Obecní dům in Prague, located on Náměstí Republiky, is a multipurpose building constructed in the years 1906-1911 by Antonín Balšánek and Osvlad Polívka. It was built where the King’s Court (i.e. the seat of the Bohemian kings) stood in the 14th and 15th century. At the turn of the 20th century, the area around the old court was dilapidated, hence the city authorities decided to build something representative for the Czech national identity, provided that the surrounding streets were populated with buildings which reminded the inhabitants of the German culture.
Initially, the construction was named State House of Prague. In 1918, here the Republic was declared. Another significant event hosted by Obecní dům was the meeting which took part in 1989 between the Czechoslovak Communist leaders of the time and the Civic Forum, the political formation led by Václav Havel, who established it to overthrow the Communist regime in late 1980s.
From the façade, from the entrance to the basement, the building is a showcase of lush stucco, ceramics, mosaic, stained-glass, crystal, brass, marble, etc. The design features many known pre-war Czech artists, who created a fairy-tale combination of sculptures, columns, stairs, rails, ceilings, chandeliers, doors and door handles, windows. Originally, the building was also furnished with the state-of-the-art technology of the time, such as elevators, ventilation, dust suction, central heating, intercom network.
The most arresting parts of the building’s furnishings are, obviously, the heavily ornamented façade by K. Novák; the frescoes of the Mayor Hall, designed by the renown Alfons Mucha; the ceramic half-dome mosaic above the entry, created by Karel Špillar; the allegorical groups on the façade, The Degradation of the People and The Resurrection of the People, authorship of the artist Ladislav Šaloun.
Today, Obecní dům hosts restaurants, cafés and concert halls. In the restaurant on the ground floor, parts of the movie I Served the King of England, directed by Jiří Menzel and based on the eponymous novel of the amazing Czech writer Bohumil Hrabal, were shot. Smetana Hall, arguably the best concert venue in the entire Czechoslovakia, is located here as well.
Resources> Chris van Uffelen, Markus Golser, Prague, The Architecture Guide, edited by Markus Sebastian Braun, Braun Publishing AG, 2013, pp. 102, 103.