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Hybernia Theatre

Carlo Lurago

history of the theatresupplementtechnical dataHistoric equipment

Important events

(detail)17. century | Construction

Hybernia theatre was rebuilt from a former custom house which used to be a Baroque Church of Virgin’s Mary Immaculate Conception. The history of this building goes back to 1629 when the emperor Ferdinand II invited the Irish monks of St. Francis (Hybernians) from the Spanish Netherlands (Louvain) to Prague, and gave them the permission to build a monastery with a church. The monks started building the church after finishing the construction of the monastery in 1653, and completed it in 1659. The Italian architect Carlo Lurago is considered to be the designer of the church which was one of his early works.


(detail)12.12.1789 | opening

(detail)1802 | closure

(detail)00. 's 19. century | Reconstruction

In 1803, the monastery with the church became the property of the banking company which implemented the reconstruction of both buildings, whereby the architects Josef Zobel, Georg Fischer and Jan Filip Joendl became involved. The church was rebuilt in Empire style in the period from 1808 to 1811 to a custom house with the front face as it is known today. The design of the front face was partially influenced by Gentz’s Neo-Classicist coin manufacture in Berlin, and it is one of the most significant examples of the Prague Empire style.


(detail)20. century | Reconstruction

In 1938, the church was rebuilt according to the design of Josef Karel Říha to an exhibition hall. The floors of the building built in classicist style were pulled down. The work was not completed until after the Second World War – in 1949. The house was used for exhibitions until 1991, and then it was closed down due to its dilapidated condition.


(detail)23.11.2006 | Opening
The building was adapted to a theatre during the reconstruction implemented in the period from 2005 to 2006 according to the project drafted in 2004 by the architect Michael Klang. The building approval was granted on 27 September 2006, and the official opening nigh took place on 23 November with the premier of the musical show Golem composed by Karel Svoboda, script by Zdeňek Zelenka, directed by Filip Renč, and stage design by Šimon Caban.

People

Josef Zobel |architect
(detail)Jiří Fischer |architect

Is considered as a representative of czech Neoclassicism  and Empire style . His main contribution is considered the reconstruction of former monastery Hybernů na Celnici in Empire style.

Source: Vlček, Pavel a kol. : Encyklopedie architektů, stavitelů, zedníků a kameníků v Čechách, str. 175, Praha 2004.

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Jan Filip Joendl |architect
(detail)Josef Karel Říha |architect

He worked in Jan Kotěra atelier and under his influence, he designed housing (Dejvice) and public buildings (V. Burian Theatre in Hybernská Street).  The most famous is his own vila Na Paváku nad Santoškou (1930).

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Michael Klang |architect

History

Hybernia theatre was rebuilt from a former custom house which used to be a Baroque Church of Virgin’s Mary Immaculate Conception. The history of this building goes back to 1629 when the emperor Ferdinand II invited the Irish monks of St. Francis (Hybernians) from the Spanish Netherlands (Louvain) to Prague, and gave them the permission to build a monastery with a church. The monks started building the church after finishing the construction of the monastery in 1653, and completed it in 1659. The Italian architect Carlo Lurago is considered to be the designer of the church which was one of his early works. For the fist time within the period of the Czech Early Baroque, there was a face front without a tower. In this, Lurago continued the tradition of the Italian masters. The church was one of the most significant Early Baroque churches in Prague. Its position on the street corner opposite the Powder Gate underlined the quality of its architecture. The tower was built later in 1672. When the monastery was closed in 1785, the building was under military administration which intended to use the church for the garrison. In 1793, the unused building was bought in auction by Johann Franz, the Count Sweerts-Sporck, the owner of the neighbouring house; he requested the building permit for building a portico gallery in front of the church in 1794. This supposed to have been a start of the adaptation of the building to a theatre. Theatre performances took place in the refectory from 1789 until the death of the Count Sweerts-Sporck in 1802. In 1803, the monastery with the church became the property of the banking company which implemented the reconstruction of both buildings, whereby the architects Josef Zobel, Georg Fischer and Jan Filip Joendl became involved. The church was rebuilt in Empire style in the period from 1808 to 1811 to a custom house with the front face as it is known today. The design of the front face was partially influenced by Gentz’s Neo-Classicist coin manufacture in Berlin, and it is one of the most significant examples of the Prague Empire style.

The shape of the church is determined by its longitudinal lay-out. The aisle of the church was composed of three fields covered with cylindrical vault with groin sectors. Each of the fields, which were separated from each other by a fascia, corresponded to a side chapel with cylindrical vaulting. The presbytery was slightly narrowing; it had two fields of cylindrical vault with a couple of groin sectors. The structure of side walls of the aisle corresponded to the vault; there was a pilaster for each fascia which supported a profiled longitudinal moulding.

In 1938, the church was rebuilt according to the design of Josef Karel Říha (1893-1970) to an exhibition hall. The floors of the building built in classicist style were pulled down. The work was not completed until after the Second World War – in 1949. The house was used for exhibitions until 1991, and then it was closed down due to its dilapidated condition.

In 1992, the Ministry of Culture founded a lottery called Česká lotynka. The proceeds from the lottery were to contribute to the state budget for culture. The Ministry of Culture provided two buildings as a security for the credit from the Czech Commercial Bank: The House at the Black Madona in Celetna and The Hybernia House. When Lotynka declared bankruptcy, the government was forced to repurchase both buildings. It then leased The Hybernia House to the company Musical. The original project for the adaptation of the site to a musical theatre seemed to be favouring the preservation of some of the architectural features of the building – there was an effort to preserve the original wooden attic. However, the investor later requested a change in the building permit in order to implement a musical stage with standard dimensions. As a result of the permission granted, a larger part of the church interior, which was protected by the state as a registered national landmark, was demolished. The reconstruction further involved the replacement of the old attic by a metal structure; two fields behind the triumphal arch were also brought down. When the investor started having financial problems, the company Hybernia became the new tenant of the building.

The building was adapted to a theatre during the reconstruction implemented in the period from 2005 to 2006 according to the project drafted in 2004 by the architect Michael Klang. When dividing the space into the auditorium and stage, the architect copied the original sacral layout, i.e. the church aisle and the presbytery. Newly, he also implemented a vertical lay-out of the building. There is a lobby on the ground floor below the auditorium. Apart from the main entrance in Na Příkopech street, the lobby can be also accessed from Hybernská. There is a staff entrance, a storage room, and a space for the orchestra on the ground floor of the stage house. On ground floor of the theatre house, there is the main entrance, a box office, a foyer with a staircase leading into the basement and a café. There are cloakrooms and toilets in the basement, however, the facilities are not sufficient given the capacity of the auditorium. There are four sets of semi-circular staircases built symmetrically (first and third aisle) in side aisles of the ground-floor auditorium. Another level is composed of the stage and the ascending auditorium in the main aisle. Due to the fact that the building was to be used for commercial events, the architect used maximum of the aisle space for the seating area. The almost square-shaped stage in what used to be the presbytery is composed of two digitally controlled rotating stages and two manually controlled traps. There is a big lift for moving the scenery behind the stage, and personal lifts on both sides of the stage which provide access to the dressing rooms and technical facilities of the theatre.

There is a foyer with a bar in front of the entrance into the upper part of the auditorium on the first floor above the lobby. On the next floor, there is a circle with five rows of seats and another bar. On the highest floor, there are dressing rooms and service rooms for the stage and other technical facilities. The air conditioning facility was built just under the roof. The architect also built a flyloft and a grid for the installation of the spot winch under the roof above the stage. There is a café with a terrace built in the theatre attic above the portal which is facing the pedestrian zone Na Příkopech. The original St. Patrick’s chapel with wall paintings was discovered during the reconstruction of the building.

When designing the theatre, the architect Klang, who specialized in commercial interiors, sourced his inspiration from post-modern references to antique architecture (used violent colours on the walls – purple, olive, red, yellow; and in other architectonic features – the use of gold). He was also inspired by the sacral origins of the building (bright gold used on profiled mouldings, heads of angels with wings on railings etc.). The climax of his architectural concept supposed to have been a red front façade with golden Doric columns in front of the entrance. Luckily, this was never implemented. The house has a sandstone façade just like the Empire style original building. One of the disadvantages of adapting the originally sacral building to a theatre was the lack of adjacent space for storing the props around the stage.

The building approval was granted on 27 September 2006, and the official opening nigh took place on 23 November with the premier of the musical show Golem composed by Karel Svoboda, script by Zdeňek Zelenka, directed by Filip Renč, and stage design by Šimon Caban.

 

Sources and Literature:

- Stavební archiv MÚ Praha 1

- Baťková, Růžena a kol., Umělecké památky Prahy. Nové Město - Vyšehrad, Academia Praha 1998, s. 189 – 191.

- Biegel, Richard, Rekonstrukce kostela Neposkvrněného početí Panny Marie (tzv. paláce U Hybernů) na muzikálové divadlo, Věstník Klubu Za starou Prahu 3/2000.

- Biegel, Richard, Rekonstrukce bývalého kostela Neposkvrněného početí Panny Marie (tzv. paláce U Hybernů) na muzikálové divadlo, Věstník Klubu Za starou Prahu 1-2/2001.

- Biegel, Richard, Dům U Hybernů divadlem, Věstník Klubu Za starou Prahu 3/2006.

- Stavba XIII, 2006, č. 6, s. 58.

- http://www.zastarouprahu.cz/kauzy/hyberni/divadlo.htm

 

 

 

Tags: Austrian Empire, Baroque, detached building, Empire style, Postmodern architecture

 

Author: Markéta Svobodová

Translator: Zdislava Kratěnová

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