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Dreams and Reality: A vision of Prague architecture (PHOTOS)

A preliminary sketch of construction around Národní divadlo. Photo: Bohemist

New exhibit focusing on 20th Century architecture has opened on the 30th anniversary of the National Gallery’s debut architecture collection.


PRAGUE – When one thinks of Prague architecture, the premier Roman, Gothic and Baroque structures spring to mind. But for National Gallery curator and Professor of Architecture Radomíra Sedláková some the gems of the city are from the 20th Century.

“The second half of the [19]20s and 30s was really a golden age of functionalism and modernism,” Sedláková said of more modern Prague architecture, the focus of a new exhibit Dreams and Reality: 30 Years of the Architecture Collection at the National Gallery in Prague.

“There was really great inspiration in at the World Exhibition in Brussels in 1958. This was the point from which Czech architecture started to breathe,” she said.

Radomíra Sedláková. Photo: Bohemist
Radomíra Sedláková. Photo: Bohemist

The extensive exhibit on the top floor of the Trade Palace is unique in assembling all aspects of the architectural creative process from designs to working models and even profiles of famous Czech architects and former advertising and propaganda for buildings during the times of communism.

The exhibit is broadly told in two chapters: the first a collection of 62 architectural models of buildings from around the Czech Republic and the second a timeline of architecture developments and achievements throughout the 21st Century.

“Usually architecture exhibitions are only from photos, without any models,” Sedláková said. But, over a span of 32 years, curator Sedláková has collected more than 102 original architectural models, and thousands of drawings, sketches, plans, notes and design briefs.

Collecting for the exhibit, which spans an entire floor of the Trade Palace, was an adventure in itself.

Sedláková had to take regular trips to meet retired architects and at times literally dig through their cellars to recover sketches and models.

“Nowadays almost no-one prepares plans by hand, all by [computer],” she lamented.

As a professor of architecture at the National Technical University, Sedláková champions the integral connection between architecture and art.

“It is a mistake of architects who a very long time ago decided that architecture is not art but is science and industry above anything. But this is certainly nonsense. Architecture is the mother of all arts,” she said. “Architecture is the main point of art. If I do not want to see any picture, I do not need to see it, but I cannot live without any buildings.

“In photos it is interesting, because if you compare the painting of the period and the building of the period, you get a more complex view of the period.”

Sedláková cites the Prague TV Tower as the most beautiful building in Prague from the 20th Century, although the exhibit highlights scores of other hidden gems that even a seasoned Prague resident may not ordinarily be familiar with.

Spirála Theater in Prague 7. Photo: Bohemist
Spirála Theater in Prague 7. Photo: Bohemist

“Today people speak so much about fashion and dresses, but they do not want to speak about buildings. Architects say that the public does not understand. Certainly the public is uneducated about architecture, but there is a need to educate about architecture,” she said.

“This is the reason for the exhibitions for architecture, to attract people to come and learn about the buildings.”

Dreams and Reality is a comprehensive insight into prominent 20th Century buildings as well as plans or buildings that have not yet taken off or failed to be realized – plans that have remained ‘dreams’.

One part of the collection features works from some of the eight different design competitions that have been held to find a suitable plan for a new City Hall in Old Town Square. One sketch of a winning entry – that was still never built – takes prime place in the exhibit space.

However, Sedláková laments that the generations who had a connection to a City Hall in Old Town Square is fading.

“People now do not know why we even want to build this building,” she said.

Some 700 architects graduate from universities around the Czech Republic each year, but in a country famed for its built beauty, there remains a lack of work for these graduates.

“It is my dream that at the economics university and law faculties there will be compulsory one semester of history of architecture,” Sedláková said. “Because these are the people who give money and who will decide what buildings get built.

“But they do not know anything about it.”

Dreams and Reality: 30 Years of the Architecture Collection at the National Gallery in Prague
Address: Veletržní palác, Dukelských hrdinů 47, Prague 7
Opening Hours: 10am to 6pm daily except Monday until September 25
Admission: 200 Kč
More information: http://www.ngprague.cz/en/exposition-detail/Dreams%20and%20Reality:%2030%20Years%20of%20the%20Architecture%20Collection%20at%20the%20%20National%20Gallery%20in%20Prague/

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