of the musical hall, Arnošt Paderlík designed among other the appearance of the stained glass lighting the vestibules of the halls from the south side. The interior decoration was further made by J. Simota, František Burant, M. Nováková, K. Lapka, M. Zábranská and M.Fencl.

Literature:

–  Julius Šif, O některých problémech naší architektury a soutěží na kulturní domy, Architektura ČSR XV, 1956, s. 467, 469, 470, 474, 475, 477

–  Vladimír Langr, K výstavbě kulturních zařízení ve druhé pětiletce, Architektura ČSR XV, 1956, s. 480, 481, 482, 491

–  Miloslav Cajthaml, Kulturní dům ROH v Jihlavě, Architektura ČSSR XXII, 1963, s. 149–155

–  Jiří Hilmera, Česká divadelní architektura, Praha 1999, s. 143–144

–  Radek Blecha, Historie domu kultury, in DKO s. r. o. Jihlava 1961–2001, Jihlava 2001, s. 2–6

–  Lukáš Beran, Architekt Vladimír Machonin, Umění LII, 2004, s. 271–277

–  Jiří Varhaník, Budova DKO má padesátku. Architekti si jí cení, Jihlavské listy 10. 12. 2011, on-line: http://www.jihlavske-listy.cz/clanek9855-budova-dko-ma-padesatku-architekti-si-ji-ceni.html

 

Tags: Brussels style, Communist Czechoslovakia, Culture house, Socialist realism

 

Author: Ludmila Hůrková

Translator: Jan Purkert

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