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Design Competition for the Haná Theatre in Olomouc in the years 1921-1922

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(detail)1922 | Tendering of design competition

There was announced competition for a theatre design in 1920, deadline for submitting designs was established for the 1st of May 1921. 

Second extended deadline for submitting designs was established for the 1st of May 1922.

First prize was bestowed on Pavel Janák. The second on Antonín Kilián and the third on collective wok of Vilém Kvasnička, Jan Mayer and Čeněk Vořechan. Further awarded were for instance the projects by Josef Hraba, or by Jan Vodňaruk.


(detail)Jiří Kroha |architect

Had studied architecture, but in course of his career he contributed also to painting, plastic art, design and scenography. He became significant talent influenced by Cubistic impulse in 1920´s, later by Functionalism, albeit he stressed plasticity, colourfulness and  multitude of details. After WW2 he became a prominent figure of the new regime, propagating  Socialist realism and in 1960´s turned back to interwar avant-garde, while fighting  communist style of panel building.


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(detail)Otakar Novotný |architect

An architect and writer, student of Jan Kotěra, later his co-worker. Dutch  architect  Henryk Berlage   influenced him in his early period. Later he deployed the ideas of Modernism, Cubism and Functionalism in his work. He wrote a book, called Jan Kotěra and his epoch.

Vlček, Pavel a kol. : Encyklopedie architektů, stavitelů, zedníků a kameníků v Čechách, str. 455, Praha 2004.

Source: Archiweb

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(detail)Jaroslav Kovář st. |architect

Czech architect. His work was inspired by several architectonic styles. He passed through Baroque revival architecture in the beginning of the 20th century to Art Noveau and Cubism and finally Monumentalism. Most of his projects were realized in Olomouc.


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(detail)Jaroslav Fragner |architect

Czech architect, painter and designer. He was a proponent of Cubism and Functionalism. He is known thanks to his work on restoration and renovation of Czech historical monuments as is Prague Castle, Bethelem chapel and  Karolinum.

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(detail)Evžen Linhart |architect

He was a Czech architect and furniture designer, representative of Functionalism and Purism. One of the members of the so called Puristic four. His work proceeded from Purism and Czech modernism as a counterbalance againts widely used Ornamentalism. Later as influenced by the work of Le Cobursier, he became a representative of Functionalism.

Source: Archiweb

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(detail)Pavel Janák |architect - participant of the competition

Czech architect, designer and theoretician. He cooperated with Jan Kotěra (realization of exhibition hall on Jubilee exhibition in 1908). After First World War he turned to new artistic styles, which came out from ideas about national form of architecture, later he inclined to Functionalism and engaged in urbanism.

In: Adéla Anna Vavrečková: Živé příběhy. Divadelní budovy v Olomouci a v Moravské Ostravě. Brno2007. Diplomová práce. Note 67.

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(detail)Antonín Kilián |architect - participant of the competition

Architect and builder in Smíchov, Prague, known for his participation in severe public tenders in 1910´s and 20´s.  

Source: Vlček, Pavel a kol. : Encyklopedie architektů, stavitelů, zedníků a kameníků v Čechách, str. 308, Praha 2004.

(detail)Vilém Kvasnička |architect - participant of the competition

A Czech architect, disciple of Jan Kotěra . He designed several residential buildings and monuments in Prague.
In:  Vlček, Pavel a kol.: Encyklopedie architektů, stavitelů, zedníků a kameníků v Čechách, p. 355, Praha 2004.

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(detail)Jan Mayer |architect - participant of the competition

Disciple of Jan Kotěra . Participant of several architectonic contests and builder of many residential buildings in Prague.


Vlček, Pavel a kol. : Encyklopedie architektů, stavitelů, zedníků a kameníků v Čechách, str. 415 , Praha 2004.

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Čeněk Vořech |architect - participant of the competition
(detail)Josef Hraba |architect - participant of the competition

Participated in several architectonic contests e.g for the new czech theatre in Prague , or theatre in Olomouc, but probably most important work was Tyl Theater in Kutná Hora, which was realized.

Zdroj : Vlček, Pavel a kol. : Encyklopedie architektů, stavitelů, zedníků a kameníků v Čechách, str. 249, Praha 2004.

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(detail)Jan Vodňaruk |architect - participant of the competition

Builder witth lot of realizations in Vinohrady , Prague. Participating in many architectural contests , he usualy obtained one of the next prizes after the 1th one.

Source:  Vlček, Pavel a kol. : Encyklopedie architektů, stavitelů, zedníků a kameníků v Čechách, str. 32, Praha 2004.

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(detail)Karel Šidlík |architect - participant of the competition

An author of an array of competing designs, he was awarded in the competition for a design of National Theatre in Brno (with Josef Mařák).

In: Adéla Anna Vavrečková: Živé příběhy. Divadelní budovy v Olomouci a v Moravské Ostravě. Brno 2007. Diplomová práce. P. 40

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(detail)Antonín Engel |jury member

He became well known due to the monumental building of waterworks in Prague or town planning design of Vítězné náměstí in Prague.  

In: WikipediaMore theatres

(detail)Vladimír Fischer |jury member

Czech architect, a professor on the Czech Technical University in Brno.

In: Wikipedia

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František Votruba |jury member
(detail)Gustav Schmoranz |jury member

Czech architect, translator and stage director, a director of the National Theatre in Prague between 1900-1922. His role as a director is considered controversial at least with supposed conventionality, traditional conservatism and populist academism.


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(detail)Ladislav Machoň |jury member

He worked in Jan Kotěra atelier since 1909. His activity was very extensive and multilateral – from urbanism to designs and reconstructions of buildings. He was interested in interiors,scenography and monuments. He was a representative of modern Classicism and Functionalism. He rebuilt Clementinum and  Strakova akademie  , participated on completion of Lawmas faculty in Prague.  His buildings in Pardubice or monument of Jan Amos Komenský in Naarden belong to the important works of Czech inter-war architecture.

In: Adéla Anna Vavrečková: Živé příběhy. Divadelní budovy v Olomouci a v Moravské Ostravě. Brno2007. Diplomová práce. Note 63.

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(detail)Viktorin Šulc |jury member

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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A. Šulc |jury member


The association for a Czech theatre in Olomouc announced a project competition for  the building of Haná Theatre in the summer of the year 1920. In the announcement they wrote that, “...a public competition has been announced for sketches for a theatre in Olomouc.” (Styl II, 1921-1922, p.  12). Originally the prizes were established on a lower level –  first prize 10,000 Czechoslovak Crowns, second prize 7,000 and third prize 4,000 with the final term for submission of designs on the 1st of May 1921. (Stavitel II, 1920-1921, no. 1 (Sept. 1920), p. 16.) Eventually the first prize was increased to an amount of 20,000, second prize to 14,000 and third prize to 8,000, while the final deadline for submitting proposals was moved to the 1st of October 1921. It was further assumed that two other projects would be purchased. (Styl I, 1920-1921, p. 102.) In the end, and on the basis of discussion regarding the programme, the deadline for completing the competition was once again moved to the 1st of April 1922. It was intended to be a people's stage for mass performances. The construction site was chosen on the circular road in the centre of Olomouc (today's třída Svobody street) across from the back façade of the already existing City Theatre, between the Neo-Gothic evangelical church and the Neo-Renaissance building of the regional court.

The question as to the extent of the programme of the new theatre remained open as the competition requirements stated that it should consist of a theatre with a capacity for 2500 people. The extravagance of the programme led the organisers as a result of discussions and considerations to dismissal of the original breadth. The competitors were allowed to also design a building for 1500 people. The magazine Stavitel published a protest by the association Koliba against this conservative programme: “...a letter was sent to us (Koliba association – author's note) in which there is a rightful protest against the programme of the competition which is asking for an outdated type of box theatre with all of the cumbersome and at present completely inappropriate apparatuses. In light of the present day attempts within theatre circles to fight for reforms to theatre buildings, auditoriums and stages, this protest is certainly justified. If the theatre association clings to this prescribed programme, the competition will amount to a failure artistically.” (Stavitel II, 1920-1921, no. 2 (October 1920), supplement p. VI.) Bohumil Hübschmann wrote in a similar vein in the magazine Styl: “A competition for a theatre for 2500 people was announced in Olomouc! (The National Theatre has a capacity for 1800 people). After objections they have agreed with the designers for a building with a capacity for 1500 people, that is only 60% of the original demand! The required ceremonial theatre with a number of boxes and standing room would not seem to correspond to the structure of society.”(Styl II, 1921-1922, p. 13.) Despite the discussions, the programme continued to insist upon a box arranged auditorium which failed to correspond with the reform attempts of the day and instead remained under the influence of the traditional 'opera glass' arrangement of theatre spaces.

The jury met after the completion of the competition in April 1922 under the leadership of the chairman of the association of Czech Theatre František Votruba. The architect Gustav Schmoranz, director of the National Theatre in Prague, was elected vice-chairman (sometimes referred to as chairman). The negotiations were participated in by the following: the architect Josef Gočár – representative of S.V.U. Mánes, the architect Viktorin Šulc – representative of the Association of Architects and Engineers in Prague and also a representative of the Ministry of Education, the architect Ladislav Machoň – representative of the Community of Architects in Prague, the architect Vladimír Fischer – representative of the Association of Architects and Engineers in Brno, the architect Antonín Blažek – representative of the Association of Moravian Visual Artists in Hodonín, the architect Antonín Engel – representative of Czech Technical University in Prague (replacing the ill building-council member and experienced theatre technician Karel Skopec). Apart from the above-mentioned individuals, additional representatives of the association and other institutions participated in the negotiations. In contrast representatives of the theatre scene did not participate, the poet Jaroslav Kvapil and the Brno conductor František Neumann.

First prize was awarded to the design of Pavel Janák (1882-1956) under the entry 'M', second prize to the design by Antonín Kilián (1888-1947) with the entry 'Jánošík' and third to the collective work of Vilém Kvasnička (1885-1969), Jan Mayer (1889-?) and Čeněk Vořech (1887-1976) with the entry 'Orchestra'. The jury recommended that the association also purchase another two competition designs, for example the project by Josef Hraba (1891-?) marked with the entry 'Hanáks'. One further project by Jan Vodňaruk (1885-?) was also awarded.

The jury rejected the particularly experimentally conceived works such as the Cubo-Futuristic design by Jiří Kroha (1893-1974) under the entry 'Incomplete' and the Purist designed group project by Jaroslav Fragner (1898-1967) and Evžen Linhart (1898-1949).  In both cases they decided that the distinct architectural form had not been managed by the creators in such a fashion so as to clearly solve the structure as a whole both from the operational and space aspects. In contrast the attention of the specialised press focused, apart from the awarded work, on the already mentioned designs which were not awarded. The designs by Otakar Novotný (1880-1959) and the Olomouc architect Jaroslav Kovář Sr. (1883-1961) were also not awarded. 

The victorious design of Pavel Janák, student of Otto Wagner and colleague of Jan Kotěra, was based upon a combination of an amphitheatre with a ceremonial arrangement and a distinct gallery. This was all included by Janák into an auditorium with a horseshoe-shaped layout. The fore-stage boxes, along with the significantly overhanging galleries, indicated that the design had a number of still to be resolved aspects. The outside of the theatre was conceived by Janák  in Neo-Classical Rondo-Cubism forms which were typical for his work at the time. This is apparent when comparing this work with certain actual realized structures such as the crematorium in Pardubice (1921-1923) or the shopping and office palace Adria in Prague (along with Josef Zasche, 1922-1925), as well as additional unrealized competition designs from that time such as for example the design for the New Town Hall in Moravská Ostrava (1923).

Janák's design was criticised in detail from various sides immediately after publication of the results. The editorial board of Stavitel magazine, for example, published a commentary on the criticism of Miloš Vaněček in which they described his public appearance, stating that it consisted of a campaign against progressive attempts: “A group of  architects at the association of Czechoslovak architects and engineers organised in June a lecture where with copies of a first prize project ... where 'the unjust decision making, lack of preparation, inexperience and lack of energy on the part of the jurors'  was demonstrated and where the lecturer architect M. Vaněček employed all of his 'manual insufficiencies' and enumerated and criticised the project for having dozens of drawbacks. It is controversial as to whether this two-hundred point ideological outline critiquing the technical-construction, installation and drawing insufficiencies is justified, however, it is certain that this performance served to exonerate certain members of  'the Group' of accusations that they had been too clearly following in the blind footsteps of  the magazine 'Architektonický Obzor' which has always attacked our pioneers for new forms of art in tactless polemics and has never failed to neglect to make use of the excellent results of their work.” (Stavitel IV, 1922-1923, addendum Technical and construction column, p. 1.)

Not only the victorious design, but the entire competition found itself under the fire of critics. The magazine 'Časopis československých architektů' published a detailed criticism under the abbreviation K.P.Š. in which Janák's project was declared clearly unsuitable and the project of A. Kilián as average work in terms of construction. Only the third prize awarded project was found to be of interest by the author “particularly from the layout perspective.”. He added that “Certain changes would undoubtedly be needed, for example, concerning movement into the theatre stalls from relatively narrow corridors which would block viewer's perspective, additionally there has not been taken into consideration the need for mutual connecting of the stalls. In terms of architecture there would be a need for more discipline in terms of proportions.” (Časopis československých architektů XXI, 1922, p. 153-154.) The competition designs with the entries 'Hanáks', Idea' and 'Incomplete' (the design by J. Kroha) were referred by this commentator as: “...having a certain level and the final two attempting to form a distinctive expression, although more of an experimental one than a logically creative process”. This would correspond to the above-mentioned remarks from the fourth year of the magazine Stavitel which voiced the criticism of the magazine 'Časopis československých architektů' (representatives of Architektonický Obzor) for not primarily criticising actual mistakes but instead the reforms attempts on the part of architecture. 

Of interest was the already-mentioned project by the three students of Kotěra from the College of Applied Arts V. Kvasnička, J. Mayer and Č. Vořech, who had been partially exempt from the criticism voiced by the magazine 'Časopis československých architektů'. This project founded the conception of the building upon an arrangement in the form of a pure amphitheatre combined with a significantly protruding orchestra in combination with a developed fore-stage of an arena type performance on one hand and on the other hand with a traditional 'opera glass' arrangement of the main parts of the extensive stage. The design was particularly experimental and ambitious in terms of proportions for the time and for the Czech setting. It was not, however, fully thought out in terms of the practical side and this in all probability impossible to actually realize design also exhibited shortcomings in terms of the material and layout arrangement of the project. The authors' prismatic rear part of the theatre with the stage and back stage facilities was connected to the half-circular front parts containing the auditorium and the entrance areas. A disadvantage of the design was that the audience would not have a good view of the main stage from the side seating areas.  Additionally the arrangement of the vestibule and foyer lacked a unified expression of space and clarity having relatively narrow corridors to serve this purpose, circling the back wall of the amphitheatre. The exterior arrangement of the design was more impressive although it too had a tendency to move between forms of Rondo-Cubism, Cubism and a less traditionally felt monumental expression.  

The theatre was to become a markedly sculptural affair in the version given by the design of Jiří Kroha. He approached the structure as a combination of various Cubo-Futuristic conceived slanted, half-circular, circular, spherical, pyramid-shaped and bevelled materials and shapes, supported in terms of variety and expressive effects with a marked colour scheme in a range of whites, yellows, reds, greens, greys or even cream colours. The whole was dominated by the tower construction of the flyloft crowned by a crystalline shape with points and arches.  In terms of the ground plan, Kroha conceived the auditorium as a sector of an amphitheatre with a developed stage and a marked proscenium. Despite the dynamism of the external cladding, the whole, however, preserves the vertical principle of the ground plan, enriched by certain elements such as for example the porticoes of the main façades. Jaroslav Fragner and Evžen Linhart had a somewhat different approach to the competition design. They gave the theatre a purist form, contrasting with the Neo-Classical buildings in the surroundings. The auditorium, however, was designed in similar fashion as with Kroha as the sector of an amphitheatre, divided up into three rows, with it of course also apparent in the external slanted side façades and in the overall dynamic shaping of the ground plan. The main façade, for example, was exalted in correspondence to the line of the back wall of the amphitheatre facing out on the circular road, equipped with several boxes and broken up by various shaped windows. In this fashion the material articulation of the theatre was only enhanced by the two-coloured combination of the façade in shades of white and brown. 

Upon taking over in September 1920 the regular operations of the Olomouc City Theatre by the Association of Czech Theatre it was apparent that Olomouc did not provide enough possibility for the construction of another permanent theatre and that there were insufficient finances. Consequently the Association decided to partially reconstruct the already standing building of the Olomouc Theatre. This took place in the second half of the 1920s in accordance with a project from the years 1924-1925. A positive aspect of the competition was the analysis of the possibilities of the traditional 'opera glass' theatre and the partially reformed relationship between the auditorium and the stage. Another positive feature of a number of designs was the fact that the authors were willing to experiment with forms, generated within the framework of various stylistic modes of the Modern Movement of the beginning of the 1920s when conceiving an artistically impressive and at the same time contemporary look for theatre architecture.

Literture nad sources:

- Stavitel II, 1920-1921, č. 1 (září 1920), s. 16.

- Stavitel II, 1920-1921, č. 2 (říjen 1920), příloha s. VI.

- B. H. [Hübschmann, Bohumil]: Nová divadla; In: Styl II, 1921-1922, s. 13-14.

- Stavba I, 1922, s. 24.

- Stavba I, 1922.s. 91.

- Hraba, Josef: Soutěžný návrh na divadlo v Olomouci; In: Časopis československých architektů XXI, 1922, s. 177-182.

- K.P.Š.: Výstava soutěžných návrhů na divadlo olomoucké; In: Časopis československých architektů XXI, 1922, s. 153-154.

- Red.: Výňatek z protokolu; In: Časopis československých architektů XXI, 1922, s. 165-166.

- Vaněček, M. (Miloš): První cena olomoucké soutěže a kritika jury; In: Časopis československých architektů XXI, 1922, s. 161-165.

- Bor, Jan: Problém divadelní budovy. Poznámky k soutěži na budovu Národní opery v Praze; In: Stavitel IV, 1922-1923, s. 33-56.

- Fragner, Jaroslav – Linhart, Eugen: Ze soutěže českého divadla v Olomouci; In: Stavitel IV, 1922-1923, s. 44-45.

-R.: K soutěži na olomoucké divadlo; In: Stavitel IV, 1922-1923, příloha Technická a konstruktivní hlídka, s. 1.

-  Janák, Pavel: Soutěž na návrh Národního divadla v Olomouci (I. cena); In: Styl III, 1922-1923, s. 156-157.

- Kvasnička, V. (Vilém) – Mayer J. (Jan): Soutěž na návrh Národního divadla v Olomouci (III. cena); In: Styl III, 1922-1923, s. 158-159.

- Šlapeta, Vladimír: Otakar Novotný 1880-1959 (katalog); Olomouc 1980, nestr.

- Černoušek, Tomáš – Šlapeta, Vladimír - Zatloukal, Pavel: Olomoucká architektura 1900-1950 (katalog); Olomouc 1981, s. 9, 11 a poznámka 34.

- Hilmera, Jiří:  Mezníky, které zůstaly na papíře. Ke třem soutěžím na stavbu nových divadel v Ostravě, Olomouci a Praze v letech 1920-1922; In: Umění XXXIX, 1991, č. 5, s. 437-450.

- Hilmera, Jiří: Česká divadelní architektura; Praha 1999, s. 96-100 a obr. 121-126.

- Jaroslav Fragner. Náčrty a plány (katalog); Praha 1999, s. 10, 25, 144.

- Platzer, Monika: Poznámky k ranému architektonickému dílu Jiřího Krohy z let 1911-1923; In: Macharáčková, Marcela (ed.): Jiří Kroha (1893-1974). Architekt, malíř, designér, teoretik v proměnách umění 20. století (katalog); Brno 2007,  s. 23-31.



Tags: Neoclassicism, Interwar period, Art deco, Architectural competition


Author: Strakoš Martin

Translator: David Livingstone

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