The City of Prague Museum

History of Construction

History of Construction

In 1928, the Müllers purchased a plot of land in Prague 6- Střešovice. For a design for their villa, they contacted, through the Plzeň architect Karel Lhota, the well-known Viennese architect Adolf Loos. In October 1928, Dr. Müller concluded a contract with both architects, Loos and Lhot; in November of the same year he requested a building permit. The issuing of the permit was accompanied by a great deal of difficulty: negotiations dragged on, with many objections being given. Even though the main reasons for the long discussions were primarily of a technical character, a few objections were based on the architecture (e.g. that the villa would exceed its surroundings in height), or occasionally even purely aesthetic grounds (that the excessively smooth facade would contrast too jarringly with the villas nearby). As late as April 1929, the town council ruled that no permit would be issued, even though the firm of Müller-Kapsa, entrusted with project realisation, had already begun the initial construction.
Dr. Müller repeatedly appealed the refusal of the building permit. His difficulties in negotiations with public offices became a matter of common knowledge once the Prague German-language newspaper Prager Tagblatt published an article entitled ‘Prague versus Loos’ – at the time when the appeal of Dr. Müller was already being discussed by the Regional Authority. In the end, after all of the objections had been argued, the permit was issued to Dr. Müller in June of 1929.

Construction proceeded with exceptional speed — already by July 19, 1929 Dr. Müller was able to state, in a letter to Loos: ‘My villa is, by this time, already under its own roof; now the partition walls will be put in and the utility lines..’ In September of that year, Dr. Müller signed a contract for the manufacture of custom-made furniture. The Prague firm of Emil Gerstel received a contract for the furnishings of the main hall, dining room and the ladies’ salon; the firm S.B.S. (full name: Standard, bytová společnost) of the Brno architect Jan Vaněk had the contract for the fittings of both staircases and the furniture for the entrance hall, pantry, kitchen, library, wardrobes and children’s rooms.

The rapidity of construction required regular supervision, which Adolf Loos could not, due to his many other professional commitments, perform; for this reason, the aid of his co-workers was essential. In addition to his main Czech assistant, architect Karel Lhota, who transformed Loos’s impressive but often only sketchily rendered ideas into usable blueprints, another assistant was employed starting in December 1929 for the completion of final details: Loos’s pupil and former intern, the Vienna architect Heinrich Kulka. Continual supervision of construction was entrusted to the Plzeň building contractor Bořivoj Kriegerbeck; immediate supervision for the firm of Müller–Kapsa was undertaken by Rudolf Voleský. The architects regularly consulted with their client, but Loos very often refined his plans during the course of construction or even changed them completely in his desire for a purity of composition, entirely overlooking the changes suggested by the client.
In this matter, Dr. Müller was an ideal client for Loos, since he not only agreed to all of the requests of the architect, but even accepted his changes in the course of building even when they did lead to a cost increase (e.g. the lining of the entrance niche with polished travertine), or explicitly contradicted his personal requests (Loos, for instance, refused Dr. Müller’s desire for a sofa in the bedroom, or had his wardrobe constructed from a different material than he wished).

In March of 1930, construction was complete, and Dr. Müller could finally request an inspectors’ report. The inspection committee met on April 10, 1930, yet the Müller family did not wait for their written verdict: on May 12, they moved from Plzeň to Prague, having already celebrated Easter of 1930 in their new home.

During the summer of 1930, the villa’s furnishings were gradually finished. From a design by the highly regarded landscape architects Camillo Schneider, Karl Förster and Hermann Mattern, work began on the garden landscaping.

Starting in the spring of 1930, the villa formed the backdrop to a flourishing social life. On December 10 of 1930, Adolf Loos celebrated his sixtieth birthday here; from surviving photographs, it is possible to reconstruct the guest-list of this celebration, including the renowned Austrian writer Karl Kraus, the Czech poet Josef Svatopluk Machar, architectural critic and author Bohumil Markalous or art historian Antonín Matějček; their names are also recorded in a memorial book preserved in the archive of the Prague Museum of Decorative Arts. Adolf Loos wrote in the book: ‘My most beautiful house! And for the man who – in the words of my friend Dr. Schwarzwaldová – is the most intelligent client I have ever had, Dr. Müller! This is the entire secret of architecture.’ — Adolf Loos on his 60th birthday.


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