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Alfred in the Courtyard Theatre

Tomáš Kulík, Jindřich Smetana

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Important events

(detail)10. 3. 1997 | Completion of the construction
The realization of the structure was carried out between October 1996 and March 1997 according the design by Jindřich Smetana and Tomáš Kulík.
(detail)1998 | Award

The building was awarded as a best in new construction category, in Architecture Grand Prix– National Architecture award competition . The theater was also nominated for Mies van der Rohe award. 

(detail)2001 | Ctibor Turba resigned
Ctibor Turba resigned from the artistic and organisational management of the theatre in the year 2001.


(detail)Tomáš Kulík |main architect

Contemporary Czech architect. He works in ANIMA- TECH project association.

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(detail)Jindřich Smetana |main architect

He graduated on Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague in 1979 by professor  Josef Svoboda, with whom he cooperated in the National Theatre – Laterna Magica. Apart stage designing, exhibitions and audiovisual art, he is involved in building of culture structures in architecture. He realized the design of Prague theatre Spirála (1991) with atelier LO-TECH in the field of theatre architecture. In joint authorship with Tomáš  Kulík, he realized the theatre Alfred in the Courtyard (1997), Globe (1999), Multimedia Cyber Dome Estrella (design 1998) and other projects.


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Ctibor Turba is a mime artist, choreographer, director, teacher at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague and a renowned figure of Czech pantomime. After restitution of the apartment building in the neighbourhood of Prague 7 in the 1990s, Turba decides to carry out a bold and remarkable non-commercial act for supporting the arts. This involved building a new theatre within the inner block of the buildings dedicated specifically to pantomime and experimental theatre, that is small-scale theatre. The original idea led C. Turba to considerations as to having only a provisional theatre tent in the space of the courtyard for the outdoor season. This plan, however, was soon abandoned due to noise and sound difficulties. Turba initially turned to the architect and actor David Vávra for the task of building a 'permanent' theatre.  The design by Vávra and Julie Schulzová was soon abandoned, however, due to an inappropriate ground plan design as well as the chosen material. Turba consequently addressed the architects Jindřich Smetana and Tomáš Kulík who he had previous work experience with (reconstruction of Studio Kaple in a deconsecrated hospital chapel in Nečtiny) and who had extensive experience with theatre architecture and scenography.

After graduating from the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design under  Josef Svoboda,  Jindřich Smetana (1954)  co-operated with his former teacher on the creation of scenography concepts for the National Theatre – Laterna Magika (Magic Lantern). The second co-author is Tomáš Kulík (1954) who began to work with  Smetana in the studio LO-TECH starting in the year 1991; from that time they have worked together within the framework of the platform ANIMA-TECH. Here their authorial interests have focused onto the sphere of theatre architecture with the following projects realized thus far: Spirála Theatre (1991) and the Globe (1999) as well as in between Alfred in the Court Theatre in the year 1997. The structure was carried out by the company Metrostav.

The new structure of this cultural institution is subtly hidden inside a building block in Holešovice in Prague. The distinct body of the theatre frames in a vivid contrast the indistinct courtyard façades of the apartment buildings. This built-in theatre served to significantly cultivate this dismal courtyard, which previously contained high-grown trees as well as, however, unattractive shacks for car garages, that is a run down  locale unfortunately not at all uncommon in the residential areas of Holešovice.

The building consequently radically contrasts with its surroundings through its austere expression. Its volume, however, fits in optimally with the environment due to the significant embedding of the structure below the level of the adjoining terrain a condition influenced by the amount of distance from the neighbouring buildings. The deepening of the theatre to the cellar level floor also made possible the linking up with the already existing cellar spaces in two of the adjoining apartment buildings. These spaces consequently serves as entrance areas for the theatre as well as a bar, while the facilities for actors are located under the building opposite.   

The most remarkable aspect of the entire new structure, however, is of course the actual theatre hall which serves to create a distinct novelty in the courtyard. It consists of five rhythmically arranged, gradually decreasing, in regular order, portals. Belts for insertion of glass panes consequently emerge in the passage ways ensuring the required daily light for the interior which was one of the characteristics of the project commission. The interior consists of the most rational connection possible between the auditorium and the stage. The theatre capacity consists of from 80-100 people. The variations in the number of viewers is given by the abandonment of standard seating chairs in favour of six simple graduated benches, accessible from below from side stairs. In similar fashion the theatre can be adapted for dimensions of  8x8 metres or, through removal of the borders, up to 8x12 metres. The exposed lattice construction of the roof holds the lighting bodies.

The authors refer to Alfred in the Courtyard Theatre as 'a garden theatre pavilion' in terms of typology. Ctibor Turba expressed the technical character of the exterior with comparisons such as 'a transformer, atomic shelter or even an iron camera'. This is due to the external cladding with concrete constructions with sheet metal in horizontal strips. Nevertheless, the architects count on the building gradually being covered with greenery (Virginia Creeper) allowing it to thus naturally fit in with its surroundings.

In the year 1998 the  realization was named the best new structure of the year 1997 in the Grand Prix Competition of the Society of Czech Architects. Alfred in the Courtyard Theatre was further nominated for the Mies van der Rohe European prize for architecture.


- Turba, Ctibor: Nejjednodušší forma prostoru pro komorní komedie; Architekt XLIII, 1997, č. 12, s. 11-13.

- Z autorské zprávy: Architekt XLIII; 1997, č. 12, s. 16.

- Halík, Pavel: Pod krunýřem trilobita; Architekt XLIII, 1997, č. 12, s. 17.

- Divadlo pantomimy Alfred ve dvoře v Praze; Architekt XLIV, 1998, č. 12, s. 16.

- Hilmera, Jiří: Česká divadelní architektura, Praha 1999, s. 175.

- Třeštík, Michael (ed.): Kdo je kdo. Architektura, Praha 2000, s. 230.

- Kratochvíl, Petr & Halík, Pavel: Contemporary Czech Architecture / Tschechische zetigenössische Architektur, Praha 2000, s. 72-74.

- Kleinerová, Světlana: Divadelní architektura posledních deseti let; Stavba VII, 2000, č. 6, s. 53-59.

- Turba, Ctibor: Divadlo Alfred ve dvoře; Stavba VII, 2000, č. 6, s. 60-61.

- Švácha, Rostislav: Česká architektura a její přísnost. Padesát staveb 1989-2004, Praha 2004, s. 154-157.

- Svoboda, Jan E. & Noll, Jindřich: Praha 1945-2003, Kapitoly z poválečné a současné architektury. Praha 2006, s. 326.


personal  archive of Jindřich Smetana



Tags: Postmodern architecture, Contemporary era, yard extension


Author: Vendula Hnídková

Translator: David Livingstone

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