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Hálek Town Theatre Nymburk

Ladislav Caňkář, Jaroslav Kosek

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Important events

(detail)1860 | Theatrical association
Theatrical association was founded in 1860, which acquired a corridor in building of elementary school in frist floor of former Dominican monastery due to endeavour of townsman Ludvík Rubinger for the theatre.
(detail)1871 | reconstruction

The city bought whole monasterry premise in 1870 to obtain convenient plot for intended construction of the school. Architect K. Kreiszel designed the reconstruction of the monastery and builder Antonín Červený realized it with small modifications up to the end of 1871. The theatre remained in rebuilt one-storey building.

(detail)1879 | reconstruction
The theare was rebuilt in 1879 according the design by Viennese architect Karl Schlimp, which had been ordered by theatre director Karel Kulich. Painting of theatre interior was made by painter Karel Nácovský according the design by architect Schlimp.
(detail)15.11.1935 | Opening

Extraordinary board meeting of association authorized the new theatre designs by L. Caňkář and Jaroslav Kosek. Laying of foundation stone took place on first September 1935. Construction works were carried out by the firm of L. Caňkář. Demolition of old building commenced on 12th August 1935. Ceremonial opening took place on 15th November 1936 by two performances of Lucern by Alois Jirásek.

(detail)60. 's 20. century | reconstruction
Study for adaptation of Hálek Theatre emerged in 1963. Its authors - Vlastibor Klimeš and Vratislav Růžička- designed new solution of current building, its enlargement with clubroom nad two-storey annex of school. Inspired by it, first stage of the reconstruction was carried out in second half of 1960s according the design by Jana Pavlíček.
(detail)1968 | reconstruction

The realization of second stage of reconstuction was cancelled and lesser adjustments of interior ware carried out according the design by Josef Matyáš. The hall was converted for multilateral utilization with capacity of almost four hundred seats.


Ladislav Caňkář |main architect
(detail)Jaroslav Kosek |main architect

After training by builders J. Duchoslav in Č. Třebová and L. Caňkář in Nymburk (1932-1934), he studied in Prague Academy of Fine Arts in 1934-1937 by Josef Gočár, with whom he cooperated on the work of the modern gallery on Letná. He acquired an eminence of being a creative architect by designing a family house in Poděbrady (1939),Hálek Theatre (1934-1936), residence housing of Novák Brother in Nymburk (1940) and architecturally interesting tendere designs (a town hall in Rychnov nad Kněžnou,1940; adjustment of Lidice, 1945; a memorial in Dukla, 1946; completion the Old Town city hall,1946. He worked shortly in atelier of Jiří Kroha  in Prague Stavoprojekt after 1948. He shifted to the field of industrial construction, where we worked since 1953 up to 1977, when he retired.  

(detail)K. Kreiszel |architect

He is mentioned as a chief supervisor by railway constructions on the North-West railway in 1870, in the same year he designed unrealized design for rebuilding nave of former Dominican monastery in Nymburk to city hall and theatre.

In: Vlček, Pavel a kol. : Encyklopedie architektů, stavitelů, zedníků a kameníků v Čechách, str. 339, Praha 2004.

Karl Schlimp |architect
Jan Pavlíček |architect
(detail)Antonín Červený |builder

Builder in Nymburk, he carried out the reconstruction of house N.126 in Nymburk in 1890s.

In: Vlček, Pavel a kol. : Encyklopedie architektů, stavitelů, zedníků a kameníků v Čechách, str. 127 , Praha 2004.

(detail)Josef Macourek |painter

He was cooperating with the Estate Theatre since the end of the 1850s, was a decoration painter in the Provisional Theatre in 1862-1874 and created sceneries for amateur actors in Karlín, Jaroměř, Nymburk, Mladá Boleslav and other locations.  


More theatres

Ludvík Rubinger |Commissioned by
Karel Kulich |theatre director


The theatre stands in the historical core of the city in the vicinity of old monastery, to which chapel and school building, which was built in its abolished part in the end of 19th century, is attached.


Solely German travelling theatre troupes visited Nymburk in the end of 18th and the beginning of 19th century – so Ignaz  Knischke Troupe in winter 1837–1838 and  Filipp  Zöllner Troupe  in season 1854–1855, whilst only marionetteer Matěj Kopecký used to perform here in Czech language. Beginning of amateur theatre in Nymburk is related to year 1816, when the first Czech productions were taking place due to credit of J. Šámal. More systematic activity of amateur actors is, however, dated back to half of 1830s, when Josef Kajetán Tyl and others gave  guest performances in the city. It was played alternately in Czech and German up to 1848. Theatre troupes were finding provisional rooms in old town hall, in citizens’ houses (U Bergmannů house) or in inns like U černého orla, U Klecandských and U bílého beránka.

An amateur actor association was founded in the city in 1860, it acquired a corridor in the building of old elementary school in first floor of former Dominican monastery (abolished by edict of emperor Joseph II. in 1785) for the theatre due to effort of townsman Ludvík  Rubinger. The Association acted out six performances in 1860, seventeen in 1861 and fifteen in the following year. Provisionally adapted theatre space, with paintwork and sceneries by Prague scenery painter Josef Macourek, had a capacity of 136 seats in ground floor, constituted by rows of benches divided by central aisle, and 36 seats on balcony with boxed parapet. Roof truss was covered with boards, lighting consisted of four armed chandelier and  of several paraffin lamps mounted on the walls. The city bought the entire complex in 1870 to acquire a building plot for planned school construction. Architect K. Kreiszel designed the reconstruction of the monastery and that was realized by the end of 1871 with small alternations made by builder Antonín Červený. The theatre remained in rebuilt two storey building with shallow central bay, protruded over crowning cornice by low parapet, with rusticated five-axial facade in the ground floor and with three-axial in first floor. Municipal offices were located in building ground floor, the theatre occupied provisionally arranged rooms in the first floor.

A reconstruction of the theatre took place in 1879 according to the design by Viennese architect Karl Schlimp, who was commissioned by theatre director Karel Kulich, and the cost were covered from fundraising campaign and with financial help of local sugar refinery. The ceiling was adapted by addition of coved vault, stage was heightened and ascending auditorium acquired the capacity of 180 seats in nine rows. A wooden gallery was expanded above the ground floor part of the auditorium, it was supported by columns, arranged into semicircle, and it protruded up into stage arch by boxes, which were separated by wooden partitions. Two staircases, the inner was from stone and the outer from iron, led into the theatre, which total capacity reached 600 persons along with standing rooms, and then further leading onto access balcony, from which cloak rooms and oblong space of vestibule were accessible. Interior paintwork with grotesque motives, ornamental strips and leafworks was created by Prague academic painter Karel Nácovský in “Pompeii style” according to the design by architect Schlimp. Up-to-date adjusted fly loft enabled also overhead stage lighting with the help of paraffin lamps with shades. Electrical lighting was installed in the theatre not until 1898, when the owner of Labe mill house Alfons Radimský offered his electrical station to the amateur actors. The theatre was being heated by joint fire-tube boiler of neighbouring schools since 1911.  Foyer decoration was enriched by large mirror and plaster bust of poet Jaroslav Vrchlický in 1912.

An adaptation of the theatre, which had been planned to be executed in 1914 and which should have adjusted disposition of the auditorium and should have established new portal mirror on the pattern of grand theatres, was called off, after the First World War had begun. Despite the after war building adaptations ( for instance in 1926 with cost of 11 000 Crowns), it became apparent that the building is less and less suited for modern requirements and not only from operational point of view, but even in the matter of visitors´ safety.

Pursuit  for  new theatre construction, which was declared already in 1920, when Hálek Association bought a plot next to the parcel for new Nymburk Sokol hall, received a new stimulus in 1929, when municipal offices was moved out of buildings of former monastery. Local amateur actors were attempting to obtain financial funds by the means of fund-raising campaign, they negotiated credit with finance companies as well and after complicated negotiations with the city had been carried out, they settled on a proposal for the purchase of old building for 150 000 Crowns to the city. The city however did not accepted this purchase offer and only granted the existing building with entire facilities to Hálek Association for  long-term use for at least fifty years under the condition that the Association would reconstruct the theatre entirely at their expenses. Association committee was conferring on 5th March 1934 about sketch and proposals of the designs, which were worked out for free by Nymburk architect and builder Ladislav Caňkář. The same forum was discussing  new building disposition  in detail on 15th March 1934 and Association extraordinary general meeting approved the designs by architects L. Caňkář  and Jaroslav  Kosek.

The documentation of theatre construction witnesses  for the first time in this period the name of Gočár´s disciple J. Kosek, who was in performing designer training in Nymburk firm of L. Caňkář and he was an author of construction and art solution of Hálek Theatre. Association committee asked the designer for several cost saving adjustments on January 8, 1935; they wanted to lower the stage, to replace glossy stairs by common ones, to use only coloured refined plaster instead of designed facing, to remove the rear wall by the chapel only in range needed for revolving stage, to carry out only the ceiling with wooden construction above the auditorium instead of iron one and to use a bonding from existing building for it. Ceremonial laying of foundation stone took place on September 1, 1935. Construction works were carried out by firm of L. Caňkář, who designed the change of ferroconcrete roof above the auditorium as well. Local firms were executing the construction with partially  ferroconcrete structure  and with brick  filling, only more demanding commissions as stage lighting, circular drop, flybars were provided by firm Svoboda (Praha-Pankrác), construction of revolving stage, iron construction of the roof and iron window frames were provided by firm Ippen from Hradec  Králové and seating equipment by firm Thonet.

New theatre, equipped with revolving stage with trap room and ramp and with auditorium of 620 seats capacity, from which were 120 standing rooms, was ceremonially opened on November 15, 1936 by two performances of Lantern by Alois Jirásek. The chairman of Nymburk Hlahol Bohumil Sýkora labelled the theatre to be „ new temple of enlightenment work” at accompanying celebrations. The necessity of maximal cost saving and constriction in dimension and height of new building required among other that fly facilities were connected by gable wall to former monastery chapel of saint John Nepomuk –originaly Gothic,  in interior rebuilt in Baroque style. Architect Kosek gave to Nymburk gazette an interview in November 1936, where he clarified the principles of his Functionalistic building in such a words: „ good architecture […] should be only pure, harmonic and proportional  union of space and surfaces, […] one had to use the parts of old building to the limits, much infavourably limited on all the sides, and one had not to dissipate the space both in extent and  in height. All these circumstances required only the original solution of the entire project[…] My assignment was not concerning spacious Australian bungalow from the glass, but aesthetical solution of practical building, which organic parts had to correspond fully and exactly to theirs purposes.“

Architectural appearance of the new theatre manifested non-ornamental aesthetics of interwar architecture of Puristic-Functionalistic school. Smooth plaster building was formed by assemblage of mutually penetrating and stepwise handled quadratic masses, with flat roofs and vertical windows strips. Austere solution was predominant  in the rectangular auditorium with slightly ascending floor illuminated by circular lights ( a central one in the centre of the ceiling and three under balcony in one line).

In 1963, a study for Hálek Theatre adaptation emerged, in which its authors, Vlastibor Klimeš and  Vratislav Růžička from Krajský projektový ústav Praha (Regional Project Institute Prague) redesigned the existing building arrangement, its enlargement with clubrooms and two storey school annexe. The area of former monastery chapel should have been transformed into a concert hall. The designers defended their intention among others by reference to positive conservation aspect of the new arrangement, when they stated that „ the Hálek Theatre building is an insensitive interference into historical architecture, which is not possible to eliminate as a reality […] only tomitigate its bad architectural impact.“  Whilst   interior adjustments of the theatre were not so large and were perhaps even well-founded within the context of operational transformation (new acoustical lining was planned for auditorium, a side stage should have come into existence with liquidation of dressing rooms and an abolition of standing rooms on balcony was planned), exterior of the building should have undergone considerable transformation.

The design planned on building three storey oblong club wing in front of main street theatre frontage with cladding, composed of  combination of white and bluestone aluminium, and regular windows raster, which would have shrouded the interwar front theatre facade in large extent, similarly as court theatre facade, on which a new two storey school building should have been interconnected to. First phase of Hálek Theater reconstruction occurred in second half of 1960s in connection with mentioned study according to the design by Jan Pavlíček from 1966. It brought about minor disposition adjustments in operational and technical background of the theatre including modernization of the building heating and air-condition apart the replacement of in-situ terrazzo paving by new concrete Venetian one, enlargement and new ceiling of theatre foyer and soffit lowering. Second phase of reconstruction with annexes of both the wings has not been carried out – probably due to capital intensity- and only a more intimate adjustments of interior occurred according to the design by architect Josef Matyáš. The hall, which was being provided by new flooring and coloured arrangement of the walls together with foyer, was adapted for multilateral utilization (motion-picture hall etc.) with a capacity of almost 400 seats. Last overhauling of the theatre occurred in 2002.

Present state

Hálek Theatre, erected in the area of former monastery near city centre, stands along Tyrš Street, from which the building is recessed about circa 6 metres. Symmetrically conceived building mass structure is composed of staggered arrangement of the rectangular volumes composition. The free area of Tyrš Street is faced by lateral facades  with superelevated central three axial staircase bay, which is opened up by couple of uninterrupted glass windows over the both the floors. An entry is embedded into the parterre on left side with three part plastic frame. Staircase bay inside the building is connected by high, from the outside non-segmented prism of the stage section with fly loft on the left side and into narrow lane oriented entry facade. Central bay protrudes from its two-storeyed oblong mass, and it is supported by the four rounded columns, which thus form a shallow loggia in front of continuously running line of ground floor, which is opened up by symmetrical configuration of cut out entrances: entrance in central axis of the bay is accompanied by two entrances in adjacent axes of lateral segments with regular windows rhythm. Art purity of courtyard facade is violated by extensions of technical background and operational rooms of the theatre, which are attached to stage section of the building and are adjacent to historicizing school wing.

Theatre interior has been significantly changed by adaptations in second half of 20th century and by last reconstruction in 2002 including colouring of the walls and details (banisters, lighting); only both the staircases with terrazzo flooring has preserved the authentic appearance. Theatre ground floor is formed by vestibule with cloakrooms and bar, which ceiling is supported by cylindrical pillars. Massive two-flight staircases lead on both the sides of vestibule through pair of two leafed doors directly into the vestibule. Rectangular auditorium with 419 seats has newly adapted ceiling with spot lighting, the floor of the ground floor with 14 rows of seats rises gradually, technical booth is opened up by broad window in centre of rear part, balcony with six rows of seats is set in the first floor, which juts out by short arms on sides, originally intended for standing audience. Colour arrangement of auditorium combines several shades of blue: from turquoise overlay of walls and ceiling frame with scale lights to dark blue ceiling. The depth of the stage is 7 m, proscenium is 2 m. It is equipped by turntable, trap room and spacious fly facilities. Dressing rooms are on one side of the stage, storeroom on the other. Another storeroom is located under the stage, accessible through technical iron staircase or by the lift (the ceiling of this construction is comprised from turntable construction supported by brick columns.)

 Sources and literature:

– Městský úřad Nymburk, archiv odboru výstavby, kt. č. 200, pol. 330 (1953–1981), kt. č. 201, pol. 330 (1965–1968), kt. č. 202, pol. 330 (1967–1994), kt. č. 203, pol. 330 (1992)

– Dvě knihy protokolů divadelního spolku Hálek z let 1927–1936 a od 23. 2. 1936, uloženy v Městském muzeu v Nymburce

Nymburské listy V, 1936, č. 45 (ze dne 6. 11.), s. 4–5 (Rozmluva s arch. Jaroslavem Koskem, otázky kladl K. Procházka); č. 46 (ze dne 13. 11.), s. 1; č. 47 (ze dne 20. 11.), s. 1 (Emil Zimmler, Zbudování „Národního“ divadla v Nymburce) a 4

Památník ochotnického divadla a divadelního spolku „Hálek“ v královském městě Nymburce, vydaný k oslavě a u příležitosti 50. letého jubilea stálého ochotnického divadla v Nymburce, Nymburk 1910

Památník divadelního spolku „Hálek“ v Nymburce, vydaný u příležitosti slavnost. otevření nového Hálkova městského divadla v Nymburce, Nymburk 1936

– Jan Paulů – Zdeněk Kopecký, Hálek – Hlahol 1860 / 1980: 120 let činnosti nymburských souborů, Nymburk 1980

– Vladimír Šlapeta, S Jaroslavem Koskem o životě a práci, Umění & řemesla 32, 1990, č. 2, s. 65–70

– Jiří Hilmera, Česká divadelní architektura, Praha 1999, s. 134 a obr. 195–196


Tags: Functionalism, Interwar period, detached building


Author: Pavel Panoch

Translator: Jan Purkert

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