by Zohra KhanOct 26, 2022
Along the bend of the Vltava river, sits the erstwhile industrial district of Holešovice in Prague, Czech Republic. Since the early 20th century it has played host to a number of industries, and by extension, displayed a range of early modern industrial buildings, including the distinguished Trade Fair Palace. Slaughterhouses, markets, steam mills, factories, big apartment buildings, workshops, factory worker colonies, a brewery and a cargo port shaped the mixed-use fabric of the district. These buildings formed the foundation of the contemporary resurgence of Holešovice. Artists and entrepreneurs have revived a host of derelict buildings to now accommodate galleries, shops, cafes and bars. A former factory complex houses the Dox Centre for Contemporary Art, while a slaughterhouse is supplanted by Jatka 78 - an international theatre and circus space, and the Trafo Gallery. Kabelovna Studios by B2 Architecture is a classic interpretation of this process of upgradation as well as conservation.
Located in the workers' colony of the 1870s, this early 20th century cable-making factory is now home to a music and sound post-production facility. The vast uninterrupted interior allows the space to have a multi-functional quality, accommodating painters, fashion designers, screen-printers etc. The architect, Barbara Bencova, has created strategic enclosures within the space, creating a subtle contrast between the old and the new through a balanced use of black against the untreated finish of the original factory.
The 250 sqm single-storey footprint includes a large gathering room - christened the "living room" - with a reception, seating area and kitchen line, and three recording studios accessed from the gathering room. An L-shaped wall separates the reception area from the rest of this large five metre high volume. Plants drop down from the top of this black partition wall, the colour of the wall highlighting the fact that it is a later addition.
A large wooden table is placed centrally in the "living room" with a Bomma Orbital chandelier right above it. The axis created by the solid table and the mouth-blown glass-lens pendant light accentuates the loftiness of this volume.
The slab above is punctured with skylights at intervals, and a drop in volume above the partition wall accommodates a clerestory, the only sources of natural light in the absence of conventional windows. Along the side, are original foldable theatre chairs, meant to accommodate the guests during events. The seating in this area also includes refurbished leather seats. A beige anhydrite floor unifies the wood, glass, brick and steel palette.
From the living room, glass doors lead to the three recording studios, a steel architrave lending additional support to the existing flat brick arch. Each of these is approached via an intermediary semi-private area, that accommodates workstations and lounging areas. The volume here shrinks, in order to support the acoustic requirement.
In studio 1, a PETROF piano completes the open plan layout, dispersed by sofas and a workstation along the wall edges. Pyramidal skylights, from the original structure, punctuate the slabs in each of these rooms. Below the ceiling surface, a series of tailor-made neon lights have pride of place and allude to sound waves through their form. The neon lights are a ubiquitous presence, but change form in each of the rooms. Private voice-over rooms reside beyond each of these intermediary anterooms.
The metaphorical sanctum sanctorum of the space is the voice-over booth, a space that is enhanced by white acoustic panels over the exposed brick walls and ceiling panels, a complete antithesis to the conventional understanding of a recording studio.
Kabelovna Studios is a cohesive amalgamation of the 20th century factory building and contemporary inserts, that don’t necessarily merge, but are celebrated individually. The new additions are all highlighted in black - the acoustic ceiling panels, architraves, door jambs, the L-shaped wall, technical equipment, and utility systems are used as a background for the existing furniture. On the other hand, the robust structure of the original structure, load-bearing brick walls and arches, as well as the skylights and clerestory windows, are a reminder of the industrious past of Holešovice.