For several decades, the schools project was shaped by an ongoing discussion about
the quality of the environment, lighting conditions and access to sunlight. Architects, teachers and doctors sought the best solution for the design of classrooms and spaces for leisure time activities. After the education reform, it was decided to connect the schools with nature not only by the location of the building, but by allowing a direct view of the green and
the playground from the windows. The well-arranged facilities were designed to direct the pupils intuitively to outdoor activities. The group of buildings was designed by Josef Gočár in the spirit of the Dutch school building theory. The buildings were to stand in an open space in a healthy environment. They should have gyms and playgrounds. Direct sunlight should shine into the classrooms for at least a few hours, and windows should occupy a sixth of the floor space. " Every child should see at least a little bit of the sky from his or her seat in
the classroom." All classrooms should face southeast.
The need to build an elementary school period stemmed from the shortage of schools at
the time. In 1924, the headmaster of the city college sent an urgent request to the city council to deal with the situation. In August 1925, a definite program was created: schools should accommodate 600 children in elementary schools and 300 in town schools; the nursery school should accept 80 children.
The design of the schools was the result of a short-listed competition in August 1925. Josef Gočár, who won the competition, and local architects Oldřich Liska and Jan and Václav Rejchl were among the participants. The height and masonry of the school is similar to the adjacent grammar school. The complex of buildings includes an elementary school (no. 690) and nursery school (no. 691). The headmaster’s villa was not built although it was included in
the plans of 1925. It was supposed to stand on the plot facing the Church of Priest Ambrož, at the later built part of the complex (in 1956–1959, the town school, no. 692 according to Gočár’s project modified by Václav Rohlíček). The newly created complex thus included
the older school buildings – the Business Academy (1896–1897) and the Teachers’ Institute (1900).
Josef Gočár’s winning design introduced a new solution for school buildings in the form of
a closed and symmetrically oriented complex. The concept of the schools, teaching methods and architectural form were strongly influenced by his two trips abroad. In 1924, Gočár travelled to Holland; the following year, he went to Paris. When visiting Holland, Gočár studied new architecture and the movement seeking to reform education, and he was so impressed by it that he even applied some of its ideas in his complex of schools in Hradec Králové.
The Dutch placed school buildings in a large green space; several schools often had
a common courtyard and playground, and an emphasis was placed on maximum hygiene, sun and air. The interior and exterior were interconnected as much as possible – a gym separated with a glass sliding wall is adjacent to a sports complex with a large swimming pool in its centre. The rectangular pool was to follow the outer contour of the nursery school and have high pyramidal obelisks along its width. A new feature in the contemporary Czech architecture of school buildings were “flat roofs of school wings [...] provided with partially concrete covers” that should be “used as a sun bath for the pupils” or for PE lessons.
The residential roofs (the first ones in Czechoslovakia) were strongly influenced by
the pioneering functionalist architecture of Le Corbusier (Gočár probably saw his pavilion L’Esprit Nouveau at the Paris International Exhibition of Decorative Arts and he also studied Corbusier’s work later on). Gočár met Corbusier in 1928. The school complex clearly illustrates the change in his thinking. While the schools feature older layers of brick architecture influenced by the Dutch style, the nursery school is a purely functionalist building.
The construction of the complex was carried out in two stages. Masaryk Elementary School was built in 1926–1927 by local builders Novotný and Vyleťal. The construction was supervised by local builder Josef Jihlavec. The foundation stone was officially laid down in February 1926 and Gočár’s plans were approved in May. The so-called Masaryk National School were officially opened on 23 October 1928.
The three-wing two-story brick building features a contrast of cement plasters on the cornices, pillars between the windows, wall dados and the entrance portico. The façade facing
the courtyard was plastered. The roof extensions were connected with a reinforced concrete pergola. The flat roofs were covered with cement tiles. The portal main entrances featured high columns made of artificial stone. The central part of the main façade was occupied by
a two-floor gym and hall. On the north-east corner, there was a plaque with the date of construction, 1926–1927, and the heraldic lion of Hradec Králové by sculptor Josef Škoda.
The schools were designed as a two-wing two-storey building with an elevated ground floor. The buildings had a common schoolyard and cellars. The layout was based on the crossing of the wing and tract axes. Changing rooms were accessible from the entrance portico.
The main dog-legged staircase connected all floors. In the northern and southern wings, there were classrooms, in the single-storey connecting wing, there was an assembly hall with
a gym. In the corner avant-corps, there was a two-room flat for the school caretaker.
The entrance hall led to a wing facing the school playground and the two-storey gym.
The avant-corps of the main staircase extended to the courtyard. In the courtyard tract, there was the headmaster’s office, the staff room and a classroom; in the corner avant-corps, there was a classroom. The staircase hall was connected to the connecting wing corridor allowing access to toilets and teachers’ rooms in the courtyard tract.
The waterfront entrance to the south wing was highlighted by a massive portico made of artificial stone. In the entrance hall, there was a staircase leading to the ground floor lobby and to the basement on the sides. On the left, facing the waterfront, there were classrooms;
a hallway and a teacher’s room faced the courtyard. In the corner facing the courtyard, there was the main staircase. On the right, in the one-tract part, there were classrooms. The first floor layout was identical to the ground floor; in the middle, above the connecting wing, there was the assembly hall adjacent to a dressing room, bathrooms and pupils’ library. The layout of the north and south wing second floors were identical to the lower floors; at the end of
the corridors, there was a dog-legged staircase leading to the roof. The staircase halls led to toilet situated symmetrically at the ends of the connecting wings.
The furniture was supplied by Josef Nevyhoštěný’s company, the blinds by the Kryštof company, and chandeliers by Mr. Jirouš. The classroom (partially built-in) cabinets, chairs and armchairs made of bent wood were supplied by Antonín Pecka’s joinery.
After the school was opened, a local newspaper wrote: “The new building of national schools could be designed in a more effective way sometimes, but it is modern, light and airy and looks monumental.”
Critic Karel Herain appreciates how Josef Gočár “more and more keenly incorporates not only the needs of today’s schools, but also the needs of future school into his projects, so where the artistic form is important, he also deals not only with the school buildings but also with
the issue of their spaciousness, lighting, heating, cleaning, communication, leaving shoes and clothes, classroom facilities, community halls, gymnasiums, seeking practicality everywhere and the sightliness of classrooms, corridors and staircases, taking into account the garden and playground, and rescuing the buildings from the barrack architectural templates, choosing a greater diversity and variety of open blocks instead”.
After WWII, the elementary and town schools were joined into one elementary school.
To obtain more classes, the functional use of a number of rooms has changed. In 1956–1959, the second half of the complex was built – the nine-year elementary school in Zálabí based on original Josef Gočár’s ideas. The project was designed by V. Rohlíček. Stavoprojekt company, led by Gočár’s pupil Jan Rejchl, humbly built the second part of the schools, mirroring the first one and closing the complex. (Original names: elementary school in Lipky (the older part), elementary school in Zálabí (the newer part)).
At the beginning of the 21st century, the school building dating from 1926–1928 was used by various organizations and housed the Business Academy; today, there is a school club, a private elementary school, and a youth centre.