History of the Jurkovič House

The architect Dušan Jurkovič purchased the land for the construction of the house at the beginning of September 1905. The plot once extended to today's Šmejkalova Street, but he later sold most of it. The location, known as "Below the Hill", near Císařský les Wood, lies on a slope above the Svratka valley and commands a wonderful view of the countryside beyond; it was part of Žabovřesky in the early 20th century, at the time an outlying village that was to become part of Greater Brno in 1919. The Jurkovič House was the first building on the location.

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A photo from the past

Jurkovič drew much of his inspiration for the design of the house from the most recent constructions by Joseph Maria Olbrich in Darmstadt (1900-1901) and Josef Hoffmann at Hohe Warte, Vienna (1900-1901). The interior was dominated by a staircase hall, at the time a highly modern element perceived as imported from Great Britain. In its time, the house was one of the most modern buildings in Brno, together with the Karel Reissig villa by Leopold Bauer (1901-1902).

The exact date upon which building began is not known. The house was probably completed in mid-1906, since from 26 August until 20 September 1906 it housed Dušan Jurkovič. An Exhibition of Architecture and the Applied Arts, a showorganised by the Brno Friends of the Arts Club. The main exhibit was the house itself. Visitors could view the central staircase hall and the drawing room. The remaining rooms on the ground floor, the children's room, the bedroom and the bathroom, served as exhibition rooms in which Jurkovič presented designs, models, drawings and photographs of his various constructions. The extent to which the remaining interiors were finished at the time is not known. However, the garden, surrounded by fencing with a typical wooden gate, was complete. Dušan Jurkovič and family moved in soon after completion, something confirmed by the 1906 census records. The house was entered in the formal cadastral register on 6 September 1907.


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A current photo of the Jurkovič House

The Jurkovič House blends elements of modernism, both British and Viennese, and folk art, and its construction is rather unusual. The basic building materials were stone, wood and cork. A quarry-stone base supports a wooden frame. The half-timbered walls are filled with a mixture of slag, sand and lime covered with cork insulation. The cork boards were covered with cement plaster on the outside and plaster on the inside. The layout of the house consisted of "prestigious" social areas, a working section, and private rooms. The ground floor comprised a hall and a drawing room, a children's room, bedroom and bathroom, a kitchen and a maid's room. Jurkovič's study and a guest room were on the first floor. The basement contained a caretaker's flat, service rooms and cellars.

Apart from its massive stone loggia, the most characteristic features of the house included the carved wooden gate and a glass mosaic on the entrance frontage, with motif derived fromTheShepherd and the Dragon, a fairy-tale.

Dušan Jurkovič lived in the building with his wife and their three children until 1919, when he moved toBratislavaand sold both house and land to private buyers. Under the terms of the Requisition Act of 1921, which limited private property, the premises were temporarily confiscated by the state. At that time, they belonged to Count Bedřich Chorynský. The act was repealed a year later. By the end of the 1930's the house had changed hands several times, finally becoming home to the Švancara family from 1938 to 2006. The communist authorities in the post-war era viewed the property as oversized and the owners were obliged to accommodate further tenants in the 1950's; a total of three families lived there. Around this time, the basement was converted into a "nuclear air-raid shelter". In 1963 the house was officially listed as no. 36785/7-123 among special cultural heritage monuments. The building remained in private hands until 2006, when the owners sold it to the state. Since 2006 it has been administered by the Moravian Gallery,Brno. This institution initiated the Dušan Samo Jurkovič Centre project, comprising a restoration of the house and its opening to the public. The project was approved in a grant application to the Norwegian Financial Mechanisms (Norway Grants). In 2006 and 2007 a team of experts, under the guidance of the Transat architekti studio, performed a thorough survey of the house and research into its contents past and present, followed by a general reconstruction and refit in 2009-2010. The Jurkovič House was opened to the public in April 2011.
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A photo of the interior today                A photo from the past

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