Spa Luhacovice - Czech Republic
Spa LuhačoviceSpa Luhacovice - Czech Republic
Spa Luhacovice

Architecture of Luhačovice Spa

In the dark green forests of Luhačovice, houses need bright, fairy-tale colors.
Leoš Janáček

While the development of Luhačovice started in the17th century, we can speak of its architecture only after the close of the 18th century, when a first ensemble of simple spa structures (most of them did not survive to this day) was erected. The most significant period of construction falls into the first third of the 20th century when an outstanding collection of structures designed by Dušan Jurkovič was created, followed by other structures featuring extraordinary architectural design representing Art Nouveau, early modernism, and functionalism.

The preserved types of structures within the nominated property are compatible with the development of curative industry in Luhačovice. While in the 19th century, mineral water treatment of digestion was prevalent, the 20th century saw the spa specializing in inhalation treatment of the upper respiratory tract. The third key method of treatment utilizes mineral baths and hydrotherapy. In the course of the 20th century, new and less prevalent treatment methods were added including sulfurous baths (joint and skin problems) and peloid therapy (peat spa).

The generously relaxed urbanism on the right scale and without disrupting interferences is the result of adhering to Dušan Jurkovič's original concept from the early 20th century in the course of the spa's centennial modern history.

The main spa buildings may be divided into four different groups based on their architectural style:

I. Structures designed by Dušan Jurkovič between 1902 and 1903 and buildings with related design
II. Historicizing villas and Alpine houses from the 19th and early 20th century
III. Academic Art Nouveau and classicizing Modernism of the first third of the 20th century
IV. Organic Functionalism of the 1940s

The following selection presents in more detail structures built in the central part of the spa surrounding Spa Square. Together they create the most valuable building ensemble of Luhačovice Spa in terms of their architecture and site planning. Besides these structures there are many remarkable buildings outside the central area (in Pražská čtvrť, Bílá čtvrť, Náměstí 28. října and elsewhere) whose description may be found in other publications. (Kollmann, V.; Zatloukal, P.: Moravské lázně v proměnách dvou staletí, Olomouc 1987 and Česká republika - architektura XX. století - Morava a Slezsko, Zlatý řez, Praha 2005).

I. Works by Dušan Jurkovič from the 1902-1903 period and following structures

Dušan Jurkovič's designs created for Luhačovice Spa in the span of merely three years amalgamate motives from regional Carpathian folk architecture with the decorative principles of Art Nouveau and influences of the Arts and Crafts movement's English neo-vernacular style. A perceptive placement of smaller scale structures in the valley's landscaped environment only underscores the harmoniousness of the whole. Thus the spa architecture is not only a living testimony to the spread of modern western European impulses to the architecture and urbanism of central Europe at the turn of the 19th century, but it also corresponds to the peaking of wide national emancipation movements across central Europe, yearning for self-identification and drawing attention, among other things, to folk architecture. This synthesis sets it apart from numerous other major spas in Europe whose architecture is more or less unified, international, stemming from the classic Roman tradition.

To understand the most striking architecture found in Luhačovice - works by Dušan Jurkovič - one must bear in mind the spa's cultural milieu without which these works could not have been born. The idea of a spa "Slavic in both spirit and form", so brilliantly realized by Jurkovič, first saw the light in a circle of Brno intellectuals which included the school director František Mareš, the writers Josef Merhaut and Alois and Vilém Mrštík, the doctor František Veselý (first director of the Luhačovice spa joint stock company) and others. Veselý imagined the spa as not only returning health to patients but also as bringing back their joie de vivre through many things including art and architecture. Luhačovice was to become a "Slavic salon", a meeting place for major figures of Czech, Moravian and Slovak culture

Jurkovič House

Architect: Dušan Jurkovič
Rebuilding 1901-1902

Jurkovičův důmThe original Jan's House, named after the spa's owner Jan Nepomuk Serényi, was designed by Franz Wasitschek in 1822 as a classicist building and remodelled by Dušan Jurkovič in 1902. The house's original function of a spa facility with mineral baths and guest accommodation has been preserved. This is the key Jurkovič's structure erected in Luhačovice. The façade's etherealizing upward gradation is an expression of the variable designs and functions of the individual floors as well as an evidence of older, lower structures surviving inside the house's organism. The dominant floor is the third, half-timbered one added by Jurkovič with a rich configuration of roofing. Half-timbering on the façades is partially exposed and partially hidden by wood paneling which does not merely copy the load-bearing structure but rather presents its independent artistic and ornamental expression.Jurkovičův dům - architektura The original plasters with their fine, Art Nouveau plasticity remarkably complement half-timbering to create art nouveau decoration that is branching out with conical plastered pilasters as imaginary trunks. The entire façade thus becomes an ornament, expansively composed of different materials on different floors. The period symbolism (swans by the entrance) and folklore inspiration blend with latest British (two-floor lobby with staircase) and central European Modernism.

An overhaul was carried out between the years 2000 and 2002. A restaurant and a swimming pool were added in this period but the original function of a spa hotel was maintained.
All exterior and interior spaces were renovated so as to return them as much as possible to their original condition based on restorers´ research and period photographs. The largest share of original functional furnishings remains in the spa section of the building and includes original chaise longues, mirrors, coat hangers, sofas, chairs, table, bench, flower stands, toilette mirror stands and tables with ceramic top, all designed by Dušan Jurkovič. Original furnishings have enamel coating. Delicately renovated were three rooms with original and functional sanitary equipment including refitted faux gold (brass) mineral baths and other items.

Villa Chaloupka (i.e. the Little Cottage Villa, Little Cabin)

Architect: Dušan Jurkovič
Remodelling 1902

Vila ChaloupkaIn his modernization of the Catering House into a romantic cabin villa Chaloupka Dušan Jurkovič significantly drew on Carpathian folk architecture not only by utilizing markedly overreaching roofing but also - unlike in other buildings designed by him and erected in Luhačovice - by using the technique of curbing for the superstructure above the remaining brick ground floor of the building.Vila Chaloupka Sheltered entrances with motives so typical for folk architecture of southern, low-lying parts of Moravia were added on the ground floor. This collage may be seen as a reflection of the interweaving of three ethnographic areas in Luhačovice's Zálesí - Valašsko, Slovácko and Haná - as well as a sign of searching for a more comprehensive foundation for the Slavic Luhačovice works by Dušan Jurkovič and his friends. Jurkovič's architecture is therefore unchained from an imaginary mythical archetype, the Slavic log cabin.

Originally a spa pension with an apartment of the spa's administrator, the building is now a quiet hotel offering accommodation in suites. The current appearance of the house is the result of a complete repair carried out in 1995-1997. The present exterior and interior corresponds to Dušan Jurkovič's original architectural concept.

Hydrotherapeutic Baths

Architect: Dušan Jurkovič
Renovation 1901-1902

Vodoléčebné lázněJust like the Jurkovič House and the Villa Chaloupka, the Hydrotherapeutic Baths were born through rebuilding an earlier building, the Jestřabí Mill. Jurkovič concealed a new half-timbered floor between overhanging consoles that carry the roof. The third floor may be perceived as a massive, decorative ledge of a laconic earlier building. This corresponds to the interior layout which is partially executed as a two-floor elevated space containing resting rooms (later changing rooms). The main structure of the mill was later expanded by Jurkovič and other architects into a comprehensive complex of spa buildings (Hydrotherapeutic Institute, River and Sun Spa, Peat Spa, boiler and laundry house) which radiates a contextual architectural design of later structures and additions. The structure has so far not undergone a major renovation or upgrade and can therefore serve as a valuable source of information for interpreting Jurkovič's work. The two-floor resting room (in its original form without changing rooms) is the most remarkable interior space designed by Jurkovič in Luhačovice.

To this day, the facility has always been used for hydrotherapy. Unlike water used in mineral baths, the water used here in pearl baths, whirl baths or Scotch douches is regular, potable water that improves blood circulation and massages muscles. Later adaptations and additions to the facility were for the most related to dividing it into two parts for men and women.

River and Sun Spa

Architect: Dušan Jurkovič
Built in 1902-1903

Říční a sluneční lázněThe new River and Sun Spa building is a testament to the degree to which some of Jurkovič's later projects were inspired by Japanese architecture with their characteristically simple grid and geometry. This concept is reflected in the swimming pool area design featuring rudimentary, repeating element of private rooms demarcating a courtyard with a centrally located pool. The pool is fed from the Šťávnice River and the facility was modified a number of times in the spirit of its original design, primarily in the 1920s in connection with construction of the neighbouring Hydrotherapeutic Institute and division of the facility into two parts for men and women. As a part of these construction activities, new changing rooms were added and the facility including the swimming pool was lengthened in both directions which resulted in the entrance pavilion being moved by approximately 20 meters toward the street. Today, the facility is hardly used although its function remains the same. The reason for this is the low level of comfort compared to modern swimming pools. The changing rooms made of timber still have original furnishings: mirrors, shelves with drawers, benches and stools.

Villa Jestřabí

Architect: Dušan Jurkovič
Built in 1902-1903

Vila JestřabíThe Villa Jestřabí was conceived by Jurkovič as a distinctive and almost symmetrical structure. It is a very important part of the nominated ensemble and within the whole urban concept. It is situated in a highly prominent position where the valley branches out around Mt. Jestřabí. This extraordinary spatial arrangement is reflected above all in the villa's orientation perpendicularly to the valley and a ground plan which is cranked on the central axis. In its architecture, the villa builds on Jurkovič's previous Luhačovice projects, using half-timbering only on the top floor in spite of the villa's basic fabric not having been an older brick or stone structure as in the case of the above described buildings, i.e. Jurkovič' s House, the Hydrotherapeutic Baths or the villa Chaloupka. At the same time, one can see a move away from curves to broken forms.

This former spa pension is now a hotel. The villa underwent major repairs in 2000 and its exterior design corresponds to Dušan Jurkovič's original architectural concept. The interior design is in style closer to the original situation.

Music Pavilion

Architect: Dušan Jurkovič
Built in 1903

Hudební pavilónThe pavilion is a small, centrally located structure playing on the idea of etherealization of its middle between a massive stone pyramidal plinth and a monumental, "floating" roof held by subtle wood columns (originally probably executed in bright colors). The futuristic new form combines a pyramid-shaped plinth the shape of which seems to continue up to the tip of the roof and dynamic expanding curves of the stage and soffit consoles. At the same time, however, the structure evokes 19th century spa pavilions or gazebos. The pavilion is nonetheless closely tied to Jurkovič's ethnographic departure point, i.e. archetypal Carpathian folk houses which feature similar etherealizing gradation. Having been relocated from the vicinity of Jurkovič's House on the square to today's location shortly after completion and having undergone minor alterations, the architectural character of the pavilion was somewhat changed.

Peat and Sulfurous Spa

Architect: Jan Koča, annex architect: Adolf Vítámvás
Built in 1909, floor added in 1941

This structure is a formal continuation of Jurkovič's spa architecture and especially of the nearby Villa Jestřabí. However, construction has been executed using common brick walls and the motive of half-timbering was only carried out in plastering. A floor was added in 1941 with the form and shape of roofing and faux half-timbering copying the logic of the original building. The existing remnants of a peat-processing mill in the northern annex also date from 1941.

Since 1912, Luhačovice's only sulfurous water spring comes to the surface in this building and it is therefore also used for sulfurous baths (joint and skin diseases). The present building now serves for bath therapy, peat body baths had been phased out.

Tennis Club Pavilion

Architect: Josef Skřivánek
Built in 1924-1926

Pavilon tenisového klubuThis small symmetrical structure standing near tennis courts successfully follows up on Jurkovič's architecture especially as regards its scale and exposed construction (wood on stone base). The architect was a member of the spa's board of directors and partner in the construction company. The structure is generally authentic and is used in accordance with the original purpose.

II. "Alpine" houses from the last quarter of the 19th century

Alpine houses were together with earlier, classicist houses determinant for the spa's overall character prior to Dušan Jurkovič's arrival. In many cases these houses were a combination of different styles following contemporary principles of revivalism and eclecticism. They represented common cosmopolitan character of architecture prevailing in most spa resorts and town of that era.

Villa Lipová (i.e.Linden Villa)

Architect: Václav Pirchan
Renovated in 1883

The Villa Lipová represents an example of the rebuilding of the older building, in this case the Salt Water Mill ("Slanovodský mlýn") which is first mentioned in written records in mid 17th century. In 1883, it received a makeover to look as we know it today by the spa administrator and master builder Václav Pirchan who was inspired by architecture of the Alps. A new floor was added atop the original brick ground floor to accommodate guests. During the period in which a modern spa was born (before 1909), the Linden Villa was the focal point of social life because it was the home of Dr. František Veselý, the spa's managing director and founder of modern balneology, and his wife Marie Calma Veselá, the opera singer and organizer of the spa's cultural life. The modest and simple house was turned into an ethnographic museum of the area of Zálesí in 1943.

Villa Alpská růže (i.e. Rose Villa)

Architect: Václav Pirchan
Built in 1883-1884

Vila Alpská růžeThis villa is Luhačovice's best example of the Alpine architectural style that shaped the spa's look in the second half of the 19th century during the life of Otta Serényi (1879-1902).

The house is still used in accordance with its original purpose as guest accommodation. The exterior and interior have been partially modified over time.

Villa with Pharmacy (originally Villa Austria)

Architect: unknown
Built in 1884-1886

Vila s lékárnou (vila Austria)This was the villa of Mr. Seichert, pharmacist and operator of mineral water shipping company. The facades of this villa with Neo-renaissance architecture and a diagonally positioned corner tower feature Alpine architecture elements with loggias carved in wood, balconies and gable ends. However, the villa as whole is not disharmonious. The ground plan takes into account the villa's location at the end of municipal development as well as the shape of the tract. Its design is one of the most successful renditions of historicizing architecture in Luhačovice.

This is still a residential house with a pharmacy. There is a new art gallery on the ground floor.

III. Academic Art Nouveau and classicizing Modernism of the first third of the 20th century

Main buildings of Spa Square (except for Jurkovič's House) were based on Jurkovič's original site planning concept in different styles by different architects. While it is true that these buildings had been executed in various styles, they all exhibit a remarkable classicizing tendency. They represent for the most part important works by leading Czech architects influenced above all by Otto Wagner (Emil Králík, František Roith).

Bedřich Smetana House

Architect: Emil Králík
Built in 1908-1909

Dům Bedřicha SmetanyThis is an eminent example of Wagnerian geometrical art nouveau with numerous original hand-crafted and artistic elements in the interior. The young architect's debut was the first major intervention in Jurkovič's concept of the spa; however, when compared to a competing design in the spirit of radical modernism submitted by the architect František Roith, it comes out somewhat anachronistic. The building, intended as an upscale hotel, was supposed to be the centre of three planned buildings interconnected by partially realized balconies.

The composition is based on a monumental amalgamation of simple geometrical objects and additional classicizing cornice and pilaster elements rendered in abstract, geometrical shapes. Decoration is limited to ceramic geometrical elements, figural reliefs and steel banisters.Dům Bedřicha Smetany The chief means of expression is the contrast of several plaster textures of the same color which (together with the window grid) bring the design closer to geometrical modernism in architecture. The building's symmetrical layout with double-loaded corridors is organized around a central polygonal staircase hall. aircase vases, door ironwork and a bust of the composer Bedřich Smetana). The house opened 25 years after the death of Bedřich Smetana and less than a year after his second wife Betty passed away in Luhačovice.

Following major repairs carried out in 1993-1995, the building has continued to serve as an upscale hotel. To this end, a new restaurant space was added by way of adapting the basement while retaining the original layout concept.

Dům Bedřicha Smetany Dům Bedřicha Smetany

Spa Administration Building

Architect: Emil Králík
Built in 1926-1928.

After some time, Emil Králík followed up on his Bedřich Smetana House with the nearly purist structure of the Spa Administration Building. Both projects convey noblesse and grandeur but also a degree of the academic and feature monumental interior design. The parterre section of the main façade is very energetic with its large windows and horizontal bands of artificial stone contrasting with the whole and a steel-glass marquee.

Spa Theatre

Architect: František Skopalík
Built in 1906-1908

Lázeňské divadloThe project of a modern Slavic spa was conceived from the beginning as having strong cultural and artistic dimensions. As early as 1906 a competition was announced for the best theatre design. Competing against a modernist design by Roith and another one by Jurkovič, the declared winner was František Skopalík with his classicizing design combined with Art Nouveau decoration. The organization of space with a corridor running around the auditorium and a steep balcony above it borrows from characteristic 19th century theatre layouts The low-cost building opened without restrooms, backdrops storage or proper drainage and only with a felt roof. The interior was designed to evoke "real" theatres.


Architects: Josef Skřivánek, Jan Vodňaruk
Built in 1922-1923

InhalatoriumThis is a classicizing modernist structure from the 1920s with formal attributes of Czech cubist architecture in façade treatment, attic roofing as well as the overall symmetry of composition crowned with the garden entrance's monumental portico. However, the structural form eschews the original starting points of cubism as evidenced for example by the interior of the main lobby executed in a style very close to pre-cubist geometrical Modernism.

Truly remarkable are some of the technical furnishings preserved from the pioneering period of spa treatment (e.g. working decompression chambers made of lead featuring pressure-resistant windows and door seals including measuring equipment). Jan's spring (Janovka) comes to surface inside the Inhalatorium. At the time of completion, it was one of the largest inhalation facilities in Europe owing to the spa's specialization in inhalation treatment of the upper respiratory tract.

Even after a major renovation in 2000-2001, the building continues to serve as an inhalation treatment facility with some other treatment methods having been added.

Inhalatorium Inhalatorium

Ottovka Pavillion

Architect: Josef Skřivánek
Built in 1929

Pramen OttovkaThe spring was discovered in 1905 and like other ones named after a member of the Serényi family. First, the spring mouth was in a romantic 'cave' with a Gothic-style façade located in a steep forest mountainside. In 1929, a classicizing gloriette by architect Josef Skřivánek with a new spring mouth was added to this scenery.

Community House

Architect: František Roith
Built in 1933-1935

Společenský důmThe Community House, the spa's main building ("Kursalon" in German) envisaged early on in Dušan Jurkovič's plan on the western bank of the Šťávnice River, was designed by the outstanding Prague-based architect František Roith many years later. The Community House gave the spa a large hall for socializing and other glamorous facilities where guests could enjoy their free time. The building's composition is closely related to the Spa Square's layout.

In spite of obvious Functionalist features, the building's design is very "classicist" and attests to the architect's strong feelings for pre-war Modernism and Monumentalism as well as for superb details close to Art Deco aesthetics. As a counterpoint, the residential space on the upper floors is very Spartan and matter-of-factly functionalist.

The building is highly authentic including some of the original furnishings and high-quality decorative materials (high-quality metals, ceramic facing, mosaic flooring, etc.).

The building is still used for hosting social events in its social and gastronomical parts (hall with dance floor, outside stage, great hall, library, clubs, bar, restaurant for spa guests as well as staff dining hall) as well as in its accommodation part. No major layout changes have taken place. Also unique light fittings and period furniture have been preserved.

IV. Organic functionalism of the 1940s

Since the 1920s when functionalist architecture begins to take hold in Czechoslovakia, there is an effort underway in Luhačovice to find more universal and unifying character for spa buildings. It is perhaps for this reason that architects with functionalist aspirations are the ones to grasp the quality of Jurkovič's work and show deep respect for it. The new interest in ethnography and rusticity which culminated around the 1940s may have also played a role. The highest point of this positive development was the finalization of the spa's central area by Oskar Poříska through his set of linear structures.

Colonnade with mineral spring pavilions, Diagnostic and Research Institute with restaurant and café

Architect: Oskar Poříska
Built in 1946 - 1952

Kolonáda s pavilóny pramenůPoříska's complex builds on his urbanistic studies from the 1940s in which he strived to finalize and unify the spa's centre affected by the arrival of the monumental and symmetrical solitaire structures of Smetana House and Community House amidst Jurkovič's design for an organically growing spa. Poříska reconciles these opposing poles by inserting a group of linearly arranged structures that neither abandon grandeur nor disturb the intimacy of the space in front of Jurkovič House. The organic composition's centre of gravity thus receives a 'joint' (the central spa plaza with the Vincentka spring hall) from which ensue segments of the Great Colonnade with the Amandka spring hall and Small Colonnade with the interconnected Diagnostic and Research Institute. Thanks to their great curvature radius, both curves are bound to dominants on the opposite side of the square. Rear atriums of the colonnades together with the glass front and columns of the Vincentka hall connect the structure as well asKolonáda s pavilóny pramenů the entire square with the English park's natural environment. The decorative ceramic mosaic in the Vincentka hall dates from 1957 and reflects the spirit of socialist realism (Stanislav Mikulaštík, Jan Kobzáň, Josef Kousal).

The strong points of Poříska's design are the unaffected association of monumental and organic concepts of the spa from the past and the providentially chosen scale which makes even the largest structure of the square a fitting counterpoint to Jurkovič House. The colonnade is the building which put finishing touch to the space constituted by Jurkovič. It respects the dominating Jurkovič House, and through slight elegant incurvation let it be superior to all other structures in this central square.

The structure still serves its original purpose, both in the southern section of the colonnades featuring halls with springs and retail stores and in the northern section with healthcare facilities (diagnostic institute - so called spa polyclinic, pharmacy) and restaurants. Almost no layout changes have taken place.

Kolonáda s pavilóny pramenů Kolonáda s pavilóny pramenů

St. Elisabeth's Chapel

The Baroque chapel was built around 1743 by the Serényis near curative springs.

Statue of Dr. František Veselý

Pomník MUDr. Františka VeseléhoThis statue is the work of a leading expert on Moravian folklore, František Úprka, who gave it a virtually classicist contraposto feeling. The statue, made of natural white crystalline marble, was conceived to stand on a large boulder with a spring coming from beneath and therefore it was erected on a slope. It was created in 1925.

Statue of Leoš Janáček

This memorial was created by a leading Czech realist artist, Karel Pokorný, in 1954.

Brussels Fountain

Bruselská fontánaThis fountain, originally created by Jan Kavan for Czechoslovakia's pavilion at the 1958 Brussels Expo world exhibition, was transported to Luhačovice in 1960. In its new location in front of Smetana House, the fountain adds new meaning to this Art Nouveau Gesamtkunstwerk.

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