Appraisal of the historical impact of neglected, modernised small-scale architectural objects by Rudolf Frič

Matúš Kiaček

Cite this article
Kiaček, M. (2024) ‘Appraisal of the historical impact of neglected, modernised small-scale architectural objects by Rudolf Frič’, Architecture Papers of the Faculty of Architecture and Design STU, 29(1), pp. 19-31.



The paper observes the small-scale architecture of the Bratislava builder Rudolf Frič (1887–1975) in the context of the Czechoslovak interwar architecture. It also shows that his portfolio is more complex than the Slovak historiography presents. The problem of small-scale architecture is its undervaluation due to size, utility, multiplicity, or related momentariness, and automatic consideration of its banality. Therefore, the architectural value of the Frič’s small designs, tram shelters, gas stations, mausoleums, and small detached houses, is being examined in confrontation with the work of other architects of the same typology and approximate architectural and structural characteristics within the Czechoslovak interwar context. On the other hand, we notice that it is the scale and ephemerality conditioned by the utility character, which are the crucial reasons behind their undervaluation. This is especially crucial in transport architecture, whose origin and demise were both conditioned by a dynamic process. The asymmetric position of the Slovak situation compared to the Czech is observed, particularly in transport architecture. The presented works characterise Frič’s style based on high-quality craftsmanship details rather than explicit architectural forms. Finally, we examine in what Frič’s crucial contribution to architecture lies, as he was a more complex entrepreneur.

Frič designed several detached houses of different scale and in various urban situations. Among them is the house of the civil engineer Rybáček on Kubániho Street in Bratislava (1933–1934), now Slovakia. The structure of a narrow winter garden with a plain wall behind is based on the Trombe wall concept, rare in the then Czechoslovak architecture. The house represents a modern concept of a smaller urban villa that is introvert to the street and opened to the garden. It differs from Frič’s house designs for small towns such as Myjava, where he designed the evangelic priest Valášek’s detached house, called ‘The house of Sun’ (1933). Although compared to the Rybáček’s vila in Bratislava, the architectural composition was limited to a trivial addition of prisms, it was a rare example of purist architecture in the town. Frič subsequently published a design proposal for an anonymised Doctor B’s detached house with a surgery (1933). Despite its attractive design and ingenious layout, it was not a rare hybrid typology, as it was applied in Jan Gillar’s (1904–1967) design for Doctor Polony (1937–1938).

In the context of motorisation and modernisation processes in interwar cities, new public traffic shelters were being built. Frič built one in Hviezdoslavovo Square in Bratislava (1928), in front of the monumental representative architecture of the Carlton Savoy hotel, rebuilt by Michal Milan Harminc. In such a contrary position, the kiosk was architecturally banal but infrastructurally crucial. The architectural form based on vertical volumes combined with horizontal lines, and rectangular, circular, and polygonal geometry, together with its position were criticised at first. In the research, it is confronted with a series of tram shelters and waiting rooms by Oskar Poříska (1897–1982) in Brno (1925–1932), now Czech Republic. Considering the multiplicity, scale, and additional facilities involved, the Brno tram shelters substantiate that the specific typology was evolving more intensively in the Czech than in the Slovak environment. The recognition of both designs in period magazines on architecture, ‘Slovenský staviteľ’ and ‘Stavba’, confirms their appreciable contribution to architectural discourse in that unique typology.

The motorisation and modernisation processes in cities led to the construction of a new typology of gas stations. They would be embodied in dynamic architectural forms. Although in Czechia such architectures were being built since early 1930s, both in city centres and on peripheries, in Bratislava there was no gas station until 1940. The first was the Zikmund Brothers’ gas station on Račianska Street (1940), located on what was the city periphery at that time. It was designed by the Czech architect Jan Slavíček and built by Rudolf Frič. Due to its structure and dynamic form, it is being compared to Gočár’s designs.

The fourth and last typology to deal with is a mausoleum, or generally a tomb. As an ancient sepulchral architecture, it used to have traditional architectural forms. From this point of view, it may be considered the opposite of transport architecture, which was modern in cause and form. However, in the interwar Czechoslovakia this typology was fading away, and was scarcely used from the post-war time onwards. The paper studies the only example of sepulchral architecture in Frič’s portfolio which is his family mausoleum in Dobříš (1937) near Prague, now Czech Republic. The mausoleum design is based on a square geometry and symbolism, significantly repeating the square arrangement. It is confronted with the Nedelco and Klimko family mausoleum (1937) at Saint Rosalia Cemetery in Košice (Slovakia), designed by Ľudovít Oeschläger (1896–1984). The Krčméry family mausoleum (1937) by Emil Gottesmann (1900–1944) also follows a conservative cube-shaped concept. The last confrontation is made with Adolf Loos’s design proposal for the Austrian Czech art historian Max Dvořák’s mausoleum.

Keywords: small-scale architecture, interwar Czechoslovakia, Frič, gas station, tram shelter, tomb, mausoleum