Prague Central Station: Brutalism and Art Nouveau

Prague Central Station is a mix of two architectural styles, very unlike each other, Art Nouveau and raw Brutalism. During a four-year renovation, the station was partially closed. In 2010, a completely modernized station reopened, but retaining its original details. When you enter the large concourse that borders the Vrchlickeho park, the 1970s atmosphere is ubiquitous. Continue onto the platforms and you will enter a completely different world: the art nouveau part of the station.

Central Station

Prague Central Station From Brutalism to Art Nouveau

The station hall is pure brutalism and is was added in the 1970s, together with a connection to the metro network and a metro station within the train station. To build the hall, a large part of the park in front of the station had to be sacrificed.

At the same time, the construction of a connecting road started. This new road is still there, Wilsonova Street and built on top of the roof of the newly built station extension. This through road cuts off the old Art Nouveau station building from the centre. It also physically separates the Vinohrady and Nove Mesto districts.

When you walk through the tunnels towards the platforms, you enter a different world. You go from Brutalism to Art Nouveau and the ultimate apotheosis: the Fantova domed with coloured glass and beautiful paintings.
The domed hall reopened in 2014, perfectly restored in its original ocher colour. Original construction drawings and old photos helped to stay as close to the original design as possible.

Central Station

What is Brutalism?

Brutalism is characteristic of the 1950s to 1970s and manifests itself in rough, unfinished concrete. The buildings are massive and have unusual shapes. The windows are small in relation to the building and ventilation shafts are not aesthetically concealed but clearly visible. The material used is concrete, glass and steel. Buildings in Prague in brutalism style include the New Building of the National Museum and the Kotva Department store. More about brutalism in Prague.

Central Station

Prague Central Station Renovations

When Prague Central Station, Praha hlavní nádraží, was opened in 1871, it connected Prague with Vienna. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the station was thoroughly renovated to an Art Nouveau style design by Josef Fanta. He designed two towers and a domed hall with a kavarna (cafe) and ticket offices, lavishly decorated with statues and ceiling paintings.
In the 1970s there was another renovation, a new ticket hall was added as well as an entrance to the metro.

Another renovation took place early twenty-first century and part of the station was closed. The renovated station was fully reopened in 2010. Not only the 1970s ticket hall was renewed, the Art Nouveau part was also restored to its former glory. The present ticket counters are in the 1970s part of the station as are the departures and arrivals timetables. There is also a small shopping centre with a large bookstore, Billa supermarket, drugstore, and coffee bars.

Winged-Wheel Sculpture

The winged-wheel sculpture returned to the roof of the Art Nouveau Central Station building in April 2021. The sculpture dates from 1907, represents a wheel with two wings and is the symbol of the Czech Railways. Due to erosion, the wings were in danger to fall down. Restorers used a special mixture to attach the gilded copper wings to the stone wheel. At the same time, they provided the wings with new gold leaf. Hoisting up the wings was quite a job as each weighs 250 kilos.

Central Station

Central Station as a tourist attraction

1. The hall in art nouveau style, where originally counters for ticket sales, is the most beautiful part of the station. The counters are still there and now there is a cafe.

2. The sculpture group on platform 1 depicting Sir Winton and two of the children whom he transported to England just before the Second World War and thus saved from the Holocaust.

3. Shopping Mall in Prague Central Station where you can find fashion boutiques, sports, jewelry and perfume shops, a pharmacy and also coffee bars, fast-food chains and supermarkets.

Photos Marianne Crone

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