The new state of Czechoslovakia was founded on 28 October 1918, and its early period up to 1938 is called the First Republic. During those twenty years, the young country grew into a modern democracy with one of the most efficient economies and industries in the world. And the architecture wasn’t left behind either. Learn about five architectural jewels of Prague from the time of the First Republic.
1. Prague CastleWhen: 1920s and 1930s
Prague Castle has been overlooking Prague since the 9th century. But it acquired its current look during the First Republic. Together with the foundation of Czechoslovakia, it was required to rebuild Prague Castle so that it could fulfil the new role as the seat of President Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk. The President’s office addressed Slovenian architect Josip Plečnik. And he threw himself into the job. Under his management, not only the first courtyard including the flag posts in front the Matthias Gate and the President’s apartment were modified, but also Rajská, Na valech and Na baště gardens (including the lookout gazebo, lookout terraces and the winter garden by the south gardens), as well as the north façade of the Spanish Hall, and the entry portico gallery leading to the Spanish hall beside the Matthias Gate. Plečnik himself did not live long enough to see all his projects implemented. For example, the exhibition hall in the Prague Castle Riding School was not completed until after WWII, in 1949.
2. Fair Trade PalaceWhen: 1925-1928
One of the first and also the largest functionalistic buildings in Prague is located in Prague Holešovice. The Fair Trade Palace was built as a place for fairs, but today it is managed by the National Gallery in Prague, which has its permanent exposition on the Arts of the 20th and 21st Century there as well as other exhibition spaces. The Fair Trade Palace was designed by two architects – Josef Fuchs and Oldřich Tyl. It was built between 1925 and 1928, and at that time it was the largest building of this type in the world. Since 1958, the Fair Trade Palace is an immovable cultural monument.
3. Villa MüllerWhen: 1928-1930
The luxurious functionalistic Villa Müller can be found in one of the most famous and oldest garden and villa quarters in Prague: Ořechovka. The Villa, owned by Milada and František Müller, was designed by genial architect Adolf Loos, who was working in Bohemia at that time, and it was built in two years (1928-1930). It was the commission of the Villa that allowed Loos to bring his original concept of space to the highest level. The furnishings of the villa interior that Loos selected, and often also designed, represents a surprising harmony of modern functionalism and the classicist English style.
4. Church of the Most Sacred Heart of Our LordWhen: 1929-1932
The Roman Catholic Church of the Most Sacred Heart of Our Lord stands at the Prague Square of Jiří z Poděbrad in Vinohrady and it is another building designed by Slovenian architect Josip Plečnik. The church has a wide main tower that reaches the height of 42 metres and holds a giant round clock. The clock has a diameter of almost 7.5 metres, making it is the largest in the Czech Republic. Plečnik was inspired by Noah’s ark (therefore, there is a spacious chapel with a barrel vault in the basement) and the building also includes details with royal symbols – for example, the façade with projecting stones resembles royal ermine and the cupola on top of the tower the royal orb and cross).
5. National Monument in VítkovWhen: 1929-1933
The National Monument in Vítkov , based on a design by Jan Zázvorka, is a functionalistic monument built between 1929 and 1933 at the top of the Vítkov hill in Prague. The main purpose was to honour the memory of Czechoslovak legionnaires and the Czechoslovak resistance during WWI. Today, the hill near the centre of Prague attracts both Prague natives and tourists and, in addition to a pleasant stroll, you can see the giant sculpture of Czech military leader Jan Žižka and a luxurious panoramic view over the entire city of Prague. By the way, the sculpture weighs 16.5 tonnes, is 9 metres high, 9.6 metres long, and it is the third largest bronze equestrian sculpture in the world!