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Municipal House - Republic Square 5/1090, New Town

Municipal House

Republic Square 5/1090, New Town

The Municipal House, also known as the Representative house of the City of Prague before, was built in 1905-11 by Prague municipality based on a project by architects A. Balšánek and O. Polívka, with the idea conceived by then the most important Prague Czech association Měšťanská beseda. It is a prime example of Prague Art Nouveau style. The choice of location for this representative public building with exhibition rooms, halls for concerts and social events and also with a restaurant, bar, wine cellar and a coffee house, in the period of growing Czech self-awareness was no coincidence – it stands on the site of the demolished Royal Court, an ancient residence of Czech kings. This extensive complex has a floor plan in the shape of an irregular parallelogram and is formed of four periphery wings which enclose a built-in wing with the Smetana concert hall for 1500 people, the central part of the whole building. The majestic main entrance is decorated in Art Nouveau style and dominated by a lunette mosaic Homage to Prague by K. Špillar and a grou of statues by L. Šaloun called the Humiliation and the Rebirth of the Nation. The most striking feature of both front wings are the tall, semi-circular windows on the first floor with balconies. The interior is made of a number of halls, rooms and restaurants with a rich Art Nouveau decoration, the equipment and furniture is also inspired by this style. Decorations of the Municipal House were done by some of the most prominent Czech artists of that period for whom it was a matter of prestige and honour to participate on this project: they included M. Aleš, A. Mucha, J. Mařatka, F. Ženíšek, J. Preisler, J. V. Myslbek, M. Švabinský, K. Špillar, F. Hergesel, L. Šaloun, J. Pekárek, B. Kafka, J. Mařatka, F. Uprka and Č. Vosmík. The whole building was not only an example of unprecedented artistic and craft skills and qualities but also represented a true technical wonder of that time: among other things, there were 28 hydraulic and electric elevators, air-conditioning system with a remote control, a central vacuum machine, a tube mail, a modern telephone switchboard, kitchens with the latest equipment and also the floors were covered with then brand new linoleum.

The Municipal House immediately became the centre of social life of Czech-speaking Prague and eventually also a place where major historical events took place; it was a direct expression of the self confidence of the Czech nation, it celebrated the nation. It was here where the demand for an independent state was announced on 6th January 1918 (January Declaration) and on 28th October 1918 the independence of Czechoslovakia was proclaimed from the balcony of the Mayor’s Hall. The golden era of the house was in the 1920’s and 30’s – a number of balls, concerts, festivals, conventions and art exhibitions took place there. From 1942 Smetana Hall is the main seat of the Symphonic orchestra of the City of Prague FOK, the most important concerts of the Prague Spring music festival take place there too, right from its beginning in 1946. In 1994-97 the building underwent an extensive reconstruction during which the actual building was restored but many decorations and artefacts were remodelled based on period drawings; destroyed objects, chandeliers, tapestries, curtains, furniture and also the technical equipment were refurbished or replaced by new ones. Since 1989 the Municipal House has been a national cultural monument.

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