The Industrial Palace in Prague is 130 years old. He still did not receive a repair of the burned-out wing – ČT24 – Czech Television
Originally, the building was supposed to look different, the historian Zdeněk Lukeš reminded in the Czech Television broadcast. “The architect wanted to build a classic brick building with plaster, but at that time young architects came from Paris, where the Great World Exhibition took place in 1889, where the Eiffel Tower and the machine hall appeared, and they were impressive iron structures. And they pushed the architect Münzberger to try something similar in Prague. He eventually succumbed to the pressure and designed a construction that is a combination of traditional and iron construction, something unseen in our country at the time, “he said.
In the Czech lands, the first prefabricated steel structure combined with glass was created at that time. And so that the metal structure of the building did not look just “useful”, brick facades and four pylon towers in the corners of the central part gave the Industrial Palace representative elegance. Above it, a roof dome arches, from which a clock tower rises to the sky, and in the middle of the open space, a spiral staircase leads to the top. The tip of the central tower reaches a height of 51 meters.
The building is thus an artistic, albeit technical, monument in many ways exceptional. According to Lukeš, even those elements that have not been preserved deserve attention.
“It was, of course, the interior made by the well-known Prague architect and professor Friedrich Ohmann, School of Arts and Crafts in Prague. And then the main facade, where in two niches were sculptures of emperors, namely Emperor Leopold II. and Francis Joseph I, who were not there by chance. They reminded us that a hundred years before that, in 1791, a large exhibition was held in Prague, in the era of Leopold II. And then it inspired other countries. And so the tradition of major world exhibitions arose, which de facto lasts until today, “they predate.
There was also an imperial crown on the tower above, but it, along with other elements, was removed during the First Republic. “Thanks to that, they were already an extinct empire. And otherwise we see in the decoration, for example, the emblems of various guilds, which was related to what was exhibited there, “said an expert on the history of architecture.
The jubilee state exhibition was opened two months later, before the Industrial Palace was ceremoniously opened, specifically on May 15, 1891, when the public could see it for the first time.
The February communist regime gave the palace the nickname “downhill”
The post-February communist regime subsequently gave the palace the nickname “congress” because it held the party’s annual meeting. He also had to rebuild it between 1952 and 1954. According to the project of the architect Pavel Smetana, the entrance portal was stripped of its decorations (but the rear portal remained in its original form), and new vaults were added. The royal crown on the tower was replaced by a red star.
“And in front of the palace there were decorative fountains, which have not been preserved to this day,” Lukeš added. As part of the Julius Fučík Park of Culture and Leisure, the palace still hosted large exhibitions, concerts and other events. “This communist era ended only when the Palace of Culture was built, where the congresses then moved,” Lukeš added.
After 1989, various events took place in the palace, but less important ones. According to Lukeš, book fairs, for example, were popular.
“But the building fell into disrepair and had no main content. It was also considered that there could be an exhibition of Mucha’s canvases, from the cycle Slavic Epic. And the architect Jindřich Smetana, by the way the son of Pavel Smetana, designed a modification of the central part of the Industrial Palace, which has returned to its original name, “Lukeš explained.
Loss of the west wing
A fire broke out in October 2008, when the western part of the palace completely burned down, and firefighters managed to save only the central and eastern parts from destruction. We try to get the fire under control in about an hour and a half, but the destruction of a large part of the historic buildings did not prevent it. The damage to the architectural monument reached approximately one million crowns, and the fire thus ranked among the most devastating post-November events of its kind.
Immediately after the fire, the then mayor of Prague Pavel Bém said that he would promote the rebuilding of the palace, but it took two years before Prague announced an architectural competition for the completion of the building. Subsequently, a competition was announced for the renovation of the Industrial Palace, from which the design of the architect Jakub Cigler came out victorious, which included significant modifications of the surroundings. In 2013, however, the capital postponed these plans and permanently for another five years before plans to renovate the Industrial Palace – and more recently more modestly – could be brought to the project stage.
“Several years have passed since then, but nothing is happening, even though the municipality regularly announces that it will begin,” added architecture historian Lukeš.