On the site of the former Neo-Renaissance building of the National Bank, which had a new seat in a building designed by Jan Rejkl since 1932, a new building of the Agrarian Bank was built between 1932 and 1933, in the northern part of which the Agrarian Health Insurance Company found its seat. Thanks to a regulation included in the building permit issued by the Burgomaster’s Office (“Before demolition, the old building of the National Bank shall be photographed and a photograph of at least 24 x 36cm shall be handed over to the city’s historical museum”), a rather extensive documentation of the originally very representative building with gables in the style of the so-called Czech Renaissance has been preserved.
The plans for the functionalist new building designed by architect and builder František Dus date from July 1932 and were finally approved on 17 September of the same year. When compared to the plans, no major changes made during the construction, only the height of the top floor had to be lowered: “...The upper edge of the attic extension shall be lowered by 1.00m at the facades facing the streets and by 2.40m at the facades facing the courtyard; however, the upper edge of the extension facing the courtyard next to the house no. 556 shall remain lowered by only 1m for the length of nine metres (measured from the house).” It was also problematic to join the reinforced concrete frame construction of the new building to the surrounding brick houses built before WWI because reinforced concrete and solid brickwork have different expansion rates when temperatures change. The building is therefore separated from the neighbouring houses by a challenging expansion joint system.
The exterior was designed as an articulated façade, characterised by a rounded corner with strip windows and an originally large roof terrace. The ground floor was covered with diorite panels and the last receding floor (referred to as the attic extension in the planning permit) was tiled. The façade between the ground and first floors was dominated by large, light-coloured sans serif letters, “AGRÁRNÍ ZÁLOŽNA“ (AGRARIAN CREDIT UNION) and “ZEMĚDĚLSKÁ NEMOCENSKÁ POJIŠŤOVNA“ (AGRARIAN HEALTH INSURANCE COMPANY). There were ALSO tall flagpoles along the rounded corner for displaying state flags.
The basement contained a separately accessible warehouse of the café, the archives of the Agrarian Credit Union and a safe built with 52cm wide walls with a separate staircase from the ground floor in the western wing facing Palackého Street, the archives and warehouse of the Agrarian Health Insurance Company under the northern part, and cellar cubicles in the street-facing wing, while the basement part facing the courtyard housed the conference hall of the Agrarian Credit Union for 125 spectators with accessories (a foyer with a cloakroom, men’s and women’s toilets, and furniture and tool storage). In addition, there were three spacious warehouses accessible from the three shops on the ground floor via separate spiral staircases.
The ground floor contained mostly the premises of the Agrarian Credit Union situated in the south-western wing of the building, although they were entered from today’s Československé armády Street. In the westernmost part, adjacent to Ladislav Tvrzský’s tenement house, there was a café. The hall was surprisingly small, with one service counter separated by glass, and the office was more than twice the size. The premises of the Agrarian Credit Union also included toilets and cloakrooms for the employees and a staircase to the basement leading to the vault area. There were four separately accessible shops facing today’s Československé armády Street, three of which had basement warehouses. The central two shops had elevated rear storage areas, accessed by four flights of stairs, as there was a conference room underneath that had a raised ceiling. The Agrarian Health Insurance Company had only one small room and a counter with three counters. The insurance company employees also had a room where the company records were kept, a locker room, and a restroom. The insurance company had access to a separate courtyard and a miniature garden with an oval bed in the middle surrounded by a dirt path.
The entire space of the first floor was occupied by the administrative premises of the Agrarian Credit Union and the Agrarian Health Insurance Company. There were three offices, an accounting room, the so-called committee room, the office of the Agrarian Health Company’s reviewing doctor and six offices, two large accounting rooms, the director’s office and the Agrarian Credit Union’s meeting room.
On the second floor there were two more offices directly adjacent to a one-room apartment with a kitchen belonging to the insurance company and two large apartments for the director and another high-ranking official of the Agrarian Credit Union. The director’s corner flat included a generous study, a hall with a salon where a piano was already outlined in the design, a kitchen with preparation room, a maid’s room and a so-called lady’s room, probably the modern equivalent of a ladies’ salon, the function of which was suggested by its adjacency to the kitchen and small size. A large bathroom with a bathtub and a toilet was accessible from the study, and a door led to the private part of the apartment with a spacious dressing room leading to two bedrooms. The second apartment was not so representative and not connected to work – the entrance hall gave access to two rooms facing the street, a bedroom and a kitchen with a pantry, a maid’s room, and a bathroom accessible from the kitchen and bedroom.
The plans for the third floor have not survived, but we can assume that the layout was very similar to that of the fourth floor. One three-room flat with a kitchen (two rooms and a bedroom – always with a double bed in the plans) and two two-room flats with a kitchen were designed there, always accessible from the staircase from the Agrarian Credit Union, and one three-room flat with a kitchen, accessible by staircase from the Agrarian Health Insurance Office. The flats facing both Československé armády Street and Palackého Street had covered loggias, unlike the flats on the third floor – their rooms facing the streets, however, were more spacious. All apartments also has a small maid’s room.
On the top floor, which was just an elongated extension with a longitudinal corridor, there were two laundries, a drying room, and eight attic cubicles serving as storage for the flats. In addition, one of the laundries had a bathtub, probably used by the maids who worked in the house. The rest of the built-up area was occupied by a generous roof terrace with pergolas.
In addition to the two stairwells, each accessible from one entrance – to the Agrarian Credit Union and the Agrarian Health Insurance Company, a passenger elevator was installed in the credit union wing, which ran from the basement to the roof terrace. It had to meet the new ČSN 1023 standards of 1929.
František Dus belonged to a new generation of architects who studied architecture after 1918 and therefore received modern training. The building of the Agrarian Credit Union and the Agrarian Health Insurance Company is an example of a confident acceptance of avant-garde principles and a testament to his ability to design imaginative and functional layouts in a reinforced concrete skeleton, both for luxury living and for modern offices and comfortable working environments. The design of the flat for the Agrarian Credit Union’s director, however, like the representative flat in Rudolf Steinský Sehnoutka’s palace, was an attempt to design the housing of wealthy families according to the customs and rituals of the aristocracy in the previous century. Thus, even some members of the local bourgeoisie, by emphasising the hosting of social events or the division of time between men and women, fell in line with the conventions of the old-world life in a way that the leftist architectural avant-garde criticised.