A Jewel of Czech Functionalism

Josef Volman, a factory owner and patron, who first envisioned this impressive villa in a large park above the romantic landscape of the Elbe River in Čelákovice, 20 km east of Prague in the Czech Republic. One of the most beautiful and expensive residences of the interwar period, it was designed for him in 1938-1939 by the young avant-garde architects Karel Janů and Jiří Štursa. The magnificent grounds of the villa are an excellent example of modern housing of the interwar period, incorporating the best of Czech functionalism and architecture, and the ideas of Le Corbusier, who was a great inspiration and role-model for these architects.

Letecký pohled na Volmanovu Vilu a její rozlehlý park. V pozadí je vidět řeka Labe.

The leading creators of the Czech interwar avant-garde, the left-leaning Jiří Štursa (*1910 - †1995) and Karel Janů (*1910 - †1995) were already actively involved in architectural circles during their studies at the Czech Technical University. In 1931 they founded the PAS Working Architectural Group together with Jiří Voženílek. As Karel Teige's pupils, active supporters of the scientific approach to architecture, they were also great admirers of Le Corbusier.

In the second half of the 1930’s they extended the rational scientific approach to the requirements of the human soul. In addition to the scientific, they acknowledged the psychological function of architecture, aided by Freud's psychoanalysis and surrealism. Emotional and artistic elements gradually began to assert themselves in their designs. The Volman Villa is the culmination of this period (1938-1939) and the most famous joint realization of these architects. A monumental building that the architects did not claim as their design after the communist takeover.

Professor Jiří Štursa taught at the Faculty of Architecture from 1948, where he influenced the next generation of architectural artists and theoreticians with his long-standing influence. Together with his wife Vlasta Štursová, he created the plinth with stairs and terraces for the large Prague Stalin monument by Otakar Švec in the 1950’s. Professor Karel Janů was employed at the Faculty of Civil Engineering where he worked continuously on the concept of industrialisation of the building industry, eventually leading to his invention of the so-called apartment core.

The Volman Villa is a unique edifice of interwar modernism and a deliberate homage to Le Corbusier. It represents the culmination of the ideas of modern architecture and is all the more valuable because it represents a synthesis of various currents of European modernism. It shows how its creators knew the current European trends very well and managed to process them into an exceptional building. Its unique artistic concept and the use of distinctive colours place the villa in the stream of sensual functionalism.

The generous structure may seem to resemble an overseas steamer monumentally anchored on the horizon of the slope above the River Elbe. Sharp lines alternate with curved walls and organic details.  Sleek, smooth surfaces contrast with traditional stonework and travertine cladding. The interior is a rich mosaic of luxurious materials; the villa features multiple types of marble, chrome details and exotic woods. 

Extended terraces evoke captain's bridges and connect the house with the surrounding park at different levels, both functionally and aesthetically. In every season they offer different, but always breath-taking views of the surrounding landscape and park. The roof terrace with windbreaks and flowerbeds or the circular stone roundabout of the main entrance are other original features by which the Volman Villa is easily remembered.

Josef Volman (1883 - 1943), the founder of a machine tool factory in Čelákovice, was a successful entrepreneur of the First Republic of Czechoslovakia. He was able to extend his success ring prosperity to the whole region and contributed significantly to the development and growth of Čelákovice. The progressive-minded Volman settled in Čelákovice in 1910 after returning from a study stay in the USA. After the First World War, his plant grew rapidly and gradually established itself not only in Czechoslovakia but also on the world engineering market for modern machine tools. Volman's company was one of the world's most important manufacturers and exporters of machine tools, trading in more than 30 countries. Unfortunately, he died prematurely in 1943 so the management of the plant was taken over by his daughter Ludmila and her husband Jiří Růžek.

Josef Volman also had a great sense of social responsibility. Throughout his life, he devoted his energy and finances to a number of social projects and to providing for his employees. He intensively addressed the issue of employee housing, built a colony of tenement houses, built the Volman Sports Club and generously supported social life in the region.  During the Second World War, he supported the domestic and foreign resistance both financially and materially.

Volman's decision to build a luxurious modern villa as part of the whole compound on the northwestern outskirts of Čelákovice dates back to 1937. The actual construction took place in 1938-1939, when he and his daughter Ludmila moved into the villa. After the forced departure of the family after the communist takeover in 1948, the whole area was acquired by the TOS Čelákovice national enterprise – his former factory.

The building was used for various celebrations, cultural and social events, and from 1952 to 1990 as a kindergarten for the children of the employees of the national enterprise. The entire compound was entered into the Central List of Immovable Cultural Monuments in 1979, and between 1980 and 1982, the villa was renovated, which, however, proved counterproductive in terms of preserving the original quality of the interiors. After 1990, as a result of restitution proceedings, the house was not used and fell into such irreparable ruin that the north wing was threatened with demolition. All equipment, including installations and furnishings, disappeared from the building. A cultural monument of world importance fell victim to looting and vandalism. In 1996, the villa was bought by a group of entrepreneurs from Čelákovice, who became investors in an extraordinary reconstruction project aimed at restoring it to its original glory. The continuation of Volman's engineering tradition was responsible for the restoration of the original factory and the presentation of its extraordinary architectural qualities.

The restoration project was entrusted to TAK Architects and the team, led by architect Marek Tichý, began a demanding reconstruction phase lasting until 2018. This project was also awarded the Jury Prize for the sensitive reconstruction of a devastated monument in the 2016 Building of the Year competition. The monograph "Volman's Villa - A Jewel of Interwar Architecture" was published in 2020 (authors: Jolana Tothová, Marek Tichý, Radomíra Sedláková, Magdalena Kurfürstová; published by Argo), and documents more than fifteen years of various efforts connected with the restoration and reconstruction of the villa.

In September 2022, Villa Volman joined the prestigious global network of ICONIC HOUSES and was opened to visitors.

Vila Volman is a new member of the Iconic Houses global network, a prestigious international group connecting architecturally significant 20th century houses and studios that are also open to the public. It is now included among the world's modernist icons and represents the Czech Republic on the map of modern architecture.


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