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Staré divadlo Karola Spišáka

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(detail)1929 | construction

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History

The theatre tradition in Nitra dates back to the 18th century when at the local Piarist school theatre performances started to be performed. At the end of the 18th century the theatre activities moved to the circle of German theatre companies, which were visiting the town. From the 1820s they were more and more replaced by Hungarian theatre groups which significantly partook in the Magyarization process of Slovak nation. From 1883 these groups performed in a new theatre building, financed by the district administrative and donors. During the bombing of the town during WWII the building was destroyed and the artists had to use provisory space of the gym of the Sokol sporting club.

The Sokol club was founded in Nitra in 1919. In the beginning it used only the summer sporting area which was built in 1923. Later, there was a need to build a representative building, which the club intended to construct already in 1921 and in 1924. Both attempts, however, failed. Another one came in 1927. The official reason of the club was the absence of a cultural centre for the Czechoslovak citizens, where they could gather and organize their cultural events, and from where they could spread the impulse to the national self-consciousness of the Czechoslovaks. And that was why the cultural and national level of the town could not be compared with other Slovak towns. The true reasons were more practical ones, and that were the minimum number of club places. In February 1927 the town’s property next to the Masaryk barracks in the centre of the town were sold. It was the Pongrác’s Garden – the area separated from the main road by one property on which stood a pub. In the beginning the size and the character of the garden were suitable for the club, but after an unexpectedly successful financial collection with donations of almost all local national, cultural and union organizations, the club decided to buy the whole property spreading to the main road.  In March 1927 it addressed the municipal council in the case of buying the property next to the main road, giving the reason that “it would not be to town’s reputation if the club house stood behind the main street and the Abeles Pub right in the main street.” [List Telovýchovnej jednoty Sokol mestskej rade v Nitre z 28.3.1927, predmet: Žiadosť o predaj č. 40 vo Wilsonovej ulici].

The town agreed under the condition that there would be a two-storied building constructed on both the properties, and that both of them would be sufficiently built up. The reason for this was “that regarding the produced construction design the District Council does not see a sufficient use of these valuable properties.” [Uzavretie obecného zastupiteľstva v Nitre, dňa 27.4.1927, Predmet: Telocvičná jednota „Sokol“ žiada o odpredanie mimo pozemku Pongráczovskej záhrady i mestský pozemok č. 40 v Masarykovej ulici pre postavenie „Masarykovho domu“/spolkový dom s telocvičňou./]  From this it can be deduced that already in March 1927 there existed construction design of the building, but the request of the Municipal Council forced the club to provide the new one. It was obtained in the new competition in the summer of 1927 which was joined by architects František Krásny (the author a number of Sokol club residences in Bohemia) and tandem Jindřich Merganc and Otmar Klimeš. The winning project by Krásny, published in the October-November issue of the club’s periodical named Zobor, shows the building in the form in which (except for slight differences) it was executed in reality.  Therefore, it is questionable, how it came to the decision to built on the properties a building for all three institutions which, eventually, resided in it – the Sokol Club, National and Agricultural Houses. Peter Rovnianek, a member of the Nitra Municipal Council writes in his statement that already in 1925 the National House Association thought about buying the property on which it could build its representative house, but the town rejected the purchase. The request to build up the whole property may have led the club to the cooperation with the association and enlargement of the project by building the National House. However, it is only a presumption which cannot be confirmed in today’s stage of research.  It is also possible that the idea of the building the National House was exclusively within the intentions of the Sokol club. Whereas in the correspondence between the club and the municipal council up to February 1928 there is mentioned the Masaryk House as a club house with a gym, the articles in club’s magazine in June 1927 mentioned the Masaryk National House, and in February of the next year only the National House. Moreover, when describing the future building there it is mentioned also the construction of the Agricultural House, pawnshop and agricultural rooms which will be “only architectonically designed together with our building. Otherwise, it is an independent building.” [P.: Masarykov Národný dom v Nitre, in: Zobor. Vestník sokolskej nitrianskej župy Svätoplukovej, roč. V., Október-November 1927, č.10-11, s.113-115.] Thus the National House construction was considered an independent work by the Sokol club. From December 1928 the title Sokolovňa and National House in Nitra has been used, but there is still used the word “our” when mentioning the National House. The building was constructed in 1928-1929. On 27 May 1928 the cornerstone was laid.  In January 1929 the Zobor magazine wrote that the building was almost finished and was to be opened in the same year. The article said the restaurant had already been used. The National House and Sokolovňa were opened together with the Agricultural House on 31 August 1929.

 The Sokolovňa and the National House in Nitra belong to the group of the multi-functional buildings which followed the tradition of the buildings of Matica Slovenská and National House in Martin. Their creation was connected with the function to serve and present the aims of the Slovaks, in the beginning (from the second half of the 19th century – to 1918) on the national level, after the creation of first Czechoslovakia only locally – they were presented as the centre of the national life of the Slovaks in cities, which only gradually freed themselves from their Hungarian or German character.  The founding of Matica Slovenská and National House in Martin was the action of the whole nation, after 1918 such functional houses were built in cities or by various clubs. If the initiator of the construction of such a building was a club, its role was to present mostly the club’s interests, but the idea of presenting broader national aims was always present.

Despite the different approach of the designers and builders, the  design of these buildings was similar. They included halls which were used by amateur theatre groups for their presentations. They were also used for balls and other social gatherings. The building has other rooms used by public and social institutions equivalent to theatre groups, such as libraries or cinemas. It was not unusual, mainly after 1918, that one part of the building was used for commercial purposes; there often was a hotel or a restaurant.

Such a type of buildings was built during the first Czechoslovakia mainly by the Sokol Club. The so-called Sokolovňa buildings included central gyms. The Sokol Sport Club in Nitra had great ambitions when building their clubhouse, and they were many times published. Shortly after its opening it became “the official centre of public and social life of the members of the Sokol, Legionaries, Officers, Sergeants, members of the Civic Association, tourists, Matica Slovenská and other institutions and clubs (…)”[Autor neuvedený: Sokolovňa a Národný dom v Nitre, (rubrika) Rôzne., in: Zobor. Vestník sokolskej nitrianskej župy Svätoplukovej, roč. VI., December 1928, č.12, s.204-205.]  An L-shaped two-storied building was constructed including three functionally autonomous units. The National House, situated in the front part of the property next to the main road, with a restaurant on the ground floor and a hotel on both floors. The back part of the object was used as the Sokolovňa, with a cinema on the ground floor, a library, a gym and a study hall on the first floor and offices on the second floor.  In the attic there were the flats for the staff of the restaurant, hotel and cinema. On the southern side of the National House there stood the Agricultural House, a functionally and legally independent object. The original description of the building gives more information: “The built-up area has 1360 square metres. The club covers (the hall and surrounding rooms) 930 square metres, the restaurant and hotel cover 430 square metres. In the basement of the Sokolovňa there is a cinema with 648 seats. In both parts of the building there are cellars and a boiler room. There is also the office of the cinema manager, the apartment of the Sokol Club members, cloakrooms, showers. In the front there are restaurant rooms (125 and 32 square metres) with surrounding rooms.  On the first floor there is a gym covering 293 square metres with a smaller hall of 57 square metres, a reading room with a library covering 49 square metres, the stage, two dressing rooms for actors and several other rooms. In the front there are ten hotel rooms. On the second floor there is a gallery, a management hall on 84 square mtres and an office. In this part of the building there it is possible to construct a smaller hall on 116 square metres. In the front there are 11 hotel rooms. In the attic there is a flat of the cinema manager (two bedrooms and a kitchen), two rooms for the restaurant and hotel staff, launderette, seven other bedrooms can be made in the rest of the attic.  The building is adjoined by a summer sport ground covering 1500 square metres, which will be cultivated by the working activity of the members.” [Autor neuvedený: Sokolovňa a Národný dom v Nitre, (rubrika) Rôzne., in: Zobor. Vestník sokolskej nitrianskej župy Svätoplukovej, roč. VI., December 1928, č.12, s.204-205.]

At the time of the constructing the Sokolovňa, there was a theatre group active within the club,  and that was the reason why the gym was designed in such a way that it would be possible to turn it into a theatre hall. Therefore, there is a stage at the back part of the gym, with the proscenium and gallery. The stage was well equipped,  it had even a circular horizon.

Once the building was finished, it served the intended aim until 1938. The gym was occasionally used for theatre performances of amateurs or by the Slovak National Theatre’s performances. On 20 December 1938 the activity of the Sokol in Nitra was forbidden and its possession was seized by the Hlinka Guard. It used the object as a collecting camp. After the war the object was occasionally used for theatre performances (until the end of 1945 the Town Theatre resided here) since the building of the Town Theatre in Nitra was destroyed. From 1950 to 1992, when a new building of the theatre was built, the Nitra Regional Theatre (later renamed to the Andrej Bagar Theatre) resided here. After moving of the theatre into the new house the Sokolovňa building was passed to the Karol Spišák Old Theatre, which has resided here since. The former National House is still the property of the Andrej Bagar Theatre.

After the war the building underwent a number of reconstructions including adaptations of the space which met the requirements of a professional theatre. The last of the reconstructions took place in 2008-2009, and it affected the entrance space and the lobby. Its authors were Viktor Šabík and Tatiana Kopková (Barak architects). Beside the construction of the loading ramp and the lift there were also demolition works on all three floors. These demolitions freed the house from the non-original elements. The getting rid of the division walls of the originally three-armed staircase caused that it was united again. The mezzanine between the basement and ground floor was enlarged, and the space is now used as the information centre. On the first floor the cover of walls and ceiling was removed, the original ceiling construction was uncovered. The floor was covered by wood, the staircase and the ground floor were returned their original terrazzo.

The building of the former Sokolovňa, National and Agricultural Houses stands on a corner, has three floors and L-shaping. It has a central courtyard and it is situated on the corner connecting streets Štefánikova trieda and Ulica 7. pešieho pluku. Today’s Karol Spišák Old Theatre resides in the Sokolovňa’s part of the building, i.e. the side tract, oriented on Ulica 7. pešieho pluku. The 8-axis entrance facade of the theatre is in the scope of the first three window axes stressed by a buttress divided by four solid semi-girders which are on the first floor anchored to the solid horizontal bressummer. On the ground floor they are joined by four solid cylindrical beams on massive plinths which hide behind themselves an open plateu accessible from several points. In the edges of the facade there are statues of eagles with spread wings placed on each semi-girder – they are the symbol of the club. The vertical effect of the buttress is balanced by a double horizontal stringcourse in the upper part of the buttress, massive bressummer on the first floor level as well as by under-window architraves. The distinct  horizontal string courses are the characteristic feature of the whole facade, two double upper string course frames the mezzanine, the continuous above- and under-window string courses connect the rectangular windows of the theatre hall. On the west side the facade ends in the smooth matter of the stage flyloft. Parallel to the façade there is the platform for the barrier-free access.

The main entrance to the theatre is accessible from the plateau of the main facade. Behind the entrance facade there is a two-storied entrance hall with a representative three-armed staircase in the middle. In front of it there is a lift, on the right side there is a box office connected by a window to the place where the barrier-free access leads to. On the right side of the entrance lobby there are rooms of light and audio managers. The side arms of the staircase lead to the lowered platform from which there is an access to the toilets, archive, storage rooms and information centre. The platform on the left side leads to the inner courtyard. The central arm of the staircase leads downward from the platform to the place of the former café under the entrance lobby,  and to the  theatre studio under the main theatre hall. On the first floor there is the foyer with a small cloakroom on the right side, opened to the foyer. On both sides of the cloakroom there are both main entrances to the theatre hall as well as the barrier-free access. At the back of the foyer there are toilets. The theatre hall is rectangular with a concavely rounded back wall. The whole space is panelled by differently coloured wooden panels, which on the sidewalls and the back create a rhythm of vertical partition. The wooden panels are used also on the ceiling above the auditorium, decorated with plain circular cut-outs, sometimes filled with lights.  The auditorium is separated from the stage by a portal frame which is similarly plain like the rest of the hall. The background of the theatre lies on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th floor and can be reached from the foyer on the 1st floor. It includes also the reading hall for the actors.

Literature, Sources:

[1] Gergelyi, Otmar: Nitra. Umelecko-historické pamiatky na Slovensku, Bratislava, 1969.

[2] Krčmár, Alojz, Babčanová, Vlasta: Nitra na starých pohľadniciach, Bratislava 2006.

[3] Andrej Matašík: Činoherné divadlo na Slovensku. Sprievodca po slovenských divadelných dejinách, Bratislava 1993, s. 49.

[4] Zubácka, Ida: Nitra za prvej Československej republiky, vydal Univerzita Konštantína Filozofa v Nitre, Nitra 1997.

[5] Zubácka Ida: Vývoj a činnosť mestskej správy v Nitre v rokoch 1918-1938, s. 369-383, in:  Marsina Richard (zost.): Nitra  v slovenských dejinách, Matica slovenská, Martin 2002, 437s., ISBN 80-7090-625-1.

[6] Dlháňová Viera, Od bradiel k žiare reflektorov, in. Arch, roč. 14, č.11, 2009, s. 42-47.

[7] P.: Sokolský stánok v Nitre – pred uskutočnením., in: Zobor. Vestník sokolskej nitrianskej župy Svätoplukovej, roč. V., apríl 1927, č.4, s.55-56.

[8] P.: Nitra, (rubrika) Z jednôt., in: Zobor. Vestník sokolskej nitrianskej župy Svätoplukovej, roč. V., Jún-Júl 1927, č.6-7, s.91-93.

[9] P.: Masarykov Národný dom v Nitre, in: Zobor. Vestník sokolskej nitrianskej župy Svätoplukovej, roč. V., Október-November 1927, č.10-11, s.113-115.

[10] P.: Nitra, (rubrika) Z jednôt., in: Zobor. Vestník sokolskej nitrianskej župy Svätoplukovej, roč. VI., Február 1928, č.2, s.43-44.

[11] P.: Zájazd Sokolstva do Nitry, in: Zobor. Vestník sokolskej nitrianskej župy Svätoplukovej, roč. VI., Jún-Júl 1928, č.6-7, s.127-132.

[12] Autor neuvedený: Z Nitry, (rubrika) Z Jednôt., in: Zobor. Vestník sokolskej nitrianskej župy Svätoplukovej, roč. VI., November 1928, č.11, s.190-191.

[13] Autor neuvedený: Sokolovňa a Národný dom v Nitre, (rubrika) Rôzne., in: Zobor. Vestník sokolskej nitrianskej župy Svätoplukovej, roč. VI., December 1928, č.12, s.204-205.

[14] P.: Sokolovňa a Národný dom v Nitre, in: Zobor. Vestník sokolskej nitrianskej župy Svätoplukovej, roč. VII., Január 1929, č.1, s.1-3.

[15] Bláha, K.: Nitra, (rubrika) Z jednôt., in: Zobor. Vestník sokolskej nitrianskej župy Svätoplukovej, roč. VII., Február-Marec 1929, č.2-3, s.20-21.

[16] -la.: Nitra, (rubrika) Z jednôt., in: Zobor. Vestník sokolskej nitrianskej župy Svätoplukovej, roč. VII., Apríl 1929, č.4, s.74-76.

[17] Autor neuvedený: Nitra, (rubrika) Z jednôt., in: Zobor. Vestník sokolskej nitrianskej župy Svätoplukovej, roč. VII., Máj-Jún 1929, č.5-6, s.104-105.

[18] P.: Otvorenie Sokolovne a Národného domu v Nitre, in: Zobor. Vestník sokolskej nitrianskej župy Svätoplukovej, roč. VII., Júl-August 1929, č.7-8, s.113-115.

[19] Čížek, Jozef: Zpráva jednateľa, in: Zobor. Vestník sokolskej nitrianskej župy Svätoplukovej, roč. VIII., marec 1930, č.3, s.46-48.

[20] L.: Nitra, (rubrika) Z jednôt.,  in: Zobor. Vestník sokolskej nitrianskej župy Svätoplukovej, roč. III., november 1925, č.10, s.157-159.

[21] König, Viliam: Cestou k socialistickému divadlu I., Život a kultúra mesta Nitry, roč. IX., November 1985, č.11, s.19-20.

[22] König, Viliam: Cestou k socialistickému divadlu II., Život a kultúra mesta Nitry, roč. IX., December 1985, č.12, s.21-22.

[23] Autor neuvedený: Silvester v Novom Národnom dome, in: Národná stráž, roč. IX., č.1, 6.1.1929, s.2.

[24] Autor neuvedený: Národný dom v Nitre, in: Národná stráž, roč. IX., č.1, 6.1.1929, s.3.

[25] -zka: Sokolňa a Národný dom v Nitre, in: Národná stráž, roč. IX., č.3, 20.1.1929, s.1.

[26] Autor neuvedený: Telocvičňa v  Národnom dome, in: Národná stráž, roč. IX., č.3, 20.1.1929, s.3.

[27] Autor neuvedený: Valná hromada Sokola, in: Národná stráž, roč. IX., č.4, 27.1.1929, s.3-4.

[28] Autor neuvedený: Masarykova letecká liga, in: Národná stráž, roč. IX., č.5, 3.2.1929, s.3.

[29] Autor neuvedený: Na oslavu narodenín pána prezidenta,  in: Národná stráž, roč. IX., č.9, 3.3.1929, s.3.

[30] Autor neuvedený: Činohra Slov. Národného divadla  do Nitry?, in: Národná stráž, roč. IX., č.12, 24.3.1929, s.2.

[31] Kronika mesta Nitra I., zapísaná 6. novembra 1935, Archív Mestského úradu v Nitre.

[32] Kronika mesta Nitra II., dané v meste Nitre dňa 6. novembra 1935, Archív Mestského úradu v Nitre

[33] Vitek, Ernest: Okresný úrad Nitra, 1923-1945. Inventár, Nitra 1965, s.52, inv. číslo 418 (ŠANi – pobočna Nitra: Názov fondu:  Okresný úrad Nitra 1923-1945, značka: OÚN, oddelenie: adm., rok 1928, č. 2481-3493, č. škatule (kartón): 130, inv. č. 418,  bližšie označenie: predaj mestského pozemku v Nitre – telocvičnej jednote Sokol.

[34] Vitek, Ernest: Okresný archív Nitra, 1923-1945. Inventár, Nitra 1965, s.52, inv. číslo 418 (ŠANi – pobočna Nitra: Názov fondu:  Okresný úrad Nitra 1923-1945, značka: OÚN, oddelenie: adm., rok 1929, č. 2402-2895, č. škatule (kartón): 149, inv. č. 419,  bližšie označenie: telocvičná jednota Sokol v Nitre žiada schválenie vodovodu.

 

 

Author: Viera Dlhánová

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