Pilsen’s Semler Residence becomes part of prestigious Iconic Houses network
The Semler Residence, a striking interwar apartment designed by Heinrich Kulka based on the concept of the pioneering modernist architect Adolf Loos, has become part of the Iconic Houses network. It is only the 12th building in Czechia to be added to the prestigious list of significant houses and artists’ homes.
The Semler residence, which belonged to the Jewish family of Oskar Semler, is the only apartment in Pilsen that features the landmark principle of Loos’s architecture known as Raumplan, the concept of seamlessly linking spaces of different heights.
The house, which is considered the highlight of Loos’s activity in Pilsen, opened to the public in September last year after a major reconstruction, which lasted for several years.
Petr Domanický is the curator of collections and exhibitions at the gallery of West Bohemia in Pilsen, which is now in charge of the residence:
“The Semler Residence in Pilsen is basically a large apartment house from the 1920s, which is surrounded by a garden. The most valuable thing about the house is not so much its exterior, but the later alterations made by the Semler family.
“Oskar and Jana Semler bought the house in the 1930s and decided to build a very large and atypically designed apartment similar to the Villa Müller in Prague, into the older residential house. From the outside, however, you can hardly see what is going on inside.”
The large apartment, which fills one third of the residential building, has no floors in the standard sense of the word. Instead, the individual rooms vary in height and are interconnected by stairs to create continuously adjoined spaces, concentrated around a central living hall, says Mr. Domanický:
“Apart from the original concept, the architecture and craftsmanship, the interior features various rare materials, especially wooden elements on the floors, tiles, built-in furniture and so on. Some of the materials are almost identical with those in the Villa Müller in Prague, such as the mahogany dining room.”
Unlike Loos’s Villa Müller, which became famous immediately after its construction, only a few experts knew about the Semler Residence in Pilsen.
“The Semler family emigrated to Australia in 1939, where they still live today, and the house began to serve other purposes. It was divided into five parts, and the interior was damaged by individual tenants.
„It was only in 2012, when the West Bohemian Gallery in Pilsen took over the whole house that the process of gradual restoration of the whole space and of the individual interiors began.”
The Semler Residence is the 12th house in Czechia and the fifth one conceived by Adolf Loos to become part of the prestigious Iconic Houses network, which includes homes designed by the likes of Frank Lloyd Wright, Alvar Aalto and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.
Apart from the residence itself, the building also houses a research centre for architecture in the Pilsen region, facilities for educational and cultural programmes for the public and a café.