November 26, 2013

Memo from Prague: New Builds

In terms of architecture, Prague is not Berlin. There was no baunboom in the Czech capital, mostly due to the fact that the city’s historical center has been kept largely intact for centuries, escaping the destruction of World War II. The so-called “Dancing House,” designed by Frank Gehry and Vlado Milunic, made the first post-communist splash in a riverside plot of land where one of the few building casualties of World War II occurred. Most contemporary architecture since then has been outside the city center.

Design has had a bigger impact on the city, as many hotels and restaurants in the center have had their interiors updated. The most notable are the projects done by Czech-born, London-based Eva Jiricna at the Hotel Josef and Hotel Maximilian in the mid 2000s.

The latest hotel project is the One Room Hotel, which, as the name suggests, is just one suite. But it’s a dandy. Set in the Prague TV Tower, the space-age-looking tower that dominates the city skyline, the “hotel” was designed by SAD Atelier. The room is bedecked with kitschy but cool wood paneling, hardwood floors, and, naturally, huge windows 230 feet above the ground offering vast views of the “City of One Hundred Spires.” The tower, completed in 1989, was the object of hate for years but residents seem to be coming around, particularly after enfant terrible, artist David Cerny, installed giant, black, faceless babies crawling up the tower. The One Room Hotel isn’t cheap: rates begin at around $1000 per night.

The Main Point Karlin building, designed by Prague-based architecture firm, DaM, won a MIPIM award in 2012 for its innovative design. The liver-shaped building, home to an Austrian insurance company, funnels water from the nearby Vltava River through the building, cooling it in the summer. Its façade is made up of colorful panels that look like interlocking dominos.

One of the more intriguing new buildings is the Keystone Building, also in the Karlin District, designed by Zurich-based firm Em2n. The building was inspired by the Czech Cubism movement at the turn of the 20th century when artists in the applied Picasso’s style to architecture and design.

Most recently, Florentium, the city’s largest office building, opened in Autumn 2013. The building, sitting on the edge of the once-gritty, now hipified, Zizkov neighborhood, was designed by Jakub Cigler of Cigler Marani Architects.

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