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Modern architecture in Brno: the Stiassni Villa

Brno offers tourists numerous sights, such as a castle, cathedral, churches, museums and ossuary, among others. For architecture fans there is even more to see. Situated in the villa-dotted Masaryk Quarter of Brno, the Stiassni Villa is a gem of functionalist architecture that opened to the public at the end of 2014. If travelers are interested in modern architecture, the Stiassni Villa is a must-see. Completed in 1929 for textile businessman Alfred Stiassni and his family, the villa has an L-shape ground plan. The architect, Ernst Wiesner, was well-respected in Brno, where he had designed other structures as well.

The Stiassnis – Alfred, his wife Hermine and his daughter Susanne – lived there for a mere nine years. In 1938, fearing persecution because they were Jewish, the family left Czechoslovakia and eventually made their way to California after stops in England and Brazil.

The Nazis took control of the villa during the Second World War, and after the war the Russians damaged the interior. Better days were in store for the villa when Czechoslovak President Edvard Beneš resided there with his wife twice during visits to Brno. In the 1950s the villa began to be used as a residence for influential guests in the Moravian capital. Both Fidel Castro and Nikita Khrushchev stayed there. After the Velvet Revolution, the villa was transformed into a four-star hotel. Bill Gates was one of many celebrities who had a room there. The hotel closed in 2005. From 2012 to 2014 the villa underwent reconstruction.

The rooms include original furniture and furnishings from various chateaus, transferred to the villa under Communist rule. In the Large Dining Room, admire the onyx fireplace and an exquisite vase. Hermine was quite a skilled painter. Her watercolor paintings on display attest to that. Stucco ornamentation in one space astounds. When peering into the smallest rooms, look out for the stunning one in Empire style.

The first floor consists of the family’s private rooms. Alfred’s wardrobe features moveable drawers and a place for more than 10 pairs of shoes. Be sure to look out the window from Hermine’s bedroom. You’ll see the symmetrical, elegant English garden, hills and other villas in the distance. The garden was founded in 1927 and includes many foreign woody species.

While Hermine may have had the best view, it was Susanne who enjoyed the most beautiful and spacious bedroom. She had a playroom, a dressing room, a bathroom and a terrace for herself. In contrast, her governess was only allotted a tiny room. It is also evident that the Stiassnis were athletes. They had a swimming pool on top of the villa and tennis courts that are still on the grounds today.

The tour allows visitors to appreciate what it must have been like to have lived there in the early 1930s, even though all the furniture is not authentic. For architect buffs, this is a highlight of the city. Those intrigued by architecture should also visit the Tugendhat Villa, The Löw-Beer Villa (now an exhibition space) and Dušan Jirkovič’s Villa in Brno. A walk through the Masaryk Quarter offers views of exquisite exteriors, too. Modern architecture certainly occupies a distinguished place in Brno’s history.


CITY


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A resident of Prague since 1991, Tracy A. Burns has published articles and stories in English, Czech and Slovak. Her work in English has appeared in The Washington Post, for instance. Her travel blog is at taburns25.wordpress.com. She also writes book reviews and essays for the Czech and Slovak academic journal Kosmas. Her writings in Czech have been published in Reflex and Listy, among others. Her articles in Slovak have been printed in SME, for example. She has edited an art catalogue for Prague's National Gallery and is a contributing author to the book The Arena Adventure, about Arena Stage theatre. Her passions are writing, reading and traveling.



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