Municipal House and Art Nouveau
Municipal House, Art Nouveau at its best, is the most exuberant and sensual building in Prague. Decorative filigree and floral motifs festoon this flamboyant Art Nouveau building. Its stained glass windows are world famous. Fabulous wall tiles and murals cover the inside walls and floors, some by the Czech artist, Alfons Mucha, who is famous for his Art Nouveau art.
The Municipal House, Obecní dům in Czech, comprises the Smetana Concert Hall, home to the Czech National Symphony Orchestra and the Francouzska Restaurant with French cuisine. The Plzenzka restaurant specializes in traditional Czech food whereas the American bar is the perfect place for a pre-concert drink.
Municipal House Art Nouveau Gem
Obecni Dum is the crown jewel of Art Nouveau style in Prague. Construction of the Municipal House took place between 1905 and 1911. The city authorities wanted a multi-purpose building which offered not only public services but also cultural events. That’s why the Municipal House is probably the most beautiful Art Nouveau building in Prague. Extravagantly decorated both inside and outside by leading Czech artists. No wonder that Obecni Dum conjures up fin de siècle atmosphere. Today it is the Art Nouveau venue for classical concerts.
Municipal House Art Nouveau Exterior
A graceful dome crowns Obecni Dum. An arched gable above the entrance frames a monumental tile mosaic entitled ‘Homage to Prague’. The inscription around it is taken from ‘Hail to Prague’, a poem by the nineteenth-century Czech poet Svatopluk Czech. The Baroque allegories above the wrought-iron canopy represent Despondency and Uprising. Other sculptures ranged along the top façade represent History, Literature, Painting, Music and Architecture.
Municipal House Art Nouveau Interior
The interior, completely in Art Nouveau style, consists of the Mayor’s Room, ceremonial halls, a concert hall, a kavarna (café) and two restaurants. The walls and ceilings are decorated with floral motifs and strict geometrical design. This is the work of the Czech artists Alfons Mucha, J.V. Myslbek and others.
Municipal House Art Nouveau Smetana Hall
The largest concert hall in Prague, Smetana Hall is located on the second floor. On either side of the stage are two beautiful sculptures; one symbolizes Smetana’s My Vlast (My Homeland) and the other Dvořák’s Slavonic Dances. The murals are infinitely beautiful. Statues of Czech composers adorn the side walls. The busts in the vestibule represent two famous Czech composers, Vaclav Talich and Vaclav Smetacek. The Smetana Hall is the home base of FOK, the Prague Symphony Orchestra.
Mucha in the Municipal House
Mucha’s paintings decorate the walls in the the round hall and the mayor hall. His frescoes glorify the heroic past of the Czechs and interpret his faith in a glorious future for the Czech Republic. The ceiling fresco in the Mayor’s Hall depicts the unity of the Slavic nations and is entitled: Slavic Concord. The circular dome is supported by eight pendentives. The three wall panels depict Slavonic youths who swear allegiance to their homeland. The murals, the stained-glass windows, the furniture and the richly decorated curtains with brass fittings are in perfect harmony. Mucha used shades of orange, black and blue which give the Mayor’s Hall an emotional feeling.
Art Nouveau Characteristics
Art Nouveau is an art form popular between 1890 and 1914. This style is characterized by graceful, flowing forms and ornamentation, both sculpted and painted, often representing floral motifs in combination with graceful female figures.
Visiting Obecni Dum
Obnecni Dum, the Municipal House, can be visited in several ways. Firstly, join a guided tour, listen to a concert in the Smetana Hall. Secondly, have a coffee in the kavarna or a meal in one of the two restaurants.
Namesti Republiky 5
photos: Marianne Crone
Best Art Nouveau in Prague