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Švanda's Theatre in Smíchov

Josef Záhorský

alias Intimate Theatre (1908-1928), Labyrint Theatre (1992-1997), Realistic Theatre (1945-1953), Realistic Theatre of Zdeněk Nejedlý (1953-1990), Theatre "U Libuše"
history of the theatresupplementtechnical dataHistoric equipment

Important events

(detail)1. 10. 1881 | Touring group of Pavly Švandy ze Semčic took up activities
The first theatre company, which started performing in the garden of an old house „U Libuše“ on 1 October 1881, was the originally touring theatre company of Pavel Švanda from Semčice. The building was designed by the Smichov’s architect and developer Josef Záhorský.
(detail)1920 | Adaptation of the front façade
Radical reconstruction of the front façade of the theatre was done according to Ladislav Machoň’s project in cubist style in 1918-20  and the building became the main feature of Kinsky square. At the beginning of the 1920s the renovation of the interiors took place, which was a common endeavour of Rudolf Škrle, Jindřich Pollert, and C. O. Jandl.
(detail)1957 | Competition for design of new theatre building
Competition for the best architectural design organized for new building on what is today Náměstí 14. října. The best price was awarded to the design of Jiří Gočár, the planned construction was cancelled in the 1960s and a decision was taken to adapt the old building in Štefánikova street.
(detail)1999 | Daniel Hrbek became director

(detail)October 2001 | Commencement of reconstruction
In October 1999, two theatre directors David Hrbek a Michal Lang won the competition for a new theatre director. Hrbek invited the architect David Vávra to collaborate on the project of reconstruction. Vávra was familiar with theatre operations as an actor and a member of Sklep theatre group. After that, there was a period of consultations with specialists and project preparation. Scenographers Luboš Hrůza and Jan Dušek collaborated on the future design concept, especially the main theatre hall. David Vávra further collaborated with Robert Daněk, Jan Linhart, Martin Rössler and Kateřina Vajčnerova. The actual renovation work was implemented by Metrostav.
(detail)December 2002 | The theatre started its operations in the renovated space.
The theatre was not opened with one performance but a series of performances of the Hungarian dramatist Kronél Hamvai.

People

Josef Záhorský |main architect
Martin Rössler |architect
Jan Linhart |architect
Robert Daňek |architect
C. O. Jandl |architect
Rudolf Škrle |architect
(detail)Ladislav Machoň |architect

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.

More theatres

Daniel Hrbek |director

History

The first theatre company which started performing in the garden of an old house „U Libuše“ on 1 October 1881 was the originally touring theatre company of Pavel Švanda from Semčice. This theatre group also performed on the summer stage „V lesíčku“ (at the barracks on the opposite side of the square), and after 1891 in the newly built wooden Arena on the Smichov’s embankment “Hořejší nábřeží” where they had performed until they finished their activities in 1934. The first building was designed by the Smichov’s architect and developer Josef Záhorský. There was a major transformation in 1900 when the theatre entrance was built right from the street instead of the garden. The works also involved space conversion of the stage and auditorium realized by the developer Šimek. More adaptations followed in 1908, 1910, 1914, and later in the period of 1918 to 1920; a radical reconstruction of the front façade of the theatre was done according to Ladislav Machoň’s project in cubist style and the building became the main feature of Kinsky square. At the beginning of the 1920s the renovation of the interiors took place, which was a common endeavour of Rudolf Škrle, Jindřich Pollert, and C. O. Jandl.

The most remarkable part of the building in terms of art history is the six-axial front façade with cubist features designed by Ladislav Machoň at the end of 1920s. The façade renovated in yellow-red shades is designed so that the brick red accentuates the ground floor, vertical plastic structures, and the principle mouldings, whereas the yellow-ochre shades fill the rest of the façade areas. The entire ground floor area with two windows and two double-wing portals was covered with a fine stucco decoration with rhombic shapes. These rhombic shapes were also applied by the architect Vávra in contemporary wall decoration in the main theatre hall. A metal sunblind filled with frosted glass panels supported by massive consoles divides the ground floor from the first floor. In Machoň’s plan dated 13 January 1919, there is an undulating curve of the sunblind evoking secession features, therefore one can assume that the geometric design was accepted later. There is a sublevel cornice attached to the sunblind which forms a distinctive plastic forward leaning line radically dividing the pit level from upper floors.

The first and the second floor level is connected by fluted pilasters regularly distributed so that there is a single pilaster on each side of the front façade, whereas between the second and third, and between the forth and the fifth axe there is a couple of joint pilasters different from the above mentioned design. A distinctive fluting in its cubist form was also used on the socle of the group of statues in front of the bridge “Hlávkův most” designed by Pavel Janák. The oblong windows on the first and second floor are framed by a window sill and hood moulding which joins the windows into couples. There is a sign engraved on the moulding between the second and third floor saying Švandovo divadlo na Smíchově; the same sign is installed on the upper edge of the sunblind above the entrance. On each end of the sign, there is a figure of a joker in dynamic motion. The upper floor is shaded by a massive cornice above the moulding with triangular elements, and above the cornice there is an attic gable. The neighbouring neo-renaissance façade of the house no. 6, which also belongs to the theatre, has seven axes and on horizontal levels corresponds to the Machoň’s design composition: the ground floor has a terracotta coating just like the main theatre building; the upper levels are pale blue.

In the 1950s, when the theatre group performed under the name Realistické divadlo (Realistic theatre), a construction of a new theatre building was seriously considered. For this purpose a piece of land was found on what is today náměstí 14. října behind St. Wenceslas church. Although there was a competition for the best architectural design organized in 1957 in which the best price was awarded to the design of Jiří Gočár, the planned construction was cancelled in the 1960s and a decision was taken to adapt the old building in Štefánikova street.

In 1945 the theatre was renamed to Realistic theatre and in 1953 this name was extended to Realistické divadlo Zdeňka Nejedlého. At the beginning of the 1990s the theatre was renamed to Labyrint. In 1998, Richard Kraus, the theatre director at the time, commissioned the architect Jan Mayer to draft a study for the theatre reconstruction. Mayer, together with other colleagues, presented the project at the Prague Quadrennial ´99. However, his study was not well received with the authorities. In the following year, there was a selection procedure to find a new theatre director. The applicants were also requested to present a theatre reconstruction project which would consider the future theatre operation. In October 1999, two theatre directors Daniel Hrbek a Michal Lang won the competition. Hrbek invited the architect David Vávra to collaborate on the project. Vávra was familiar with theatre operations as an actor and a member of Sklep theatre group. After that, there was a period of consultations with specialists and project preparation. Scenographers Luboš Hrůza and Jan Dušek collaborated on the future design concept, especially the main theatre hall. David Vávra further collaborated with Robert Daněk, Jan Linhart, Martin Rössler and Kateřina Vajčnerova. The actual renovation work was implemented by Metrostav. In October 2001 the building permit was granted and in December 2002, the theatre started its operations in the renovated space. The theatre was not opened with one performance but a series of performances of the Hungarian dramatist Kronél Hamvai which took place in the period from 14 to 20 October.

The last architectonic intervention to certain extent rehabilitated the original Machoň’s cubist front façade. The interiors, however, were designed with greater creative freedom. The architect’s ideas were supported by an analyses of the theatre operations based on which the architects determined the principles and parameters of dispositional solution. The shading of the neighbouring buildings turned out to be a limiting factor for the reconstruction, and it had an impact on the height and floor plan structure of construction work inside the theatre space.

The building is located in a row of town houses in Štefánikova street, which used to be called Hlavní or Kinského, and it’s neighbouring a lower neo-classicist apartment building, house no. 5, originally also with a neo-renaissance apartment building, house no. 6, which is integrated into the theatre complex.

The main theatre hall with the visitor’s lounge is located on the ground floor of the theatre. A design characterized by a repeated entrance portal in the lounge is used as a navigation architectural feature leading the visitors into the foyer. The design is composed of blue triangular elements with lighting installed inside which evoke cubist principles of “crystalinism” in an almost post-modern style. Also, there is a remarkable decoration in the foyer called „Art wall“ on which invited artist can paint. The painting is later replaced by an artwork of other painter. In this space, there are two spiral staircases with a simple metal railing providing the access to the circle.

The main theatre hall has an oblong floor plan. The depth of the auditorium and the stage is similar.  The seating is arranged so that the rows continually copy the curve of the stage. Behind the last - eleventh – row, there are four boxes facing the stage. The circle is positioned from three sides along the perimeter of the auditorium and the side wings of the circle gradually descend towards the stage portal. There is a distinctive metal railing around the circle. The side walls of the pit and the circle are decorated with large rhombic shapes inspired by cubist forms. Apart from the beige back wall which matches the pencil colours in foyer, most of the auditorium is in covered in dark blue. There are mainly theatre offices on four floors facing the street, but also a rehearsal room, recording studio, and rooms for lease. In the basement, there is a parallel stage which combines the auditorium and stage into one undivided variable space. The hall has an oblong shape supported by a tunnel vault, the design of which is determined by a miscellaneous walling. The simple crudeness of this space is furthermore emphasised by contrasting technical equipment. The access into the basement is through another spiral staircase.

 

 

Sources:

 

- Archiv Švandova divadla.

-  Archiv Odboru výstavby Úřadu Městské části Praha 5.

Literature:

 

-  Architekt Ing. Ladislav Machoň, in: Horizont, 1931, č. 33-34, s. 195.

-  Rybár, Ctibor (ed.): Co je co v Praze. Praha 1989, s. 198

-  Hošková, Simeona (ed.): Kubistická Praha 1909-25. Praha 1995, s. 182-183.

-  Hilmera, Jiří: Pražská divadla. Praha 1995 , s. 4, 6.

-  Švácha, Rostislav: Od moderny k funkcionalismu. Praha 1995, s. 535.

-  Hilmera, Jiří: Česká divadelní architektura. Praha 1999, s. 31, 47, 108,132, 147-149, 176-177, 279.

-  Interiér roku 2003, Architekt IL, 2003, č. 6, s. 32.

-  Ebel, Martin & Lukeš, Zdeněk & Matějka, Ivan & Veverka, Přemysl & Vlček, Pavel: Slavné stavby Prahy 5. Praha 2005, s. 80-83.

-  Svoboda, Jan, E. & Noll, Jindřich: Praha 1945-2003, Kapitoly z poválečné a současné architektury. Praha 2006, s. 215, 279, 318.

-  Jungmann, Jan: Smíchov. Město za Újezdskou branou. Praha 2007, s. 222-224.

 

Tags: Austria-Hungary, Cubism

 

Author: Vendula Hnídková

Translator: Zdislava Kratěnová

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