City centre. Interventions in the historic centre in the 20th and 21st centuries.


The historic centre of the once royal town founded around 1240 is still distinguished by a large rectangular square, a more or less regular network of streets, a ring of walls, a rich variety of town houses and a trio of the oldest religious precincts, supplemented in the Baroque period by the Jesuit complex and the now defunct Capuchin monastery. Nevertheless, the nearly 800-year-old city is quite different today to what it was in the Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque periods. Many houses had to be rebuilt after fires in the 16th century, then repaired again after the Thirty Years' War, and from the end of the 18th century, gradually adapted to the requirements of rental housing and building regulations. While the importance of the Church rose in the Baroque period, it declined sharply under Joseph II. The Jesuit premises were thus used by soldiers from 1776, and a theatre was built in place of the Capuchin monastery half a century later. The oldest fortification was built in the Gothic period and improved for the last time in the 16th century. In the middle of the 17th century, Jihlava was fortified with ramparts and became a fortress, which was again abolished in 1755 and new houses were built around its perimeter. All but one of the city gates were destroyed, and the north-western section of the walls was broken through in four places. The cemetery around the Church of St. Jacob (Kostel sv. Jakuba) ceased to be used at the end of the 18th century, the one around the Church of the Holy Spirit (Kostel sv. Ducha) in 1868, and a new cemetery was founded far from the centre in 1869. In the 19th century, Jihlava’s suburbs grew substantially and new public spaces, parks, and schools were created. Town houses with brewing rights merged in 1863 to establish the only Jihlava town brewery. Each period had its own themes and was reflected in the image of the city in its own way, and this is still the case today. We also leave behind our characteristic traces.

Although the city's long history and preserved monuments had long been praised by its citizens, it was only in the late 19th century that its specific values were acknowledged and efforts were made to celebrate and protect them. In 1891, the Church of the Holy Spirit (Kostel sv. Ducha) was renovated according to the design by Richard Völkel, an architect trained in Vienna. Under his guidance, the Church of St. Jacob (Kostel sv. Jakuba) was restored in the purist style from 1898–1900, with the renovation being completed after 1906. The Church of the Virgin Mary (Kostel panny Marie) and the Church of St. John the Baptist (Kostel sv. Jana Křitele) received new stained glass windows before the First World War. The construction of the enormous savings bank and post office buildings at the top of the square was also a symbolic demonstration of the lingering 19th century. This initially romantic endeavour, motivated particularly by tradition and cultivated mainly by the German inhabitants of Jihlava, only changed with the establishment of the new state and the overall change of circumstances after 1918. While experts mainly paid attention during the Austro-Hungarian period to the city's landmarks, with the Gothic churches at the forefront, during the First Republic, the interest of researchers, as well as the conservation and building authorities, was focused on a number of important town houses. In 1924, the original plaster was removed from the only surviving gate in Jihlava, the gate of the Mother of God (Brána Matky Boží). In the mid-1930s, the construction of Baťa's department store (Masarykovo Square 49) on the site of the historic seat of the town reeve was discussed. The businessman eventually agreed to transfer the discovered Renaissance frescoes to the former Jesuit Grammar School. The Second World War and the subsequent deportation of the Germans who had traditionally inhabited Jihlava were crucial for the perception of the history of the town and the town centre. Thus, a tradition that had lasted since the Middle Ages was broken. A scar in the urban fabric remains to this day in the vacant plot of land left by the destroyed synagogue on Benešova Street, accentuated in the 1960s by the demolition of the surrounding houses, and landscaped as Gustav Mahler Park from 2008–2010. The most significant wartime building is undoubtedly the Small Castle (Hrádek) in Velký Heulos Park built from 1940–1941. Originally a Hitlerjugend hostel, it was adapted into the Adolf Hitler School in 1943.

After the war, the locals' pride was replaced by state interest. As early as 1949, the town was subjected to an area-wide survey to identify the most valuable historic buildings. In 1950, it was declared, together with other monuments, a conservation reserve, with considerable investments made into its restoration. The bold plans, however, were only implemented to a very limited extent. Among the most significant projects that came to fruition are the generous renovations of buildings no. 57 and no. 58 on the square for the newly established Museum of the Highlands (Muzeum Vysočiny) in the early 1950s and the slightly later renovation of the house at Komenského 10 for the existing Regional Gallery of the Highlands (Oblastní galerie Vysočiny). In the 1950s, the city hall was also renovated, with a new council chamber added on the ground floor. Some less significant renovations include, for example, the gradual renovations of houses on Brněnská Street. Illustrative of the approach to the city centre and the then idea of suitable architecture to complement it is the set of exceptional new, historicist buildings at Křížová 15, Havířská 13, and Hluboká 18 from the mid-1950s, which were built according to the initial designs by the architect Oldřich Plhoň from the Jihlava branch of the State Design Institute (Státní projektový ústav) for the construction of towns and villages in České Budějovice. The buildings are individualised, and always adapted to the site. They could be considered literally contextual, including the use of casement windows, but at the same time without any obvious ambition to stand out architecturally. More typified buildings are the houses at Divadelní 15 and Matky Boží 17, which date back to roughly the same period. In 1958, the first redevelopment plan for Jihlava’s city centre was drafted, according to which the houses in the centre were to be repaired and adapted to the growing demand for housing. The whole of what is now Masarykovo Square with the thoroughfare running diagonally was also modified based on this plan. In the 1950s, part of the curved Znojemská Street was knocked down in connection with the construction of bridges. In 1967, however, a second redevelopment plan was completed, which in the spirit of modernisation envisaged the replacement of a large part of the surviving housing stock with new buildings. Based on this plan, a number of houses on Židovská, Mrštíkova, and Stará Streets were demolished, as well as several houses on Minoriské Square and a small block in the middle of the square, the site of which was already being considered for the construction of a new department store. Simultaneously with the completion of the plan in 1967, construction of a part of the city centre bypass was also started, consisting in the demolition of the curved part of Matky Boží Street and other small buildings along the now lost V Důlkách Street and the extension of the four-lane motorway. The only new building from the 1960s in the city centre is the administrative building of the Snaha company (Židovská 3) built from 1969–1971 and the neighbouring small service buildings on the newly created extension of Palackého Street. The extension to the Golden Star Hotel (Zlatá hvězda) was also tendered in the 1960s, but unfortunately, it was not built until much later following other, less interesting designs. The heritage conservation was questionable, with twelve buildings in the city centre having to be demolished between 1964 and 1967 due to their poor condition. In the mid-1960s, the classicist façade of the house at Znojemská 2 was removed, revealing an ornate Renaissance fresco from 1591. At that time, the avant-garde renovation of the Sklípek house (Masarykovo Square 7) was designed by the architect Zdeněk Gryc from Stavoprojekt Jihlava, who took over the job in 1965 to complete it. From the 1960s, Geoindustria carried out the refurbishment of the city's subterrain, which ensured stability, but also changed the drainage ratios and all but a small part of the lower cellars were then submerged in concrete. At the beginning of the 1980s, part of the block between Komenského and Bezručova Streets was demolished. During the 1970s and 1980s, as the number of projects and their implementation declined, a number of town houses were restored, particularly on the south and west sides of the square. In the process, the Renaissance façade of the Golden Star Hotel was restored, as well as the Gothic form of house no. 39 with an arcade, while the newer façades of houses no. 40, 41, and 47 were removed in favour of the would-be Renaissance new form. However, the most significant achievement of the second half of the 20th century is undoubtedly the construction of the Prior department store, built from 1977–1984 and located approximately on the site of the demolished block of houses. Although the construction was preceded by discussions and preparations conducted at least from 1964, including two in-house competitions within the State Design Institute of Trade (Státní projektový ústav obchodu) with interesting contributions, the project was finally implemented according to a modified design by the architect Zdeněk Sklepek, who was already the third person in a row to work on it. The building is thus not only the outcome of standardisation processes within the design institute, which was left both by its head Jaromír Sirotek and by the architect of the winning design Růžena Žertová, but also of the Local Committee (MNV) and the cluelessness with which the local government and state administration communicated with the then prominent commercial company. The zoning plan from the 1980s, the unfinished regulatory plan from 1991, and the unapproved regulatory plan from 2005 were not put into practice in the end, but at least the postmodern block on Palackého Street was completed. So far, the most significant post-revolutionary project that has come to fruition in the fortified city centre is the construction of the new Horácké Theatre from 1990 to 1995. Recent years saw the renovation of the City Hall and the exhibition houses on Husova Street, the remodelling of the Golden Lion Hotel (Zlatý lev) for the purposes of the Primary School of the Arts (Základní umělecká škola), renovation of the Municipal Council buildings at U Mincovny Street 6 and 8, and currently the building at Masarykovo Square 21 designed by the architect Marek Štěpán. The houses in Březinovy sady unfortunately represent the standard of the time. The winning design for the revitalisation of Masarykovo Square by the MCA studio is still under debate and only a small area with trees in front of the City Hall has been implemented from it so far.

Interventions in any historic environment always require a reasonable approach based on a good understanding of the settings and a sensitive assessment of existing and anticipated values. While it had been important to build and care for spectacular buildings in the period before the First World War, in the interwar period, only timid efforts could be seen to modernise the outdated city and adapt it to the accelerating pulse of the time. During the war, the ethos of the ancient origins returned for a while, evident not only in the Small Castle (Hrádek) building, but also in the first restored arcade of the house at Masarykovo Square 67. After the war, the houses had to be reoccupied and repaired. The progress of the repairs was very slow and the tasks set out in the 1950s were never actually fulfilled. Some houses could not withstand the lack of care, and others were deliberately torn down. The period from the second half of the 20th century to 1990 was characterised by the central thinking of the city as a complex system that can be parametrically changed and rationally organised. In addition to the necessary repairs, the main topics at the time included the care for technical, operational, and transport infrastructure. After 1990, as a result of privatisation, interest was again directed more towards individual buildings as the basic elements of the urban complex of the historic city. While it was possible to remove almost an entire block of houses in a planned manner in the 1960s, it is not possible to remove a single one today. While the restoration of the square could have been carried out in one go within a few years of the 1958 study, we will now have to wait much longer.


Audio guide part one
Audio guide part two

Objects on the trail