Author: Michaela Hochová
This year we are commemorating several important anniversaries of the births of architects working in the Czech lands. One of them is architect, designer and theoretician Pavel Janák, who was born in March 140 years ago. Join us on a sightseeing tour of selected buildings designed by Janák that are featured in this year’s program of Open House Prague.
One of the most prominent representatives of Czech interwar architecture lived in a period when styles changed rapidly and therefore are all reflected in his work – from Art Nouveau and Cubism to the National style and Functionalism. Janák studied civil engineering and architecture at the Czech Technical University under Josef Schulz, while at the same time attending the classes of Professor Josef Zítek at the German Technical University. In 1906 Janák began to study at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna under one of the founders of modern architecture, Otto Wagner, who greatly influenced his work in the following years.
Pavel Janák’s architectural activity had several stages. Originally, it was directed towards Czech modernism. He began to gain his first experience in 1908 in the studio of Jan Kotěra, where he cooperated with Josef Gočár. In 1909 he joined the Prague City Building Regulations as a contract architect of the Bridge department. One of the first projects he worked on was the construction of the Hlávka bridge in Prague in 1911. At the same time, he published a lengthy essay in the magazine Umělecký měsíčník (Art Monthly) titled Hranol a Pyramida (Prism and Pyramid), which became the unofficial manifesto of Cubism. Janák contributed significantly to the development of this style, especially through his designs for objects of applied art.
The Cubist period of Janák’s work was interrupted by the First World War. After the establishment of the independent state of Czechoslovakia, Pavel Janák and Josef Gočár created the so-called National style (sometimes also referred to as Art Deco, Rondocubism or Czech decorativism), which was meant to best express the architecture of the newly constructed buildings during the First Czechoslovak Republic. It used the stylized ornamentation of Czech and Moravian folklore. Between 1922 and 1925, the construction of the Adria Palace on Jungmann Square (designed by Janák in collaboration with Zasch), one of the most typical examples of this style, took place. The façade of the palace, designed by Janák, refers to the national colors.
In the mid-twenties Pavel Janák returned to the modern branch of new architecture – the construction of the Libeň Bridge connecting Holešovice and Libeň also dates from this period. Another building is the Clubhouse of the Autoclub of the Czech Republic in Opletalova Street from 1929. Janák added two floors and fundamentally changed the internal layout. The modern exterior of the palace combines neo-classical and purist elements.
The Juliš Hotel on the nearby Wenceslas Square is another very important building designed by architect Pavel Janák for the confectioner Juliš. The functionalist building from 1933 with a reinforced concrete structure still attracts attention with its glazed façade with white opaxite windowsills. In the same period Janák designed the Baba settlement, which was initiated by the Association of the Czechoslovak Werkbund. This settlement subsequently became a model example of functionalist housing.
Between 1928 and 1934, Pavel Janák was given the opportunity to participate in the renovation of the Czernin Palace in Hradčany, the seat of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, during which, among other things, a large functionalist administrative complex was added to the palace, part of which will be visible from the accessible garden outside.
In 1930, a very progressive construction of the Church of the Hus Congregation in Vinohrady in the constructivist style was underway as designed by Janák. The architect is also said to have been involved in the conception of the tower of the nearby Church of the Hus Congregation in Vršovice or the completion of the first floor of the Laichter House, an important piece of modernist architecture situated in Vinohrady. However, Janák’s authorship of these projects is not quite confirmed.
Janák’s buildings opened during Open House Prague 2022:
- Adria Palace, the front part (1922–1925),
- Church of the Hus Congregation in Vinohrady (1930),
- Church of the Hus Congregation in Vršovice, the tower (1930),
- Clubhouse of the Autoclub of the Czech Republic (1926–1929),
- Czernin Palace, extension (1928–1934),
- EA Hotel Juliš (1927–1933),
- Laichter House, extension (1937).