Before World War I Prague was one of the most important centers for Cubism outside Paris. The avant-garde movement was active from 1912 to 1914.
A novice at identifying architectural styles, this visit helped me understand and appreciate Prague’s intriguing and eclectic architecture – Gothic, Art Nouveau, Medieval Romanesque, 20th century Art Deco, Cubist, 19th century Neo-Baroque. Each day I discover another treasure in the Golden City of 100 Spires, one of the world’s most beautiful cities!
The incredible variety of architecture is one reason why Prague was so affected by Cubism. The Czech Cubist movement is visible in “geometrically enhanced” facades, furniture, and decorative objects throughout Prague – even bridges have a Cubist flair.
Filla and Gočár believed “objects carried their own inter energy which could only be released by splitting their horizontal and vertical surfaces”.
“There’s a wonderful visual splendor to Prague. It’s literally a three-dimensional collage of textures, ornamentation, façades, and architectural details.”
“Cubism is one architectural style unique to Prague. By developing Cubism painting, French artists Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque revolutionized the European art world.” Four of the most impressive designers and artists include Czech Cubists – Pavel Janak, Josef Gocar, Josef Cholcol, and Vlastislav Hofman.
“In the 1900s Prague became a Cubist City. Apartment blocks were furnished with Cubist furniture, and Prague’s inhabitants drank from Cubist cups and ate on Cubist plates. They told time with Cubist clocks, put flowers in Cubist vases, and read books in Cubist typeface under Cubist lamps and light fixtures! This legacy survives in Prague neighborhoods today.”
Hodek Apartment in Vyšehrad is a major Cubist building in Prague. Architect Josef Cholcol designed the stunning building with distinct crystal shapes. Elegant Kovarovic Villa is another Cholcol Cubist building in Vyšehrad, a favorite Prague neighborhood.
There are impressive Cubist buildings, gateways, fountains, and lampposts throughout Prague. The historic Cooperative Housing building in Old Town’s Jewish Quarter is a notable. Czech architect Otakar Novotny designed buildings after World War I as part of European “social planning”. Unlike other Cubist buildings, Novotny’s Cooperative Housing project has colorful façade detailing that’s not typical of the monochromatic Czech Cubist style.
Cooperative Housing buildings located near Altneu Synagogue in an upscale residential block of Old Town share architectural similarities. Almost 800 years apart in age, both the Gothic synagogue and Cooperative Housing have fanciful geometric characteristics.
One of the most striking examples of Cubist architecture in Prague is House of the Black Madonna in Old Town. “Sharp angled” complements surround the beautiful historical building. Inside, the Kubista Gallery creates a “Cubist environment of books, jewelry, furniture, and period postcards.”
The Veletržní Palace gallery has a great collection of Czech Cubist art, including paintings by Emil Filla and drawings and building models by Josef Gočár. Filla and Gočár both believed that “objects carried their own inter energy which could only be released by splitting their horizontal and vertical surfaces. They thought more conservative designs restrained and ignored needs of the human soul.”
Exploring Prague has been a delightful, enlightening experience. The city’s aura is magic!