Sunday, February 27, 2011

Národní Muzeum

The National museum (CzechNárodní muzeum) is a Czech museum institution intended to systematically establish, prepare and publicly exhibit natural scientific and historical collections.

The main museum building is located on the upper end of Wenceslas Square and was built by prominent Czech neo-renaissance architect Josef Schulz from 1885 - 1891;before this the museum had been temporarily based at several noblemen’s palaces. With the construction of a permanent building for the museum, a great deal of work which had previously been devoted to ensuring that the collections would remain intact was now put toward collecting new materials.
The building was damaged during World War II in 1945 by a bomb, but the collections were not damaged because they had been moved to other storage sites. The museum reopened after intensive repairs in 1947, and in 1960 exterior night floodlighting was installed, which followed a general repair of the facade that had taken place in previous years.
During the 1968 Warsaw Pact intervention the main facade was severely damaged by strong Soviet machine-gun and automatic submachine-gun fire. The shots made numerous holes in sandstone pillars and plaster, destroyed stone statues and reliefs and also caused damage in some of the depositaries. Despite the general facade repair made between 1970 - 1972 the damage still can be seen because the builders used lighter sandstone to repair the bullet holes.
The main Museum building was also damaged during the construction of the Prague Metro in 1972 and 1978. The Opening of the North-South Highway in 1978 on two sides of building resulted in the museum being cut off from city infrastructure. This also lead to the building suffering from an excessive noise level, a dangerously high level of dust and constant vibrations from heavy road traffic.

Žižkov Television Tower

The Žižkov Television Tower is a uniquely-designed tower built in Prague between 1985 and 1992. It stands high above the city's traditional skyline from its position on top of a hill in the district of Žižkov, from which it takes its name. The tower is an example of High-tech architecture.

In 2000, sculptures by Czech artist David Černý of crawling babies were temporarily attached to the tower's pillars. The sculptures were admired by many and were returned in 2001 as a permanent installation.
From the observation area. 

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Pilgrimage Church of Saint John of Nepomuk

The Pilgrimage Church of St John of Nepomuk at Zelená Hora (Gruneberg) in Žďár nad Sázavou, near the border between Bohemia and Moravia, is the final masterpiece of Jan Santini Aichel, a maverick Bohemian architect who combined the Borrominiesque Baroque with references to Gothic elements in both construction and decoration.
Vaulted pentagonal ceiling in the cloister
The church, with many furnishings designed by Santini himself, is remarkable for its gothicizing features and complex symbolism, quite unusual for the time. In 1993, it was declared a World Heritage Site. The nomination dossier pointed out to Santini's ratios aimed at "the creation of an independent spatial reality", with "the number 5 being dominant in the layout and proportions" of the church.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Villa Müller

The Villa Müller (CzechMüllerova vilaGermanHaus Müller) is an architectural structure designed in 1930 by architect Adolf Loos, born in Brno, Austria-Hungary. The villa is located in Prague, Czech Republic. The house was designed originally for Mr. František Müller and his wife, Milada Müllerová.

Known as an innovative landmark of early modernist architecture, the Villa Müller embodies Loos' ideas of economy and functionality. The spatial design, known as Raumplan, is evident in the multi-level parts of individual rooms, indicating their function and symbolic importance.Raumplan is exhibited in the interior as well as the exterior.

The nearby contemporary Greek Embassy seems to have incorporated functionalism as well.  

In contrast stand the lavishly decorative early villas of this lovely neighborhood.  This is the Finnish embassy.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Loreta and Černín Palace

Loreta is a large pilgrimage destination in Hradčany, a district of PragueCzech Republic. It consists of a cloister, the church of the Lord’s Birth, a Holy Hut and the clock tower with a famous chime.
The construction had started in 1626 and the Holy Hut was blessed on March 25, 1631. The architect was the Italian Giovanno Orsi; the project was financed by a noblewoman of the Lobkowitz family.
The Face wall in Baroque style was designed by the architects Christoph Dientzenhofer and Kilian Ignaz Dientzenhofer and added at the beginning of the 18th century.
Immediately across the square is Černín Palace. An excellent write up about this storied structure can be found here

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Strahov Monastery

After his pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1138 the bishop of Olomouc Jindřich Zdíktook hold of the idea of founding a monastery of regular canons in Prague, having the support of the bishops of Prague and the Czech ruler Soběslav I and after his death, Vladislav II. After his first unsuccessful attempt to found a Czech variant of the canons' order at the place called Strahov in 1140, an invitation was issued to the Premonstratensians whose first representatives arrived from Steinfeld in the Rhine valley. Thus a monastery originated which has inscribed itself in the Czech political, cultural and religious history for all time.
In 1779 Václav Mayer occupied the abbot's throne and was the last to carry out great building activities. His most outstanding work was the building of the new library, now in Classical style. Today it is called the Philosophical Hall. This work brought the extensive building activity at Strahov Monastery to an end and the following generations of abbots devoted their attention merely to minor architectural repairs, all under the influence of contemporary fashion, and to maintenance of the area as a whole. The monastery survived in this way until 1950, when it was taken over by the communist regime, the religious being interned and placed in civil employment, very few of them being able to work in the clerical administration as priests of the diocese. The monastery was subjected to thorough archeological research and transformed into the Museum of National Literature. In the course of the said archeological research the long since forgotten Romanesque form of the monastery was revealed and reconstructed in a sensitive way.  I found the Museum of National Literature to be interesting and remarkable.  Well worth the visit.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Dancing House

The Dancing House (CzechTančící dům) is the nickname given to the Nationale-Nederlanden building in downtown PragueCzech Republic at Rašínovo nábřeží 80, 120 00 Praha 2. It was designed by Croatian-Czech architect Vlado Milunić in co-operation with Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry on a vacant riverfront plot (where the previous building had been destroyed during the Bombing of Prague in 1945). The building was designed in 1992 and completed in 1996.

The very non-traditional design was controversial at the time. Czech president Václav Havel, who lived for decades next to the site, had supported it, hoping that the building would become a center of cultural activity.
Originally named Fred and Ginger (after Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - the house resembles a pair of dancers) the house stands out among the BaroqueGothic and Art Nouveau buildings for which Prague is famous. Others have nicknamed it "Drunk House".
On the roof is a French restaurant with views of the city. The building's other tenants include several multinational firms.
Personally, I am not a Frank Gehry fan.  While impressive technically, this building does nothing for me except make me confused.  

Karlův Most

The Charles Bridge is a famous historic bridge that crosses the Vltava river in PragueCzech Republic. Its construction started in 1357 under the auspices of King Charles IV, and finished in the beginning of the 15th century. As the only means of crossing the river Vltava (Moldau) until 1841, the Charles Bridge was the most important connection between Prague Castle and the city's Old Town and adjacent areas. This "solid-land" connection made Prague important as a trade route between Eastern and Western Europe. The bridge was originally called the Stone Bridge (Kamenný most) or the Prague Bridge (Pražský most) but has been the "Charles Bridge" since 1870.
The bridge is 516 meters long and nearly 10 meters wide, resting on 16 arches shielded by ice guards. 
It is protected by three bridge towers, two of them on the Lesser Quarter side and the third one on the Old Town side. The Old Town bridge tower is often considered to be one of the most astonishing civil gothic-style buildings in the world. 

The bridge is decorated by a continuous alley of 30 statues and statuaries, most of them baroque-style, originally erected around 1700 but now all replaced by replicas.