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The unrealized design of the Liberated Theatre in Prague (1926-1927)

Josef Chochol

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Important events

(detail)1927 | Opening


Jiří Frejka |theatre director


The design of an experimental venue for the Liberated Theatre came into existence between 1926-1927 through cooperation of two leading Czech avant-garde artists – architect Josef Chochol and theatre director Jiří Frejka. Frejka supplemented it with his text About a universal stage in the magazine Fronta  from 1927 where was the designed published for the first time.  Beside the mentioned design by Chochol, the magazine also contained a design of a circular theatre by Czech avant-garde sculptor Zdeňek Pešánek who earlier cooperated with Chochol on several projects. In the context of the Czech avant-garde, the first design of a circular stage was worked out by musical composer and abstract painter Miroslav Ponc.

The 1920s brought a new view of a spatial layout of theatres thanks to the experiments of the Russian theatrical avant-garde.  The traditional proscenium theatres were considered to be a bourgeois anachronism and architects together with avant-garde directors turned their attention to universal circular stages,  which were more inclined to spatial arrangement in the constructivist style towards larger openness and motion. The discussion of the issue was already opened  by director Jindřich Honzl and theoretician of architecture Karel Teige, who visited the USSR with Honzl in 1925,  became involved in it from an architectural point of view. In his essays, Teige labelled the Soviet Constructivism as an example of a scientific approach towards the architecture and published the design of Lenin’s House of Culture in Ivanovo-Voznesensk by Grigori Barkhin in the magazine Stavba in 1925. Circular layouts were deployed in USSR for their theatres of “mass venues”, houses of culture, cinemas, palaces of work in the first place by Vesnin brothers (Palace of Labor in Moscow, Theatre of Mass Performances in Kharkiv, 1931) or Barkhin’s  brothers ( theatre in Rostov-on-Don 1930; Synthetic Theatre in Sverdlovsk, 1931), but others as well.

As it has been mentioned in the literature before by František Šmejkal or  Rostislav Švácha, the outer machine-like appearance of the Chochol’s Liberated Theatre invoking “ a ship sailing to a better future” proceeded from the Soviet Constructivist designs. The ground plan is composed of a central circular stage, surrounded by the auditorium, which is sloped from the circumference towards the stage similarly as in a circus and it is radially crossed by eight aisles that are accessible through outer corridor halls. These aisles should have served as to the spectators as to the actors.  Apart of the aisles leading through the auditorium, the stage should have been accessible from outside as well through a lift and ramp. “ This venue does not use only the floor, but the entire stage area, uses the spatial column above the stage for acting, or above the auditorium as well. Aesthetical satisfaction from the construction will be felt in the moment when we face the project that is conceived perfectly in an economic way. When we are in front of the project that is convenient as well as to audience as to the needs of biomechanical actor.” (Jiří Frejka, O univerzálním jevišti, Fronta 1927, p. 106.)



Jiří Frejka, O univerzálním jevišti, Fronta 1927, s. 106.

František Šmejkal, Český konstruktivismus, Umění XXX, 1982, s. 214-243.

Rostislav Švácha, Od moderny k funkcionalismu, Praha 1995, s. 300.

Jiří Hilmera, Česká divadelní architektura, Praha 1999, s. 107.

Jiří Zemánek (ed.), Zdeněk Pešánek 1896-1965 (kat.). Národní galerie v Praze, Praha 1996, s. 70-71.


Tags: Avant-garde


Author: Markéta Svobodová

Translator: Jan Purkert

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