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Prague: ARTĚL Style

Expert recommendations and insider tips for first-time visitors and locals alike from ARTĚL’s founder, Karen Feldman, who has lived in Prague since 1994. Click on the links below for detailed reviews – from Feldman’s own unique perspective – of all the best that Prague has to offer...

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Modern Architecture In Prague: An Interview with Janek Jaros

Published on October 01st, 2015 in Interviews

  • Kovařovic Villa, c. 1913

  • National Assembly Building, 1973 (source: ČTK / Czech News Agency)

  • Müller Villa, 1930 (photo courtesy of www.muzeumprahy.cz/poloha-vily)

  • Müller Villa drawing, 1929 (photo courtesy of www.muzeumprahy.cz/poloha-vily)

  • International Hotel (photo courtesy of www.internationalprague.cz)

 

Because I’m not an expert on modern architecture, I thought it would be useful to talk to someone who is – so I sat down with Janek Jaros, the former owner of Modernista (a shop that focuses primarily on household objects and furniture from the 1920s–60s), for a brief discussion about Prague architecture...

 

 

Karen: Can you give me a quick overview of modern architecture in the Czech Republic?

Janek: The first seeds of Modern architecture in Bohemia were sown by Jan Kotěra and a handful of other young architects who studied in Vienna under the legendary professor Otto Wagner. While Kotěra mostly worked in the style of Wagner and contemporaries such as Josef Hoffmann, the slightly younger group of his assistants and pupils created the radical and internationally unique style of Czech Cubism around 1910. Nowhere else in the world was the Cubist style applied to such an extent. Indeed, for a time, the well-heeled of Prague could live in Cubist houses, furnished with Cubist furniture, drink coffee from Cubist cups and follow time on Cubist clocks. The movement was extremely short-lived, however, and came to a halt at the outset of WWI. Following the war, it briefly evolved into the so-called Rondo-Cubist style, which came to be called the ‘Czech National Style,’ but this later stage is less distinguishable from what is more generally known as Art Deco. Towards the end of the 1920s, most progressive architects jumped on the Functionalist bandwagon, arriving via the Bauhaus. Some of the Modernist apartment blocks built in the 1930s still count among the best places to live in Prague. It’s not too much of an exaggeration to say that Functionalism remained the dominant architectural style in the country until the Velvet Revolution – particularly in the area of public commissions.

 

Karen: What are your favorite examples of the various modern styles of architecture in Prague? 

Janek: For Cubist architecture, I’d say the Kovařovic Villa, just below Vyšehrad Castle. And for Functionalist or Modernist architecture, the Müller Villa beats everything else, hands down. As far as the Communist architecture of the 1950s and 1960s goes, the National Assembly building near the National Museum, I would have to say, is notable for its utter monstrosity and sheer ignorance of its surroundings.

 

Karen: What are your thoughts on the Hotel International in Prague 6, which is a striking example of the Stalinist style? Wasn’t it recently declared a national monument? 

Janek: Well, now that we’re stuck with it, it may as well be listed in your book, though I wonder what it symbolizes – either the Russians trying to impose something on us, or some zealous Czech trying to please the Russians out of their own initiative. Perhaps a combination of both. Certainly it is one of the most shocking examples of how brutal architecture can be when it ignores what surrounds it.

 

 

 

Addresses for buildings Janek has noted:

 

FUNCTIONALIST

Müller Villa

Müller Villa, Photograph: Martin Polak Martin Polak/PR (courtesy of theguardian.com)

 

Nad Hradním vodojemem 14, Prague 6, Střešovice
www.mullerovavila.cz
tel 224 312 012
hours Tours by appointment only: Apr–Oct: Tue, Thurs, Sat & Sun: 09:00, 11:00, 13:00, 15:00 & 17:00 Nov–Mar: Tue, Thurs, Sat & Sun: 10:00; 12:00; 14:00 & 16:00
entrance fee 450 CZK Adults; 350 CZK Children; 6 and under Free
metro Hradčanská
tram 1, 2, 18 to Ořechovka
travel time 15–20 min.

 

 
COMMUNIST

National Assembly Building

National Assembly Building, 1973 (source: ČTK / Czech News Agency)

 

Legerova 75, Prague 1, Vinohrady
metro Muzeum
tram 11 to Muzeum
(You can’t miss it, it’s the rectilinear building nestled between the National Museum and the State Opera House)

 

 

STALINIST

Hotel International

Hotel International (photo courtesy of www.internationalprague.cz/en/)

 

Koulova 15, Prague 6, Dejvice
http://internationalprague.cz/en/

metro Dejvická then
tram 2 or 8 to Podbaba
travel time 15–20 min.

 

 

CUBIST

Kovařovic Villa

Kovařovic Villa, c. 1913
 

Libušina 3, Prague 2, Vyšehrad
metro Vyšehrad
tram 3, 7, 17, 21 to Výtoň

 

Other notable examples of Czech Cubism near Kovařovic Villa:

 
Neklanova 2 & 30
Two apartment blocks

 

Rašínovo nábřeží 6–10
Family houses

 

 

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