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JURKOVIC VILLA IN BRNO

 

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Architecture buffs may now visit Dusan Jurkovic’s recently renovated villa in the Moravian town of Brno! The Jurkovic Villa currently ranks among the leading examples of Central European Art Nouveau Folk style. The building from 1906 is one of the finest examples of modernist architecture inspired by British and Viennese designs mixed with elements of Folk art.

Jurkovič Villa

The Dušan Samo Jurkovič Villa represents a watershed in the artist's development. It demonstrates a distinct shift in his style, in which he abandoned the previous paraphrasing of wooden "folk" houses. Jurkovič placed the building, designed in 1906, on a woodland slope above the River Svratka, on the edge of the village of Žabovřesky (Jana Nečase Street 2). In terms of architectural styles around Brno, this building is to art nouveau what the Tugendhat Villa is to functionalism.

Jurkovič realised a vision of the ideal villa in the house, mediated through the English Arts & Crafts movement, with its return to housing traditions, crafts, and the blending of free and applied art. At the same time, he drew inspiration from the Jan M. Olbrich's Darmstadt housing scheme and from the Josef Hoffmann's Hoag Warte Quarter. The significance that Jurkovič invested in the building became even more evident when the villa, as a unique gesamtkunstwerk, was included as an exhibit at a show organised by the Friends of the Arts Club in 26 August - 20 September 1906.

The entrance frontage of the villa was dominated by a glass mosaic designed by Adolf Kašpar, picturing a scene from The Shepherd and the Dragon, a fairy tale. The villa is divided into an entrance area, a social section, and a working section on the first floor, with private quarters on both floors. The central hall lies at the heart of the house. The colourful and light atmosphere of the villa also plays an important part.
The Moravian Gallery became the administrator of the Jurkovič Villa in 2006. A year later (i.e. 101 years after its first opening) the gallery opened the villa to the public.

Dušan Jurkovič

Dušan Jurkovič (23 August 1868, Turá Lúka - 21 December 1947, Bratislava), Slovak architect, furniture designer and ethnographer.   Although Jurkovič spent the major part of his life in Slovakia, he went down in history as one of the most outstanding architects in the Czech lands at the turn of the 19th century, alongside Jan Kotěra.
In 1889 Jurkovič enrolled at the State School of Applied Arts, Vienna, headed by Camillo Sitte. From 1899 onwards he worked as an independent architect in Brno (e.g. the interiors of the Vesna girls' boarding school in Údolní Street, the Benedikt Škarda residence in Dvořákova Street). His most important piece of work from this period is his own house, designed in 1906. Together with buildings in Pustevny, Luhačovice and the Nové Město nad Metují chateau, the house forms the core of what survives of the architect's work in the Czech Republic.

During the First World War Jurkovič designed a number of military cemeteries in Galicia, Poland. After the establishment of an independent Czechoslovakia in 1918, he returned to Slovakia and settled in Bratislava. In 1919 he became Director of the Heritage Institute, Bratislava. Jurkovič created an original "national style" characteristically informed by folk architecture and inspired by the English Arts & Crafts movement

The Jurkovič Architecture Trail

Wilson's Wood
The first person to come up with the idea of creating a manmade woodland park on the slope above the River Svratka was Mayor of Brno Christian d'Elvert, in the 1870's. It was designed by Karel Jelínek, the municipal gardener, and executed by the newly established Foresting and Embellishing Association". The park was completed in 1888, on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the accession of Emperor Francis Joseph I, and named Císařský les - Kaiserwald ["Emperor's Wood"] in his honour. After the establishment of the independent Czechoslovak Republic in 1918, the park was renamed Wilsonův les ["Wilson's Wood"], in recognition of American President Woodrow Wilson's support for the Czechoslovak state. Known to the post-war socialists as Jiráskův les ["Jirásek's Wood"], it reverted to Wilsonův les in 1991.

The Jurkovič House
Architect Dušan Jurkovič (1868-1947) was active in Brno in the early 20th century and in 1906 chose to build his own house near the city. The Pod kopcem ["Below the Hill"] location near Císařský les Wood was then situated, like the whole village of Žabovřesky, beyond the city borders, and the Jurkovič House was the first one constructed there.

The architect's house was an important milestone in his work. Jurkovič employed his experience in a new and original way, blending inspiration from folk constructions, previously developed in the Pustevny buildings and the Luhačovice spa, with a modern approach to ideal housing in the spirit of English country houses, with a central hall. The house itself, approached as gesamtkunstwerk, became the centrepiece of an exhibition organised there, shortly after its completion, by the Brno Friends of the Arts Club, of which the architect was a member. The house has a wooden frame lined with plastered corkboard. Its layout is divided into the social section, a central hall and drawing room (also commercial showroom) on the ground floor, and private quarters on both floors. The house included a large study for the architect and a guest room. The furnishing and decoration were the work of Jurkovič and his artist friends: the original glass mosaic on the main frontage was designed by Adolf Kašpar, while the interiors featured artworks by Joža and Franta Úprka.

Jurkovič sold his Brno house in 1919. It remained in private hands until 2006, when the building was purchased by the state and subsequently acquired by the Moravian Gallery, Brno, as administrator. The house was reconstructed in 2009-2010, with support from a grant by the Norwegian Financial Mechanism scheme, Norway. It was opened to the public in 2011.   Jana Nečase 2

The Josef and Augusta Kunz House
A year after architect Jurkovič built his house in Žabovřesky, he sold the adjoining plot to Josef Kunz, a teacher, and his wife Augusta. He also designed a house for them, the simple forms of which are somewhat overshadowed by its renowned neighbour. The two houses below Císařský les Wood remained the only buildings on the location until the beginning of the 1920's, when they formed a core for the "Czech office-workers' quarter", a series of houses that sprung up in the 1920's and 1930's. It became a counterpart to the German office-workers' quarter built in the early 20th century above Císařský les Wood (today's Stránice and Pisárky). The Kunz house is privately owned.   Jana Nečase 4

Jana Nečase street
Architect Jurkovič also owned large plots of land in Žabovřesky, surrounding his house. When he left Brno in 1919, he sold the house and the land, and another three buildings were erected in Jana Nečase Street (then Mojmírova Street) in 1921-1923. They were all the property of the Kolbinger family, and reflect a degree of inspiration from some of the elements of the Jurkovič House that preceded them. One of their distinctive features is the use of reddish quarry stone for the fence bases and lower house. The stone lining of the cellar section of the Rosnička Restaurant, constructed later as the only building in the slope on the south side of the street, paraphrases the arcade entrance of the Jurkovič House.

The "New House" Exhibition Estate
The Die Wöhnung exhibition, held in Stuttgart in 1927, presented a series of houses created by a host of prominent architects, reflecting contemporary interest in a new approach to housing and the need for it, not only in aesthetic and technical terms but also as a response to socio-economic factors. Builders František Uherka and Čeněk Ruller were quick to initiate the construction of a similar exhibition estate, known as Nový dům ["New House"], in Brno. This private project originated in parallel with the Exhibition of Contemporary Culture, and in 1928 the city was thus enriched by two major architectural units: an exhibition centre in Pisárky and an estate of houses on an undeveloped spur of land below Wilsonův les Wood, a unique example of contemporary views on modern housing.

The estate layout was designed by architects Bohuslav Fuchs and Jaroslav Grunt whose houses, with heritage-protected frontages in Petřvaldská Street 6-10 and Šmejkalova Street 144-148, are the best preserved of the series. Further architects participating in the project included Jiří Kroha, whose detached luxury house has since been so completely reconstructed that no trace of the original design remains; Josef Štěpánek, the only Prague architect involved; Arnošt Wiesner, who then completed the construction of the Stiassny House, Brno; Jaroslav Syřiště and Hugo Foltýn with Miroslav Putna as the oldest and two youngest participants, and the architect Jan Víšek. The majority of the buildings designed for the estate were budget row houses with terraces, equipped with serially-produced furniture. However, most of them were rebuilt in the course of the 20th century and have lost their original appearance.   Šmejkalova, Petřvaldská, Drnovická

Dagmar Children's Home
The construction of the Dagmar Children's Home, which has served its purpose since the late 1920's, was initiated by Rudolf Těsnohlídek, a Brno poet, writer and journalist, the author of the famous story of Liška Bystrouška [Cunning Little Vixen]. Těsnohlídek's interest in the fates of deserted children was triggered by his own experience. During a winter stroll in woods around Brno with friends, he found an abandoned two-year-old girl. At Christmas 1924 he organised a collection under the first Christmas tree in náměstí Svobody Square, Brno, the money from which was used to build a children's home. It was named after the Czech princess and Danish queen Dagmar, as Těsnohlídek had drawn inspiration from the Danish tradition of Christmas trees in public places.

The building was designed by architect Bohuslav Fuchs, who charged nothing for the project. The foundation stone was laid at the end of 1928 and the home was opened a year later. Fuchs' construction is one of the most important late-1920's  public buildings in Brno. Around then, the architect also designed more for the public of the city, such as the Avion Hotel in Česká Street and the municipal baths in Zábrdovice. The Žabovřesky suburb and its surroundings feature a number of houses designed by Fuchs for private owners, as well as his own in Hvězdárenská Street. The children's home has been rebuilt several times in the course of the 20th century; the latest major reconstruction took place in 2006.    Zeleného 51

A block of six terrace houses
A block of six terrace houses was erected in what was then Hálkova Street in 1926-1927. At the time, construction work progressed on a large scale not only in Žabovřesky but in the whole of Brno. The houses were designed by young architect Alois Kuba who collaborated on a number of his Brno buildings with brother Vilém and Václav Dvořák. Their names in the 1920's and 1930's became synonymous with quality budget houses of well-planned layouts built quickly and at low cost. These also included houses in Marie Steyskalové Street the frontages of which stand out through their shape and material repeated on the garden facade. The use of bricks is an interesting detail echoing the work of Professor Jaroslav Syřiště, Kuba's teacher at the Specialist Building School whose trademark brickwork strip decorated, for example, his design for the New House estate.    Marie Steyskalové Street 48-58

Follow this link for an online virtual tour...