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8. 4. 2009 16:03

Hana and Edvard Beneš' summer home in Sezimovo Ústí

Mr. and Mrs. Beneš' summer home

Vila Hany a Edvarda Benešových v Sezimově Ústí Hana and Edvard Beneš' summer home was built from 1930 to 1931 according to a design by architect Petr Kropáček. The construction work was carried out by the Tábor-based construction company of Antonín Soumar. The preparation of the design and construction occurred with the direct involvement of Mr. and Mrs. Beneš. In his concept, the house was supposed to recall a country building in southern France, and he wished for not just smooth walls and low roofs, but also light rooms. In 1937, the Benešes decided to finish building the villa.

According to a design by architect Otokar Fierlinger, a new wing with a salla terrena was added to the northwest façade, and a terrace in front of the southwest façade shaded a small arched loggia. Living and utility areas were distributed in two segmented wings in the two-story home. The social and living rooms were placed on the southwest side, in the wing situated toward the Lužnice. The spacious light rooms had smooth walls, and only the living hall and studies had alcoves with shelves. The ceiling of the living hall was decorated by wooden beams and the ceiling of Beneš' study had all-wood panelling. A discreet, practical stairway leading from the vestibule was decorated on each floor by a wooden column. The villa, painted with a sand yellow plaster and green painted shutters naturally contrasted with the grassy space and with the leafy and coniferous woods.

In November 1973, Hana Benešová wrote her will, in which she bequeathed part of the furniture and the villa with its adjacent properties to the Museum of the Hussite Revolutionary Movement in Tábor. After her death, these properties were taken over in 1975 by the District People's Committee in Tábor. At the end of 1975, the furniture from the villa was taken to a depository and the building was contractually transferred to the property of the Office of the Government of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic.

The Park

Vila Hany a Edvarda Benešových v Sezimově Ústí The author of the composition of the garden, which was based on the principles of English country parks, was architect Otokar Fierlinger. There is a simple garden modification around the main entrance to the villa. A well creates a decorative and functional complement there to the grassy area. A rectangular garden parterre begins the private section. A small water tank, folded into the space between the villa and the tennis court, was part of the parterre. A free grassy space unfolds before the southwest façade, and a garden pool is located at the villa's terrace. The pool had a spillway flowing into the slope in front of the park path, and on Karel Čapek's advice, the muddy location was bordered by a low wall and plinths, which formed a smaller pool. Beneš named it Čapek's Well. An extensive rock garden was placed on the slope not far from the well. Aside from sculptures and ceramic vases, the diversity of the garden's secluded spots was empowered by small architectural constructions: Arbours and a pergola. With a sensitive touch, paths through the large area connected individual buildings with spaces for meditation and sport (a tennis court and dock on Kozský potok [Kozský Creek]).

From 1932 to 1938, the area of the parcel grew by the properties Beneš purchased gradually. The garden gained a park character through expansion and natural borders. One one side, the parcel is marked off by the Lužnice River and Kozský potok, and on the other side by the Starotáborský Forest. The planting was not carried out by the gardener alone, but by Hana and Edvard Beneš as well. Gardening became one of the married couple's main relaxational activities.

In 1936, the so-called administrative villa was built on the edge of the property with an apartment for the caretaker and the office of the president's secretary.

The Tomb

Vila Hany a Edvarda Benešových v Sezimově Ústí Edvard Beneš chose the location of his final resting place himself. In the summer of 1947, he made no secret to friends and co-workers of his wish to be buried in his beloved garden. From time immemorial, the location has been called Kazatelna [Pulpit], because according to folk legends, Jan Hus spoke to his believers from a knoll there. Edvard Beneš also met with Prague Castle architect Pavel Janák about modifications to the space, which has a view of Sezimovo Ústí and the confluence of the Lužnice River with Kozský Creek. Janák noted that the president imagined a simple stone tomb on the knoll's rock.

According to the architect's concept, the tomb was to be located in the middle of the knoll below the villa's northwest facade. Its construction, from 1948 to 1949, was realised by the construction company of Antonín Soumar and František Koutenský of Tábor. In March 1950, Pavel Janák accommodated Hana Benešová's wishes and placed a bust of Edvard Beneš at the tomb which was created in 1947 by sculptor Karel Dvořák.

The coffin with the remains of the second president was placed in the tomb on 10 September 1948, and an urn with Hana Benešová's ashes was placed there on 6 June 1975. During Hana Benešová's life, the president's tomb was open to the public. The new owner of the property - the Office of the Presidency of the Government of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic - closed access to the tomb in 1975. It remained in this state until 24 March 1990, when the garden gates were opened to the public once again.

In 2008, the Office of the Government of the Czech Republic decided to rehabilitate the architecture of the tomb built according to the plans of Czech architect Pavel Janák.

The Government's Residence

Vila Hany a Edvarda Benešových v Sezimově Ústí The Office of the Presidency of the Government of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic, which took ownership of the building in 1975, requested a refurbishment from the Design Office of the City of Prague. The Prague architects, under the leadership of Jan Šrámek, worked on a proposal under which the family villa was refurbished into a government residence from 1977 to 1978.

The villa received a light brown paint job and the window frames were given a coat of brown, and the pantiled roof was replaced with a covering made of copper sheeting. However, both the roof and the newly-built sheltered place above the entrance were not up to the execution and construction materials of the villa's original architectural conception. The villa's social spaces went through a radical conversion. Of the original fittings, what was kept was the tiled furnace in the president's office, some of the built-in cases and the stairway space from the vestibule to the first floor. The villa gained new electrical and water distribution and a new boiler room. In the garden, across from the tennis court, a heated pool with changing room was built.

In November 2000, the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic proclaimed Edvard Beneš' former summer cottage to be a cultural monument.

On the initiative of Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek, the villa went through a difficult renovation from 2006 to 2009. The building's covering was repaired during the renovation, and at the same time the color conception for the facade and window frames comes from period photo documentation. The project team, led by architect Orlin Ilinčev, prepared a proposal, under which the social areas on the ground floor would be returned to their original form from the 1930s.

The villa today serves not only as a representative space for prime ministers, but is also mainly an honourable memorial to Hana and Edvard Beneš, who were regular and accessible visitors to Sezimovo Ústí.

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Dr. E. Beneše 201,
Sezimovo Ústí

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