Prague Architecture and Buildings
·Prague is a real melting pot of architectural styles going back more than a thousand years. This is a collection of many of those styles.
Last updated 2 years ago
Many buildings in central Prague have a certain look i.e. a symmetrical building with Roman columns and statuettes. These are the three basic things to look out for on a Neo-renaissance building. The bulk of these are built between 1870 and 1900. Basically architects who have already made their name are building some of the city's iconic buildings like the Rudolfinum pictured, the National Theatre and the National Museum. You can also call this under the collective title of "Revivalist".
The Gothic Church of Our Lady Before Tyn
Even with a finish date in the late 14th Century unbelieveably you can see and go into older churches than this one. The Tyn church is on the Old Town Square. It's French-Gothic style with open faced block, asymmetrical and uses lower buttressing which double as the chapels on the sides. No flying buttresses here and the pinnacles are plain. A lovely church to walk through its now Roman Catholic and does weddings, funerals and services.
It's not just facades that get all the attention. Behind the facade is a building and in many of them are courtyards. Some are still open air but others like the Lucerna pictured are enclosed. The large flat ceiling that allows the light into the passage is possible because this was the first complex to make use of a steel skeleton frame. Again, with a 14 year build process, it's starts in one style and ends in another. It may also surprise you to learn the original building function.
Similarity of buildings in areas like the Old Town, Jewish Quarter and Vinohrady etc is not accidental. If the architect was given free rein then he'll stick with a tried and trusted format. In this case it's possible to identify unique signatures of architects even if you are looking at both residential and commercial buildings. The Prague Architecture tour shows you some of those signature design details.
The First Cubism Building in Prague
It's no accident that the "House at the Black Madonna" became the Prague Cubism Museum. It's not just Cubist, it's the first example of a Czech Cubist building and was designed by architect Josef Gočar. With a restored Cubist style cafe on the first floor (Grand Cafe Orient) and beautiful staircase it's worth a look. On the Architecture tour I'll tell you about the basics of Cubism and what the protagonists thought was most important.
The Tyn Courtyard in Prague Old Town
Italian Renaissance does not arrive in Prague until the mid-16th Century and follows the Gothic period. It's largely associated with the Habsburg family hence why you'll see more of it on the Castle side of the river. In the Old Town which was the trading and business district it was not so popular and so this picture from the Tyn Courtyard is one of the few examples of Italian Renaissance arcading in the Old Town area.
Flowery Buildings - Late Baroque and Rokoko
The Kinsky Palace on the Old Town Square is surely the best example of the end of the "flowery" period. Baroque had become more and more decorative culminating in a short Rokoko period. A stunning building from the 1750s it's now part of the National Gallery and home to two or three major exhibitions every year. Note the wooden cobbles in both vehicular entry halls.
Art Deco Meets Cubism
This is inside the Adria Palace. On another pin I showed you the exterior of the building which is Rondocubism. You'll find the floor is typically Italian Renaissance mosaic tiling (a nod to the Italian insurance company that built it) but the ground floor is 100% Art Deco. This is common for buildings that were being designed post WW1 but not actually constructed until the mid 1920s and you can see the internal window framing changes as Art Deco becomes popular.
Yes, I know what you're thinking.....where's the "Rondo" part. These are often called wedding cake buildings. In this case we have the architect Pavel Janak (the guy that wrote "Prism and Pyramid") who went against his own original ideas on Czech Cubism and designed the Adria Palace. He was better known as a city planner but on the few occasions he designed buildings they are usually pretty unique.
Prague Art Nouveau - Bedrich Bendlmeyer
If there is an iconic Art Nouveau building in Prague it has to be the Grand Hotel Evropa on Wenceslas Square and to a lesser extent the Hotel Meran next door. Both have signature design features and I describe other Bendlmeyer buildings on the Architecture tour. Many people rank Prague as one of the top places in Europe to see Art Nouveau as it was largely unaffected during the Second World War.
Prague Cubism - Otakar Novotny
My most popular walking tour passes this building and it's one of my favourites in the city. Not least that the architect is not known as a Cubism designer, it had a practical purpose in that it was only for Teachers. It's built in the Czech Cubism style defined by Pavel Janak in his 1911 book "Prism and Pyramid" and I love the way the shadows create even more depth.