Hodek Apartment House

Corner view along Neklanova Street.

ProjectHodek ApartmentsArchitectChochol, JosefCityPragueCountryCzechoslavakiaAddressNeklanova 30Building TypeCourtyard
Perimeter block, cornerNumber of Dwellingsc. 20Date Built1913-14Dwelling Types1 & 2 room flatsNo. Floors5Section TypeflatsExterior Finish
stucco, wood windowsConstruction TypeMasonryAncillary Servicesshop

The change from the academic national style that prevailed in Prague at the turn of the century to the modern style of the 1930's happen in several stages and passed through several uniquely Czech periods of architectural development. The "Purists" of the early 1920's experimented with a plain, undecorated style with elementary forms, simple windows, and traces of classicism. Czech "Cubism", a name adopted by a group of young Czech painters acquainted with the cubism of Picasso and Braque, experimented with their own designs (that had little to do with the analytical cubism of Picasso and Braque) of rhythmical grids, points on a fractured surface and jagged forms. Pavel Jank, a Prague architect who had contact with these ideas, started applying "Pyramidal cubism", decorative applications of slanted facets, folds and fractures to his building facades. The best example of Czech Cubism is this little apartment building by Josef Chocol, built just before WWI.

Hodek was built at the edge of an older quarter of Prague and 20th century districts to the south. Located at an acute corner on a sloping site, this modest block of small flats exhibits some of the detail qualities of the late "Cubist" style. The geometric faceted spandrels and cornice, some of the angular details at the door and ground floor windows, and the otherwise plain undecorated character of the exterior walls are all typical cubist details. The overall classical disposition of the facades on both streets is overlaid with a clear structural grid. The recessed porches at the corner suggest a spatial dimension to the cubist palette. A small shop occupies the corner at the ground floor. There are four tiny one and two room flats at each floor grouped around a rear stair and service zone along the entrance hall.

Czech Cubism was a curiosity more that it was a full-blown architectural style. It was very short-lived, lasting only about 5 years, but occupied an important position between Secessionist and Functionalist values and occurs at the same time as other similar European groups such as Wendingen, Futurism and German Expressionism. While there was some expectation that Cubism would lead to a new style, Karel Teige referred to it as "nothing but a romantic architectural utopia" As an example of housing, it remains a curious introduction to, and perhaps a necessary transitional movement, to the Functionalist era that followed after WWI.

Kohout, Michal & Vladimir Slapeta, Prague 20th Century Architecture, Springer, New York, 1999, p. 89.

Svacha, Rostislav, The Architecture of New Prague 1895-1945, MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1995.

Teige, Karel, Modern Architecture in Czechoslavakia and Other Writings, Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, 2000, pp. 141-57.


6 photos and 2 drawings

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