In the period before the start of WWII, the capacity of the city museum, which included
a military museum, gallery and library, was completely exhausted. Between 1937 and 1938,
a new gallery building was still being considered for construction together with a savings bank on today’s Osvoboditelů Square. However, this plan, which could not be carried out in
the 1930s, was abandoned at the beginning of WWII and the declaration of the Protectorate. In February 1942, a competition was announced for the construction of the completion of
the Museum designed by Jan Kotěra, which would mainly expand the gallery and the library with a reading room. The extension was to include depositories, museum exhibition halls, new offices for the museum management and administration, a collection of large sculptures and statues and gallery halls, and an extension of the operational facilities and workshop.
Jan Rejchl won the competition. Although his design respected the façade of Kotěra’s original building, he divided the extension into a sandstone plinth, a ground floor made of exposed masonry and higher floors in rough plaster, but the crown cornice had a simple profile and
no decorative character. The building has two tracts – one with a frontage faces today’s Divišova Street; the other, one-story tract faces Kotěrova Street. Rejchl designed workshops and depositories in the basement. On the ground floor he suggested an extension of
the reading room and office space: the director’s office, a room for the librarian and curators and a meeting room. At the end of the wing there were several small exhibition spaces. On the first floor of the main wing, Rejchl designed three museum halls with built-in display cases between the corridor and each hall, so that daylight could pass through them; they were also visible from both sides. On the top floor, lit by a system of skylights, there was a large, gallery space with no partitions and with side cubicles lit by their own skylight. At the end, there was
a smaller exhibition hall with access to the roof terrace that extended over the lower cube that terminated the tract.
Gočár’s designs are dated March 15, 1942. The extension contained two tracts – the main one facing Divišova Street, terminating with an enlarged but lowered part facing
he intersection of Divišova and Kotěrova Streets, and the other, one-story tract along Kotěrova Street that housed the collection of large sculptures and statues. The basement contained a carpenter’s, stonemason’s and plasterer’s workshop, a dining room and
a cloakroom for workers, a picture depository, and two other depository rooms. The tract with the lapidarium in the eastern part of the site was thus to have a basement, with additional storage and deposit rooms in the basement. On the ground floor of the tract facing today’s Divišova Street, there were to be the offices of the director, the librarian and two curators,
a smoking room, and a meeting room combined with a depository for prints. In the rear part of the wing, facing the intersection of Divišova and Kotěrova Streets, there were exhibition spaces where prints were displayed. On the first floor of the new wing there were four museum exhibition halls and in the rear part there was a windowless picture room for displaying old art. In addition to the rooms of the picture gallery there were two small storage rooms. On the second floor there were four skylights illuminating the gallery exhibition halls. Gočár’s conception of the façade was completely conforming to Kotěra’s design. He kept
the sandstone plinth, the brick part with the same articulation of windows to the height of
the first floor and the part extending to the second floor with rough plaster. Gočár’s extension was also connected to Kotěra’s building by the same distinctive crown cornice, which alternated unglazed and dark glazed bricks.
Both Gočár and Rejchl detailed the park-like design of the resulting inner courtyard. Gočár planned to separate the space from the surroundings with a high wall with wide openings, Rejchl only with a metal fence. Gočár proposed a more formal paved space with a central rectangular pool, while Rejchl proposed a more park-like, relaxing space with more shrubs and greenery and a smaller fountain in the middle.
Machoň’s design was probably the most radical. In the accompanying report Machoň wrote: “The building is already an artistically accomplished work. [...] Therefore, today’s work can be considered as an addition to the preserved artistic monument and composed consciously in today’s spirit as a new work, which, however, fully respects the high value of the existing work.” Unlike his colleagues, Machoň completely abandoned Kotěra’s morphology and conceived the extension as a horizontal prism, divided only by a plaster and unplastered masonry surface and a horizontal relief frieze across its entire width. However, Ladislav Machoň’s design was not positively accepted. He also suggested a number of changes from the original competition program: smaller exhibition halls, which were to be divided by movable partitions, which Machoň considered more variable than the large halls; separating the library administration from the library and reading room; separating the management and administration offices from the museum operations, even by a separate entrance; and finally, a completely new construction of workshops, the caretaker’s flat and a boiler room, which were insufficient in the old building. The director of the museum, Josef Kaňka, wrote to Machoň: “according to the opinion of the museum experts (regarding the interior design), [your design] did not rank first in the competition even in terms of architectural solution.”
The museum experts who judged the designs were Karel Guth (1884-1943) and Jaroslav Helfert (1883-1972), representatives of the Association of Czech Museums.
The competition was announced very quickly, and the architects did not have even two months to work on the project. The Královehradecký kraj magazine reported on the results
as follows: “On 9 February, a restricted competition was announced for sketches for
the extension of the city museum based on the original study by Professor Jan Kotěra, to which architects Gočár, Hübschmann, Krásný and Machoň from Prague and Jan Rejchl from Hradec Králové were invited. By a resolution of the City Council of 23 March, these final plans were commissioned to [architect] Jan Rejchl, who, together with Professor Gočár, was
the best placed in the competition.”
It is noteworthy that Rejchl’s brother, Václav Jr., also an architect and builder, did not support his brother’s design in this competition, but that of Ladislav Machoň, as evidenced by
an undated letter from Václav Rejchl Jr. to Ladislav Machoň: “Dear friend, I received both your letters and personally intervened in the matter. I’ve got a certain promise but under conditions which I will take the liberty of communicating to you in a separate letter in the next few days.” Machoň was convinced that “the contest was decided against all good customs.” Václav Rejchl explained it as follows: “The announcement of the competition and the decision about it happened in the winter of 1942 in a hurry before the dissolution of the Czech Council and
the installation of the government commissioner. The last meeting of the council, which also decided to award the plans, was on 25 March, and on 1 April, the German government commissioner and Mayor Heger took office.” Rejchl tried to put the situation right, asking that Machoň could “understand the haste and danger that was behind the door.”