Theme route: artistic spaces and ateliers

The 2021 program featured a number of buildings or spaces that were transformed into places for art and culture or whose past was connected to art, and we had decided to introduce them in more detail.

photo by Antonín Malý

For the first time ever, visitors could enter the Garden of Arts (Umělecká zahrada) hidden under the bridge in Nusle. Originally a working space of sculptor Karel Novák, this is where eminent Czech artists created their work. The current owner has been continually working on restoring the garden since 1992 – they renovate sculptures or have their replicas made, plant greenery and flowers according to the preserved photo documentations, and they would like to bring back the garden’s original glamour.

Those who visited the island in Libeň could take a look inside an atelier with a difficult past, the atelier of sculptor Jan Lauda. Surrounded by a garden with artistic works, the inconspicuous functionalist building was built in 1930 to serve as a working space for sculptor Jan Štursa who was supposed to create a monument of Jan Ámos Komenský. However, Štursa committed suicide before the atelier was finished, and the commission for the monument was handed over to sculptors Jan Lauda and Václav Žalud. Many years later, the atelier was supposed to be torn down to make space for an Olympic Village. Thanks to sculptor Zdeněk Němeček, the village was never built – Němeček kept delaying the demolition until it was no longer needed. Today the atelier is looked after by his son who runs his own design studio Olgoj Chorchoj.

photo by Tomáš Sysel
photo by Tomáš Sysel

Šaloun Villa in Vinohrady was another new building in the program. Built between 1908 and 1911 in the style of Art Nouveau with strong elements of symbolism, the atelier was designed by sculptor Ladislav Šaloun who had it built as a space where he would work on a monument of Master Jan Hus (now standing in the Old Town Square). In its time, the atelier was visited by eminent figures of Czech culture, for example painter Alfons Mucha, singer Ema Destinnová, or sculptor František Bílek. In the second half of the 20th century, the atelier was separated from the original representative space and was left to decay for many years. It wasn’t until 2008 that the entire house was carefully restored thanks to the Czech Academy of Fine Arts.

Visitors could also take a look inside the decaying City Spa in Žižkov (Městské lázně Žižkov). Formerly the most modern and the biggest spa in Prague, it was even visited by emperor Franz Joseph I. Today the organization Tanec Praha plans to completely reconstruct the building and create the House of Dance (Dům tance). The reconstruction is set to follow the original construction and to liven up the public space around the building.

photo by Tomáš Sysel
photo by Tomáš Sysel

Nearby the spa, there is New Krenovka, a former public house which is continually being renovated. In the past, the house used to serve as an administration building of Prague railways. Today, thanks to the new owner, it is becoming a multicultural center. Here visitors could find the artistic ateliers of Inkubátor Krenovka, a student club, a gallery, a reading room of the association Unijazz, and the administration base of Ponec Theater located nearby.

While some buildings were still under reconstruction, the former Sokol biograph in Vršovice, built exactly 100 years ago, had already been transformed. It is now Vzlet, Prague’s new palace of culture. Previously decaying for many years, the building is now coming alive thanks to several cultural entities – Kino Pilotů (Pilots’ Cinema), the independent theater Vosto5, and the baroque orchestra Collegium 1704.

photo by Petra Hajská
photo by Hana Krejbichová

Nearby Vzlet you could find another new building in the 2021 program – the Church of the Hus Congregation in Vršovice, a sacral building with an unmistakable red and yellow tower. While the chapel of the Czechoslovak Hussite Church has a purely sacral spirit, there is also a theater in the building (now used by MANA Theater).

You could find a number of buildings where art and culture thrive in Prague 8, too. For example, the New Synagogue in Libeň, one of the most impressive buildings in Libeň, now used for cultural events and church services. If you took a walk through Thomayer Parks, you eventually got to Löwit’s Watermill which has been waiting for its new purpose since 2002. In the meantime, local citizens occasionally use it as a venue for concerts and other community events. Another attraction was the House on Za Poříčskou bránou 7. Originally an apartment house, it can serve as an inspiration for dealing with abandoned houses and integrating them into the city. Here you could find a number of nonprofit entities – a theater ensemble, a furniture and ceramics workroom, a café, or a shop with organic food.

photo by Tomáš Sysel
photo by Alexandra Timpau

Last but not least, the theme route also featured Kunsthalle Praha – a new space for exhibitions of Czech and international art of the 20th and the 21st century. Formerly Zenger Transformer Station, the reconstruction of this neo-classical house is just being finished, and our visitors could be one of the first people to see the result.

There were other buildings for culture and art in the program.

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