Municipal house interior
The Municipal House has been one of the most significant public buildings in Prague for over a hundred years. After the city administration had purchased the plots where the Royal Court, the medieval seat of the Bohemian kings, used to be located, they announced an architectural competition for the Municipal House in 1903. Unsatisfied with the results of the competition, the city administration awarded this project to architects Antonín Balšánek and Osvald Polívka. They designed the Municipal House, following instructions from the city council, as a multifunctional building, which included areas for ceremonial purposes, exhibitions, concerts as well as restaurants and shops.
From an architectural perspective, the Municipal House is interesting due to its usage of the irregular triangular shape of the parcel it is built on, being arranged around the monumental space of Smetana Hall, stretching up from the first floor to the large glass-panelled dome. The architects achieved organic completeness and rhythmical proportions, which were significantly inspired by the Art Nouveau style, in a building essentially based in a historicizing style with baroque elements. This tendency is particularly apparent in the sumptuous decoration, especially in the stucco and metal work dominating the magnificent marquee over the main entrance. All of the marks of the new decorative style are evident in the interior of the grand staircases and also other areas with their supple vegetable forms.
In addition to a numerous army of artisans and craftsmen, many prominent Czech artists spanning several generations participated in the Municipal House’s decoration. Karel Špillar chose the theme of the celebration of Prague for the central mosaic above the main entrance. The ceremonial halls of the festive first floor are the work of Alphonse Mucha, Max Švabinský, Jan Preisler, František Ženíšek and many other painters. Among the many sculptors who excelled in the decoration of the Municipal House, we should mention particularly Ladislav Šaloun and Karel Novák.
Karel Špilar’s lunette mosaic above the main entrance, Apotheosis of Prague, completed with allegorical sculptures of the Resurrection of the Nation and Humiliation of the Nation, represents the centrepiece of main façade, which faces the square. František Rous’ (1872 – 1936) sculpture entitled the Spirit of the History is also deeply symbolic, placed on the main cornice of the Powder Gate corner. A sitting figure, leaning on a sword, has his eyes fixed on Na Příkopě Street, perhaps looking at the nearby club building of Prague’s Germans.
The historical significance of the place seems to have been affirmed by history itself: the Municipal House areas witnessed the coming to life and even the birth of the independent Czechoslovak state, which was declared here several years after the building’s completion. The establishment of the republic is commemorated by a bronze plaque, situated on the same corner as the Spirit of the History.
Municipal house interior
After the Velvet Revolution in 1989, Prague's municipal authorities perceived it as one of their primary tasks to restore the dilapidating ceremonious building to its former lost glamour and fame. The extraordinarily demanding reconstruction took place between 1994 and 1997. All areas were restored with meticulous care to their original appearance, based on original plans and photographs from the period. As part of the reconstruction, which fully respected the nature of this monument of national heritage, it was fitted with modern technology in order to facilitate high-quality services. Thanks to the sensitive approach and the effort to preserve the institution’s original purpose, the Municipal House can fulfil its social, cultural and ceremonial roles with dignity. It is a venue where Prague meets its domestic and foreign visitors.