Barrandov Terraces: Forgotten Place in Prague
Barranov Terraces: until the Second World War, the terraces were a voguish meeting place. This striking functionalist building stands high on a rock with a view of the Vltava River, south of Prague centre. In the interbellum, Praguers arrived here in great numbers, not only for the French food in the restaurant and the view but also to catch a glimpse of the movie stars and directors who came here from the nearby Barrandov Studios to eat in the restaurant or swim in the pool.
Visiting Barrandov Terraces
A visit to Barrandov Terraces is different from what you would expect. No beautiful restaurants or viewing terrace here. The whole complex is dilapidated and abandoned although reconstruction activities are in process. There will be a hotel, but an opening date has not been set. Still, a visit is well worth, if only to see remnants of past glory. It goes without saying that the view is still just as spectacular apart from the Barrandov Bridge built in 1978 and the many new high ways crisscrossing each other.
Barrandov Terraces: Entertainment and Splendour
The father of the dissident, poet and later president of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Havel, commissioned the construction. Cliff House on the Pacific Ocean in San Francisco served as the model. Barrandov Terraces consisted of a series of café-terraces, horseshoe in shape and laid out in the ridge of rock. On a lower level was a swimming pool and sunbathing area with changing rooms. Next to the restaurant was a 15m high observation tower.
The highlight of the entire complex was the restaurant with panoramic windows which spread over the terraces on different levels, could accommodate 3,000 guests. It was connected to the pool by a staircase that snaked along the rock face. A dumbwaiter took the food and drink to the different levels. The restaurant was accessible for cars via a specially constructed road that ended in a parking lot. Simultaneously with the construction of Barrandov Terraces, the tram line was extended to Hlubočepy for better access from Prague centre.
Barrandov Terraces and Max Urban
The construction of Barrandov Terraces was carried out on the initiative of the brothers Václav and Miloš Havel, between 1929-1930. It was one of the most important buildings in Prague’s functionalist architecture and was designed by Max Urban (1882-1959), who was also the architect of the nearby film studios and the overall urban design of the Barrandov residential area. Urban was not only an architect, he was also a cameraman and film producer. His wife Anna Ondráková was a well-known movie star.
Barrandov Terraces in the 1930s
Max Urban was inspired by Cliff House, a restaurant pavilion perched on a rock above the Pacific Ocean near San Francisco. Urban used nautical motifs for the Barrandov Terraces: cascading terraces, ramps, rounded corners and sliding windows. In the basement of the building was the kitchen, on the ground floor the main restaurant, a bar, a large ballroom and a terrace. On the first floor were another restaurant, a dance hall, and a balcony. The tower had four floors of offices and a covered terrace on the top floor.
The restaurant complex was equipped with high-quality functional furniture designed by Czech architect and designer Hana Kučerová-Záveské. (She also designed Villa Sukova and the furniture in the Baba district. More about functionalism and Baba)
Winter storage of 500 garden tables and 3,000 garden chairs posed a big problem. Therefore, a novelty was designed – folding metal furniture, which in the end proved so successful that the Gottwald company in Brandýs nad Orlicí started producing it for other garden restaurants as well.
The Swimming Pool
The pool was the first Olympic-size swimming pool in former Czechoslovakia. The stands could accommodate four thousand spectators to watch swimming and jumping competitions. In addition to the large swimming pool and diving tower, the complex also had a paddling pool, tennis courts, a basketball and volleyball courts and a sunbathing area.
Barrandov Terraces in World War II
During the Nazi occupation, the complex changed in character. The guests were now German officers and soldiers with their Czech mistresses. Barrandov Terraces are located at a height of 302 meters, add to this the 15-metre watchtower, and the result is a strategic point used by the Wehrmacht as an observation post to locate anti-aircraft defenses.
After the war, the glorious days of the Barrandov Terraces returned for a short time, but in 1948, the property was confiscated by the Communist regime and turned into a leisure centre for the proletariat. There was no investment or maintenance and the buildings became neglected.
Barrandov Terraces ever open again?
After the Velvet Revolution in 1989, the complex was returned to the Havel family in restitution. The French restaurant was in operation until 1994, but three years later the entire complex closed down. Homeless people found refuge here, vandals demolished entire sections and took furniture with them. The pool was overgrown. Nobody cared about the building until it was decided in collaboration with the Heritage Society to restore it and turn it into a hotel.
The New Barrandov Terraces
The restoration of the complex started in 2016 and was supposed to be completed in 2020, but this deadline was not met.
These are the plans:
The winding part of the complex that runs along the rock will be a hotel with accommodation for 200 guests. Two restaurants will also be located here, one modern and the other modeled after the 1930s French restaurant that was originally in the main building. Two new buildings will be built next to the original building. The nightclub Trilobit, which completely burnt down in 2001, is not being rebuilt. Instead, luxury apartments will be built in this place
Mosaic embedded in the rock
A mosaic by Martin Sladký (1920-2015) depicting soldiers with guns is embedded in the rock face between the restaurant building and the swimming pool. It is a memorial to the Nazi victims.
During the Prague Uprising in May 1945, there was also a fight at Barrandov Studios, where propaganda films were made. Only some buildings were damaged and set on fire, but this did not hamper the ongoing productions.
The mosaic was unveiled in 1988 and is now in very poor condition. A bronze plaque with the names of the victims was stolen in 2005. Although the mosaic is not an official cultural monument, it is in no danger of being demolished as it is located in the monument zone to which Barrandov belongs.
Barrandov terraces are located on a rock in the district Barrandov – Hlubocepy, south of the Prague centre.
Address: Barrandovska 1, Hlubocepy, Prague
1. By bus 105 from Smichovske nadrazi to Terasy stop. Cross the road to Barrandovska Street. The entrance is almost immediately on the left. The advantage is that you don’t have to walk very far, the disadvantage is that this bus only runs three times an hour.
2. By tram: 12, 15, 20 to the Geologicka stop. You here is quite a long walk to along k Barrandovu Street to Barrandovska Street on the right-hand side
Marianne Crone: photos taken in 2014 and 2016
Wiki Commons: black and white photos of the 1930s