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Competition for a new Czech theatre in Prague, 1922

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(detail)1922 | Competition
Ministry of public works invited to public tender on spring 1922. Its aim was to find a convenient location for construction of new Czech theatre and simultaneously to obtain a clue to its project. Jury consisted of architects Antonín Ausobský, Bohumil Hübschmann, Jan Kotěra and Josef Sakař, art historian Václav Vilém Štech, administrative director of National Theatre Jaroslav Šafařovič, expert on theatre technology Karel Skopec. 32 designs entered into competition, but 15 of them was excluded already in first stage.
(detail)1922 | results of the competition
The jury did not award any prize in numerical order , but dividend awards equally to pentad of architects Otakar Novotný, Vilém Kvasnička, Josef Štěpánek, Pavel Janák and Eduard Hnilička and Jiří Kroha. Further four designs were recommnended to purchase.


(detail)Josef Barek |architect - participant of the competition

He became a professor of town planning in the Czech Techical School . He designed the Na Slupi Theatre in 1925.


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(detail)Vlastislav Hofman |architect - participant of the competition

Czech designer, painter and architect. Leading figure of the 20th-century avant-garde. One of the founders of Czech Cubism - an intermationally unique movement that applied the ideas of Cubist painters to architecture and decorative arts. Stage designer of world renown.

In: Wikipedia

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Karel Pecánek |architect - participant of the competition
(detail)Alois Kubíček |architect - participant of the competition

He cooperated with Jan Kotěra and Josef Gočár on big architectural projects in Hradec Králové. He supervised a renewal and reconstruction of Karlštejn, Toskánský and Černínský palace, Strahov monastery, Karolinum and Rudolfinum.


(detail)Ladislav Machoň |architect - participant of the competition

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)Otakar Novotný |architect - participant of the competition

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)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)Josef Štěpánek |architect - participant of the competition

Prague architect. Disciple of Jan Kotěra.

In: Vlček, Pavel a kol.: Encyklopedie architektů, stavitelů, zedníků a kameníku v Čechách. Praha 2004, pg.651

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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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Eduard Hnilička |architect - participant of the competition
(detail)Jiří Kroha |architect - participant of the competition

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)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)Václav Josef Prokop |architect - participant of the competition

Prague architect, who mainly designed gyms for Sokol organization in 1920s together with Karel Polívka.

In: Vlček, Pavel a kol.: Encyklopedie architektů, stavitelů, zedníků a kameníku v Čechách. Praha 2004, pg.530

Josef Chochol |architect - participant of the competition
(detail)Bedřich Feuerstein |architect - participant of the competition

Similarly as Josef Gočár or Kamil Roškot, he united different modern style point of view with classicistic feeling. He avoided deformation already in his Cubistic designs from 1912-14. He was led by his sense for concreteness to puristic experiments culminating in the construction of crematorium in Nymburk. He was rather follower of modern Perret´s Classicism than Le Cobursier experiments, which was demonstrated in his later Paris and Tokio works.

In: Archiweb

(detail)Bohumil Sláma |architect - participant of the competition

An author of important designs, from which were realized the building of Czechoslovakian radio in Prague 2 and the post office building in Kladno and in Vršovice and Střešovice in Prague and the city crematorium in Nymburk.


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Jaroslav Stránský |architect - participant of the competition
(detail)Josef Šlégl |architect - participant of the competition
He cooperated on most of his works with Jaroslav Stránský. Those were mostly housing in Prague (Krížík Street in Karlín). They were participating on several competitions and they won some of them (puppet theatre in Vinohrady). They also worked out a competing design of national Memorial at Vítkov.



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

A stage designer and architect. He was engaged in stage designing, especially for operas by Bedřich Smetana. He participated in numerous competitions, winning the one for a new building of Matice Slovenská in Turčanský Sv. Martin (Slovakia) in 1924. The majority of his work is located in Prague, where are numerous blocks of flats, designed by him with cooperation of J. Mentberger or arch. Brožek.


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Bohumil Babánek |architect - participant of the competition
(detail)Adolf Liebscher |architect - participant of the competition

He dealt mainly with town planning, he was solving for instance regulatory plan for Mělník , Letná, Opava and Znojmo.

In: Vlček, Pavel a kol.: Encyklopedie architektů, stavitelů, zedníků a kameníku v Čechách. Praha 2004, str. 370

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(detail)Antonín Ausobský |jury member

Czech engineer.


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(detail)Bohumil Hübschmann |jury member

Czech architect. He asserted himself as a remarkable designer of modern buildings, especially in Prague.

In: Adéla Anna Vavrečková: Živé příběhy. Divadelní budovy v Olomouci a v Moravské Ostravě. Brno 2007. Diplomová práce. P. 41

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(detail)Josef Sakař |jury member

He belonged to the most successful disciples of Zítek and Schulz, an architect and organizer of Prague construction works. His classical conservative style has monumental grandeur and sense for surroundings. He realized an array of public buildings that represent well architecture of the period.

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(detail)Jaroslav Šafařovič |jury member

A director of the National Theatre in Prague Between 1922 and 1931.


(detail)Eustach Mölzer |jury member

Czech technicial and politician,chairman of  board of directors Electric enterprise of main city of Prague.

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There emerged actual necessity of constructing a new theatre building in Prague, Olomouc and Ostrava early after the Czechoslovakian republic establishment; public competitions were announced in no time for their designs. Expectation and recommendations of experts and the consequent course of the competition are usually in a discrepancy. The competition for a new Czech theatre from 1922 is also largely illustrative in this regard also in the light of the fact that no realization has been built on a basis of competition results.

The architect association determined the priorities on its member meeting, which should have been kept in an idea competition. The anticipated locality of a new construction should have been situated on the right riverbank in Prague, but the specific position was left to free choice of participating architects. The town planning conception should have been determined only by the size of actual theatre and adjacent buildings, not the future repertoire scope. According the ideal conception, formulated by the Architects Association, a regular conceptual stage of the competition should have been followed by another competition for an actual theatre building, which should have been provided with precisely formulated conditions, acquired on the basis of experience from the first stage. However, the proclaimed competition merged both the stages into one in a programme in the end.

Ministry of Public Works proclaimed the competition in spring of 1922 due to incentive of the Minister of Education and Public Enlightenment. Its aim was to find a convenient location for the construction of a new Czech theatre and at the same time to gain guidance to its project. The eventual construction should have been backed by budget savings of Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Trade or Ministry of Foreign Trade, which were both directed by Minister Ladislav Novák. The new venue should have become a supplementary theatre platform to the National Theatre from an operational point of view. The claim was for a big theatre with an auditorium capacity of 2500 spectators. Geographical delimitation for a selection of a potential construction site was delineated by Myslíkova Street, Charles square, present National Museum, Wilson railway station and Denis railway station (Těšnov) and naturally Vltava watercourse. The plan was further more conditioned by the requirement that it would be an undeveloped area, which would prevent the necessity of redeeming existing buildings. The designers would not – as we are going to see - conform to it a lot. The plot should not have collided with any frequented arterial road.

The competition jury consisted of architects Antonín Ausobský, Bohumil Hübschmann, Jan Kotěra and Josef Sakař, further art historian Václav Vilém Štech, managing director of the  National Theatre Jaroslav Šafařovič, theatre technician Karel Skopec and representatives of the municipal government František Havlíček and Eustach Mölzer. 32 designs were submitted to the architectural competition, not less than 15 were excluded in the first stage.

The jury did not award any prize in consecutive order, but distributed rewards in an equal share among five architects Otakar Novotný, Vilém Kvasnička, Josef Štěpánek, Pavel Janák and Eduard Hnilička and Jiří Kroha. Further four designs were recommended for purchase. Following architects advanced to the narrower selection apart from the awarded: Josef Hraba or Karel Polívka with Václav  J. Prokop, the competition was attended by Josef Chochol or  Bedřich Feuerstein with Bohumil  Sláma, which were realizing a crematorium in Nymburk in the same period.

Individual competing designs inserted the new building into the following locations: in the place of Jiřího z Poděbrad barracks on Náměstí republiky (Republic Square), in the area of period Financial headquarters even with a variant of demolition of historical buildings by former Hybernský klášter (Hybernia monastery), into Vrchlického sady (Vrchlický Gardens), into the bridgehead of Štefánik or Hlávka bridge, in the neighbourhood of the National Theatre (where is located the Laterna magika today), in the place of a complex of school buildings opposite to the National Assembly ( present Rudolfinum) or on Mariánské náměstí (Square) on the future construction site of the Municipal Library. One design was dealing with insertion of the theatre to the very border settled in conditions – into Slovanský ostrov (Slovanský island) grounds.

The jury appreciated primarily the designs dealing with a dreary urbanistic area of Náměstí republiky (Republic square), to which the most majority of competitors inclined in their designs, because „they succumbed to the suggestion of preliminary opinion polls” as the periodical Stavba (Construction) states. One of the alternatives for the given locality seemed to be to tear down a large complex of Jiřího z Poděbrad barracks and siting of the theatre into thus liberated room. Pavel Janák oriented the new building diagonally by a front facade towards the Prašná brána (Powder Tower) dominant in his variant design. A similar siting, but with more respect for run of Revolution avenue, was used also by  a triad of authors Ladislav Machoň, Alois Kubíček and Karel Pecánek, further Vilém Kvasnička or Jiří Kroha with Eduard Hnilička. A second alternative siting of the  theatre was the utilization of the location of the Hybernia monastery with a custom-house. Vlastislav Hofman with Josef Barka radically eliminated historical buildings around the former Hybernia monastery and located the theatre into newly gained space congruently with the nearby church. An analogical town planning scheme was presented by Bedřich Feuerstein with Bohumil Sláma or Otakar Novotný with his design unclearly named „Č. O. “, likewise oriented by the front facade towards opposite Municipal House. Josef Hraba expressed essentially a more radical solution by blanket tearing down the whole complex Hybernia and insertion of the theatre, oriented diagonally over the gained plot by its front facade towards the King´s road, towards Powder Tower.

The extent of a connection of the theatre into a spatial conception of the square differs by the all mentioned designs. The design by Josef Hraba conceived the theatre as a solitary building without a direct connection with adjacent houses.  Any relation to the neighbouring   surroundings is lacked in monumental volume of the building by Feuerstein and Sláma, whose design is only connected to the neighbouring building without developing the composition of an incurred square any further.

Pavel Janák or Josef Chochol conceived another alternative plot in a moderately peripheral zone in Vrchlického sady (Vrchlický orchard) thus in the area below the Wilson railway station. Both the architects chose the location so there would emerge a visual antipode to the German theatre. The jury was not in favour of the given location because of  future development of a traffic junction and its adjacent surroundings and for the reason of descending terrain in relation to the level of the predominant station-building, into which the theatre was unworthily sited, thereby its representative value would have been reduced.

Already in time, when so called Choura houses (or also Kaura) were standing in National Street, its location adjacent to the National Theatre was attractive for some architects. A triad of authors Ladislav Machoň, Alois Kubíček and Karel Pecánek inserted the building, accessible from National Street,  in one of theirs design variants between the National Theatre and Ursulas convent. Its volume affects with a  delicate impression in sketching in a photo, although it fills almost the entire space and it is approaching considerably to the National Theatre. Thus there was observed enclosure of the lateral facade, which Josef Zítek did not conceive to be open to a distance view. Two alternative solutions were brought by a triad of authors Jaroslav Stránský, Josef Šlégl a Karel Polívka, who were of opinion that it is necessary to release the volume  of the National Theatre. It was not problematic to continue in demolition of further buildings towards the Ursula convents and insert a new theatre building there on a basis of this idea background. The jury took a negative stand on this locality, when they admitted joint technical background for both the venues to be the only advantage of the given solution. They considered the new building to be an excessive burden from a traffic point of view and furthermore the actual building would enter into unfavourable competition with the neighbouring National Theatre.


Architects Adolf Liebscher and Míla Babánek chose in their joint design the area by Manes Bridge, where a building of Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design (UMPRUM) is still located, as the potential construction site. They had a clear standpoint for their concept that theatre would supplement optimally the complex of existing public buildings here. It was possible to propose abolishment of the school for that reason that UMPRUM endeavoured to be relocated to another location in this period.

No less interesting aspect of the whole competition is also, apart from a town planning point of view, the  style that was chosen by architects for a monumental public building of a cultural purpose on the ground of the main city of the Czechoslovakia. Albeit the authors conceived the competition primarily as a town planning problem and did not expressed an opinion about the internal layout or style in their accompanying reports, apart from exceptions, for instance the thesis by Jiří Kroha in his text to project „ Godling” , the aggregate of designs constitutes to some extent a representative sample of period searching for architectural expression.  

Pavel Janák presented a unique solution. His decorative design was dominated by a surmounted dome above the roof volume – this unusual element has a long genesis in entire series of studies that is continuously recorded in Janák´s diaries from the period of the First World War. The design by Jiří Kroha and Eduard Hnilička, relatively moderate in dynamics of volume and in segmentation of forms in comparison with the Kroha´s competing design for the Haná Theatre in Olomouc from 1920, matured into a certain level of a dramatic form calming, which hinted the future shift of Kroha style, to which he arrived in the 1920s especially in realizations in Mladá Boleslav and surroundings.

A triad of authors Machoň, Kubíček, Pecánek created the theatre in a considerably historicizing casing, when they applied such  monumentalizing motifs as is bossage or column colonnade in the first floor of the front facade on Náměstí republiky (Republic Square) or on Národní třída (National Avenue) as well. Nor Otakar Novotný could completely emancipate himself in his design of historic prototypes, which are used massively in the form of classicizing elements as again much employed colonnades or triangular gables. Vlastislav Hofman drew on different sources in cooperation with Josef Barek, when they enriched the expression of the subsiding Cubism with noticeable Gothicizing elements of protruding arcades with lancet arches. Architects Feuerstein and Sláma selected completely unique puristic expression in the context of the competition as it was by their other project, already mentioned crematorium in Nymburk.

Archive sources:

- Národní technické muzeum, AAS, Fond 85-Janák


- Liebscher, Adolf & Babánek, Míla: Ideová soutěž na umístění a náčrtky nového českého divadla v Praze; Stavba I, 1922, s. 214-217.

- Soutěž na umístění nového českého divadla; Stavba I, 1922, s. 217n.

- Výpis ze zprávy o jednání poroty v soutěži návrhů nového českého divadla v Praze; Architektonický obzor XXI, 1922, s. 249-266.

- Ke stavbě státního divadla v Praze; Styl III (VIII), 1922-1923, s. 19. a 89.

- Hofman, Vlastislav & Barek, Josef, Pražský půdorys města; Styl III (VIII), 1922-1923, s. 127, 138.

- Kubíček, Alois: Nové divadlo, Styl III (VIII), 1922-1923, s. 132-134.

- Ideová soutěž na umístění a náčrtky Nového českého divadla v Praze; Styl III (VIII), 1922-1923,  s. 134-140, vyobrazení s. 118-128.

- K soutěži ideových návrhů nového českého divadla; Styl III (VIII), 1922-1923, s. 168.

- Štěpánek, Josef: Ze soutěže na umístění nového českého divadla v Praze, Stavitel IV, 1922-1923, s. 47.

- Kopecký, Václav: Ze soutěže na umístění nového českého divadla v Praze; Stavitel IV, 1922-1923, s. 48.

- Fuchs, Bohuslav: Ze soutěže na umístění nového českého divadla v Praze, Stavitel IV, 1922-1923, s. 49.

- Bolech, Vladimír & Fuchs, Josef: Ze soutěže na umístění nového českého divadla v Praze, Stavitel IV, 1922-1923, s. 50.

- Baumgartl, Vladimír: Ze soutěže na umístění nového českého divadla v Praze: Stavitel IV, 1922-1923, s. 51.

- Feuerstein, Bedřich & Sláma, Bohumil; Soutěžný návrh na nové divadlo v Praze, Stavba II, 1923, s. 3, 5, 6. (jen vyobrazení).

- Hilmera, Jiří: Česká divadelní architektura, Praha 1999, s. 101-104.

- Švácha, Rostislav: Střetnutí s mladou generací. Technika, urbanismus, pomníky, mosty, in: Nešlehová, Mahulena (ed.): Vlastislav Hofman; Praha 2004, s. 348-349.

- 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; Brno 2007, s. 8-31.


Tags: Architectural competition, Interwar period, Cubism


Author: Vendula Hnídková

Translator: Jan Purkert

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