Topic: Czech Republic Archives – Steel Nerd
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Home Forum Why learning through play is beneficial at all ages Czech Republic Archives – Steel Nerd

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    <br>The Slevarna Chomutov foundry is the last relic of the Chomutov (Komotau) branch of the Poldihütte steel works from Kladno,CZ. This mill was founded in 1889 by the German/Austrian entrepreneur Karl Wittgenstein. Main products were speciality steel castings, wire and springs. After the German annexation of the Czech Republic in 1938-39 the Chomutov plant became part of the Reichswerke Hermann Göring producing armor plate for the German Wehrmacht. In 1939 a new 5 ton electric arc furnace, manufactured by FIAT in Italy, was installed and is still in use today. After the second world war the mill was nationalized and combined with the nearby Mannesmann tube rolling mill. After the privatisation in 1999 both mills were seperated again. Slevarna Chomutov a.s. today is a steel foundry that runs two electric arc furnaces and produces abrasive wear resistant steel castings up to 4,5 tons a piece. Further viewing at the Stahlseite.<br>
    <br>Since the early 1990s, visitors to the sleepy town of Čelákovice, just a few kilometres from Prague, could have easily missed the concrete ruin of Villa Volman. Situated in a large natural park, the house had become more of a neglected, weather-battered, graffiti-covered squat than the luxury mansion of its heyday. But the building – one of the Czech modernist movement’s forgotten icons – has been returned to its pre-war glory after years of careful restoration work. Saved by enlightened local business group CZ Tech, the home of industrialist Josef Volman was originally built in 1939, designed by avant-garde Czech architects Karel Janů and Jiří Štursa. Prague-based Studio TaK won the competition for the renovation. ‘We had a huge appetite to be involved in a project of such significance,’ says chief architect Marek Tichý. His team’s detailed prep work, surveys, design and construction lasted almost 15 years. ‘The design of the villa is extraordinary.<br>
    <br>It is a unique example of its kind in what was then Czechoslovakia,’ adds Tichý. The villa is also emblematic of the divide created by a debate in Czechoslovak modernist architecture. The country’s avant-garde Devětsil group, headed by influential theorist, artist and visionary Karel Teige, advocated architecture as science, a tool to build a modern society. The opposition argued for architecture’s more artistic qualities, treating it as a means to experiment with shapes and fine art influences. Villa Volman shows the clash between these two ideologies. Although Janů and Štursa were inclined to embrace architecture’s social call, this commission was primarily an artistic and compositional challenge. Volman, who had previously built a factory and housing for his employees in Čelákovice, bought a large piece of land and gave the architects an almost unlimited budget. The result was one of the finest (and most expensive) residences in the country’s interwar period, along with Mies van der Rohe’s Villa Tugendhat in Brno and Adolf Loos’ Müller house in Prague.<br>
    <br>The architects conceived Villa Volman as a sculptural object. ‘It’s not just its functionalist architecture, but also the composition of the house and the context of the Elbe River and the beautiful floodplain forests nearby that need to be considered to understand the full breadth of this project,’ says Tichý. The building is a dynamic composition of intertwined volumes. Sharp lines alternate with curved walls and organic details; sleek, smooth surfaces contrast with traditional stone masonry. Bridges, walkways, balconies and staircases dominate the exterior and create a nautical character – a popular theme in the modernist architecture of the time. The interior is a rich mosaic. Aside from the built-in furniture and fixtures, designed by Janů and Štursa, the space was finished with contemporary pieces – some bought, some tailor-made by Volman’s daughter Ludmila, who looked after the interior decoration. ‘The villa was designed as a modern house, equipped, among other things, with central heating, high-tech mechanical infrastructure and, of course, luxurious materials, such as several types of marble, chrome details, stainless steel and exotic wood,’ says Tichý.<br>

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