Villa Stiassni garden – its past, present and future

Preeminent among the many high-quality Modernist homes scattered throughout Brno’s Masaryk Quarter is the one-time villa and magnificently set garden of textile industrialist Alfred Stiassni and his wife Hermine.

The couple bought up several building lots with a combined area of 32,174 m2 in 1924. Thus was amassed one of the largest private lots of land in Brno, which in addition to its favourable south-western facing aspect, enjoyed stunning views over the surrounding hilly landscape.

In parallel with construction of the home and other buildings (head gardener’s house, stables, driver’s apartment, heated greenhouses, swimming pool and tennis court), a garden was also established.

The villa is distinctive in terms of a number of architectural features through which architect Ernst Wiesner sought to promote mutual continuity between the villa and the future garden. These features include the villa being situated on a terrace, which delineates its southern and eastern sides; around the home, meanwhile, runs a bench that is set forward from the external walls and forms an integral part of the building exterior. It offers comfortable seating from which to enjoy the ever-changing views of the garden. Another linking feature on the ground floor of the southern and eastern wing is the garden loggia, and above it is situated a large terrace, accessed from the private rooms. The geometry of the walls was optically disrupted by the abundant planting of creepers, which directly brings the villa within the ambit of the garden.

Garden designer

The basic composition of the garden was devised by Ernst Wiesner. His vision was taken up by a garden architect who developed its concept still further to create a garden possessing tremendous impact.

None of the original plans for the Villa Stiassni garden survive. The garden designer is thought to have been architect Otto Eisler. However, it has proved impossible to corroborate his role using any source documents. During restoration work on the garden, the renovators also adopted the working hypothesis that the designer may have been Viennese garden architect Albert Esch. This assertion is indicated by indirect facts published in the contemporary literature and Esch’s involvement in delivering garden designs for other of Wiesner’s villas built in the locality. The question of authorship for the time being remains open to further investigation.

Garden composition

The architectural composition of the gardens at the Villa Stiassni gives us one of several interpretations being promoted as fashionable for villas at that time in Czechoslovakia during the interwar years. Here the concept embodies the trend towards an open, free-flowing landscape design with formal compositional elements.

In front of the villa facade we find geometrically designed terraces with flowerbeds as an extension of the domestic living space. Leading directly up from the street to the villa courtyard is a driveway lined with limes. In front of the eastern facade are arranged formal flowerbeds containing perennials.

The garden can be separated into its northern and southern parts. The latter part, beneath the villa, is an intimate space into which the more distant scenery barely intrudes. Here the principal elements are trees and shrubs, with narrower prospects onto the graceful architecture of the villa. The composition of the northern section, in contrast, enjoys far-ranging views over into the surrounding landscape.

Also included on the list of garden amenities were the sporting and leisure accoutrements that were seen at the time as essential for spending free time in a modern and healthy way. It is these elements that furnish the garden with its Modernist touch. The functionally diverse aspects of the garden were composed into a single harmonized garden whole with formal, domestic, sporting and leisure as well as productive functions.