The architect Antonín Žižka constructed a factory producing machines for the Rossemann and Kühnemann company on the newly subdivided Osadní street in Prague. In 1901 two workshops and an office building, a forgery and a shed for paints and oils were added. The buildings had a typically industrial appearance – high windows with rounded arches, with facades of unplastered bricks alternating with strips of plaster. The original ground floor administrative building on the corner of Poupětova and Osadní streets no. 793 was extended in 1920 by an additional storey with a triangular roof with a segment window by the architect Josef Karhan.
The Rosseman & Kühnemann firm later founded a factory for the production of wagons and locomotives in the Radotín district of Prague under the Ferrovia brand, and the factory in Holešovice underwent several changes of ownership. From 1925 the factory briefly housed the Miloš Bondy company, a factory producing Avia aircraft. In 1928 it was bought by the company Antonín Páv, and operated as a machining and plumbing plant. The office building on the corner was reconstructed by František Troníček, a construction engineer of the Nevkasil company, who added a floor with a roof terrace above the section on Osadní street. By 1930 the Nekvasil company had designed an adaptation of the premises for the Páv company, including an additional floor above the workshops facing into Poupětova street. In 1939 František Troníček also designed new workshops – a reinforced concrete, three-floor, double-span building with a cellar on a rectangular plot, with the shorter facade facing into Osadní street. After nationalisation the premises housed the state enterprise ZUKOV. In 2002 the building was purchased by Leoš Válka.
The statement by the Director of the DOX Centre Leoš Válka, that the unpredictability of art is a value which facilitates unexpected benefits, draws attention to the indispensability of art in a world of goal-oriented conduct. This notion seems particularly relevant in the Czech Republic at the beginning of the 21st century. The contemporary Czech environment is characterised by short-term interests and the privatisation of public affairs, in which art and culture, unless they figure as a component of immediate commercial or political gain, are condemned to the margins of “social” interest. This is borne witness to by the stagnating state budget on culture (one of the lowest in Europe) and the marginal position occupied by the Czech Republic on the international map of contemporary art. An illustrative example of these deficits is the fact that in the last ten years Prague, which once ranked amongst the European centres of culture, has had no adequate exhibition arena devoted exclusively to contemporary art. This situation contrasts sharply with the time one hundred years ago, when the capital city boasted first class polyfunctional buildings which were used for the contemporary art of the day (Rudolfinum and Obecní Dům), as well as a Modern Gallery specialising in contemporary art.
It is all the more remarkable that the project, which in the new century has finally created an optimal space for the presentation of contemporary art, does not owe its foundation to the state or municipal council, but to the initiatives of individuals, namely Leoš Válka and his business partner Robert Aafjes. Equally surprising is the fact that Válka, who devoted all his energy to this project in the faith that his singleminded endeavour would be joined by further individuals or the city itself, is no Czech oligarch who made his fortune during the chaotic era of post-communist privatisation. He is a small businessman in the field of residential services and reconstructions, who upon inspecting the industrial building in Holešovice saw its unique potential for housing a gallery of contemporary art. However, his capital was not sufficient in order to finance the construction of the DOX Centre for Contemporary Art, and as a result it was essential to find further investors to complete the project. Válka was consequently joined by Václav Dejčmar and Richard Fuxa. The architectural design was placed in the hands of Ivan Kroupa, winner of the Forderungspreis Baukunst prize in 2001. In 2008 the building of the DOX Centre for Contemporary Art was included in the Phaidon Atlas of 21st Century World Architecture, ranked amongst the most distinguished architectural projects in the world, and in the same year was nominated for the prestigious architectural Mies van der Rohe Award.
The DOX Centre is located in Holešovice, a dynamic district of Prague which is currently undergoing a fundamental transformation. Its proximity to the city centre and the connection of the former industrial buildings with residential and commercial development makes Holešovice a prime candidate for a new arts centre in Prague. The interest which this area has stimulated amongst designers, architects, advertising agencies and creative people in general is reminiscent of the development of other former industrial zones such as Docklands in London, SoHo in New York, Holmen in Copenhagen or Docklands in Amsterdam. The DOX Centre is a symbol of the revitalisation of this district. The balanced horizontal and vertical composition of the dimensions of the buildings, with different heights of the interiors, enables a large degree of variability of the exhibition rooms, which is essential for the presentation of contemporary art. The main characteristics of the resulting structure – the plurality of perspectives and views, flexibility, the harmonisation of the old with the new, the interconnection of the exterior and interior of the structures and their dialogue with the surrounding buildings, makes this a first class architectural realisation, capable of competing with the best examples of international architecture.
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