The Architect who changed the faces of towns
A FEW INTRODUCTORY WORDS
Josef Zasche Architect was a German Nationalist who lived and worked in Bohemia in the first half of the 20th century. He was born on 9th November 1871 in Jablonec nad Nisou. He studied architecture at the Technical College in Liberec from 1885 to 1889. Then he continued his studies in Vienna. His teacher there was Karl von Hassenauer. He graduated in 1892, was awarded Haggenmüller prize and briefly worked for Friedrich Schachner’s building office.
He moved to Prague in 1895 and lived there thereafter. He realized his first independent projects in northern and western Bohemia. He was one of the very few German architects who maintained friendly relationships with his Czech colleagues. He even cooperated with Jan Kotěra and Pavel Janák on their common projects.
ZASCHE IN JABLONEC
When he was thirty years old his first significant structure was completed. It was The Old Catholic Church of the Ascension of the Holy Cross in Boženy Němcové square in his hometown, Jablonec nad Nisou.
Church buildings in Art Nouveau style are very scarce since this style often features profane symbols. Jablonec Church is one of the most spectacular ones and has undergone a major reconstruction lately. It is a unique architectural and urban complex with its adjacent buildings, a vicarage and villas.
He designed two luxury villas located in nowadays Korejská street during the period of Austrian-Hungarian Empire. One of them was a residence designed in 1906 for a salesman Eduard Dressles. Five years later he designed a neoclassical villa for a Jablonec solicitor Josef Giebisch located on a large allotment at the corner of Korejská and Opletalova streets.
Probably the most significant project, which took him an incredible three decades, was the construction of a new Roman Catholic Church. The works were postponed by World War II and many financial disputes. Within these years he designed this Church in various architectural styles. His first drawing of this Church comes from 1898. It was in Art Nouveau style. Later there appeared drawings in functionalist style and the Bauhaus style before he made his final drawing in 1930. This particular final drawing resembled a fine wine in its perfection, and we must admire the architect’s persistance and patience needed for the Church to be finally built.
No other than this church is the one which houses our pipe organ that is the subject of our restoration project
The architect himself designed the whole structure including every little detail. The progress of the construction was carefully overseen and adjustments carried out as needed. Letters recieved from Prague with description and details of the construction in progress have been kept in an archive. Therefore it is not surprising that the pipe organ was built and installed with the same amount of care and attention to detail. He paid a lot of attention to the appearance of the organ and he also made necessary changes to make sure the organ fits the organ loft perfectly. He also consulted widely with the company Rieger-Kloss regarding his work plans and ideas.
ZASCHE IN PRAGUE
His career peaked between 1906 and 1908. Three modernist Palaces based on his projects were built in Prague within those years: hotel U Tří jezdců a dům pro Pražskou železářskou společnost (hotel Three Riders and The House of Prague Metallurgic Company) in Senovážné square and above all the Palace of Vídeňská bankovní jednota (Zachler’s Palace) in Na Příkopě street whose facades is made of polished marble decorated with sculptures by Franz Metzner, a famous German sculptor who codesigned Jablonec and Liberec fountains with Mr. Zasche, which were later removed.
In years 1912-1914 Josef Zasche cooperated with Jan Kotěra, his Czech friend, working on a project and construction of The General Retirement Pension Institute Palace in Rašínovo nábřeží (embankment) 42-44/390.
His further works represent a period of cooperation with Pavel Janák, a Czech architect. These are the Palace of Asekuračního průmyslu cukrovarnického ( Sugar Association Palace) and the building of Adria Insurance company in Jungmannova street.
Multitalented Zasche also desinged schools, housing for workers, apartment houses, villas and even tombs. He also designed new university buildings along with his colleague Mr. Kotěra.
The last significant building he completed was Urania Palace in Klimentska street in Prague housing a cinema which used to be home to a famous film club.
The other most significant building is of course the Church of the Most Sacred Heart of Our Lord in Jablonec nad Nisou, which is one of its greatest attractions.
Architect Josef Zasche was a Social Democrat, with no connections to the Nazi Party, yet whilst in retirement he found himself interned on the 7th May 1945 at the end of World War II after he had been retired for a number of years. His flat in Mezibranská street in Prague was plundered and his archive destroyed. He was deported to Germany despite the pleas and protests of his many Czech friends and associates. He subsequently lived in the village of Schackensleben near Magdeburk where he died on 11th October 1957. It was a somewhat unjust and sad ending to his life.
Mr Zasche was very largely forgotten during the post war period, and it was only in 1999 the Association of friends of Jablonec town and Leutel’s Association placed a plaque in the facades of the Church of the Most Sacred Heart of Our Lord in Jablonec nad Nisou to his memory.
He was listed as one of the most infuential figures of the Liberec region in 2007 which marked the 50th anniversary of his death.