The assignment for the project was a proposal for a residential building located in an empty lot previously occupied by Legiografie in a traditional housing block in Prague’s Vršovice neighbourhood.
The block is at the foot of the hill under Grébovka park, which is part of Vinohrady. The position of the proposed building means it faces Sámova ulice and therefore has a north-south orientation, where the northern side faces the street and the southern side the interior of the block’s courtyard.
Sámova ulice itself, on which the building is located, comprises tastefully-designed tenement buildings from the first half of the 20th century. On the southern street front the western buildings are older—in a historicising style, the eastern ones are modernist, with flat roofs. The new building is between them. The opposite northern side, in the middle, comprises one large tenement building that is partially set back from the street and has seven repeating building sections.
The proposed material and organisational solution is very rational—it is a traditional supplementary construction project on an urban empty lot. The proposed building is in harmony with the neighbouring buildings, in terms of its height and the position of the street and courtyard facades, and therefore becomes an integral part of the historical block.
The original empty lot was on two pieces of land, on which two street buildings used to stand. This is where the analogy comes from in the form of the proposed double-building with two central vertical links and one entrance.
The concept proposed is a contemporary co-version of local period modernist inter-war architecture. The design uses its elements and principles. The street façade is a north-facing façade, so elements enabling unit users to be on the outside (balconies, loggias) were not proposed here, with the exception of the last setback floor. The façade is based on a virtual window grille that is typical for the neighbouring buildings on the street, as well as traditional architecture in general. The building’s parterre is designed identically, and over the entrance there is a larger green roof element—a “flower area”. This element both emphasises the main entrance to the building and also defines the part of the parterre designated for retail space. The courtyard façade uses the same elements and motifs, where there are simple, subtle balconies in front of the façade. The courtyard façade is a derivation of this. Thanks to the material solution and the terraces it has a light appearance and is reminiscent of garden architecture.
The design pays special attention to the material of the street façade. This is also a reference, which is to the ceramic tiles of tenement buildings from the inter-war era. The line of the tiles is diagonal, the colour composition highlights the horizonal aspect and suppresses the vertical direction. The tiles are in two shades and have two surfaces (matt and gloss).
The courtyard façade is plastered in the standard way (contact insulation system), the same as other courtyard façades in the inner block. The added value on the courtyard façade is its livening up with balconies and boxes for roller shutters. The metal balconies are based on the dimensions of the windows and copy their horizontal location over the façade. The roller shutter boxes and also the façade of the setback top floor, as well as the flower cornice over the main entrance, are handled in material terms using pre-weathered titan-zinc sheet. The courtyard structure has a wooden façade (ventilated surface) and therefore becomes an integral part of the garden in terms of the material (naturally aging wood).
Classic Prague tenement buildings from the turn of the century, known primarily from Vinohrady, but also from Smíchov and Staré Město, were the inspiration not only for the common space in the building but also for the apartments themselves. Our aim was to give this timeless pattern contemporary parameters and the quality of modern living in the 21st century. As architects we placed marked emphasis on the interior of the common space as the building’s calling card.
The common entry vestibule is designed in such a manner that the interior’s dimensions and quality set the overall tone and feeling building users get from the building’s internal space. It contains space for post boxes for the various tenants, access to the parking garage, entry to a direct independent corridor to the courtyard annex and entry to the two independent parts of the building.
On every floor there is always access from the main landing only to two apartments with doors opposite each other. The interior and surfaces were designed so that they harmonise with the entry hall and are a logical continuation of it.
All the apartments in the building have similar layouts. They differ, however, in the curve on the on the courtyard and street sides and through the mirrored situation of the apartments on one floor. The apartments on the ground floor have their own outdoor space on the courtyard side and the apartments on the setback floor have terraces on both sides—these apartments can also be easily joined together.
The apartment’s layout always comprises an entry hall with plenty of room for storage space and seating. From this central space there is then access to all the other rooms—two residential rooms on each of the façades. The bedrooms, i.e. the northern rooms facing the street, and kitchens with dining areas and residential rooms facing the courtyard—i.e. the south. Every apartment, if it doesn’t have access to a terrace, has its own balcony on the southern façade.
The hall offers access to a comfortable bathroom, separate toilet and spacious cloakroom located opposite the entrance with the option of building in a washing machine, dryer and air conditioning. We limited the potentially unpleasant feeling due to the large number of doors in the hall using special doors with hidden frames for these utility rooms.
The layout’s character enables the multifunctional residential areas with a kitchen to be divided up into two independent rooms in accordance with the needs of the apartment’s future owner.
All the apartments, the same as the common space, have an interior designed by our studio, which the individual built-in elements, such as surfaces, doors and windows are based on. The building and the apartments should therefore have a harmonious atmosphere, in a manner similar to classic historical tenement buildings.
As a part of the project, which we worked on for almost five years, we designed housing that should, without compromise, meet the attributes of a modern lifestyle with all technical and other conveniences that enhance the quality of life. We did not, however, want to resign ourselves merely to using tried-and-tested values and principles. Not only when creating the layouts, but also in the overall logic of the building, the design and the attempt to achieve timelessness.
Sign of Four Architects