Lažanský Palace (Palác Lažanských)
This monumental neo-Renaissance palace for Count Prokop Lažanský was erected between 1861 and 1863. It’s one of the last Prague palaces that were designed as a combination of a representative noble residence, an apartment building, and administrative space. The building is most famous for the legendary Slavia Café, which became a traditional meeting place for artists and intellectuals soon after it opened. Visitors can enjoy the beautiful views of Prague Castle and the Vltava River over a cup of coffee.
Lažanský Palace is located on the corner of today’s streets Národní třída and Smetanovo nábřeží.
In the 14th century, it used to be a spa called Painted (Malovaná), later on it was purchased by the Order of Crusaders with the Red Star, who established a St. Agnes Hospital here for poor and sick women, which was abolished by Joseph II in 1784. During the construction of the chain bridge in 1839 - 1841, a mighty embankment wall was built here, reaching all the way to the level of the then wide New Alley (Nové aleje), which is the street Národní třída today, established here after the abolishment of the fortifications. The open space invited for building up. Architect Vojtěch Ignác Ullmann built an object for Česká spořitelna (Czech savings bank - today the building of ČSAV, Czech Academy of Sciences), and shortly afterwards the Lažanský Palace in front of it, in the direction towards the Vltava River.
A monumental new-Renaissance palace for Prokop, count of Lažany, was built in the years 1861 - 1863. It was realized after a model of Vienna new-Renaissance buildings. It was one of the last Prague palace buildings, already as a project designed as a combination of a representative aristocratic residence, an apartment house, and administrative premises. The four-wing three-storied building with two yards was built by Prague builder František Havel. The main front is situated towards the embankment; there is a cartouche with the coat of arms of the Lažany Counts above the portal. A memorial plaque of pink marble is installed on the balcony above the portal, stating that Bedřich Smetana lived and composed here in the years 1863 - 1869. The plaque made by František Kysela was installed on the house in 1924 to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of Smetana’s birth. In 1881, famous Prague entrepreneur Václav Zoufalý got a permission to operate a coffeehouse in the free ground-floor spaces of the palace, and he carried out the necessary constructional modifications. He built two interconnected coffee lounges with a newly created entrance in the front axis. The coffeehouse named Great Slavia (Velká Slavia) achieved unusual popularity thanks to famous persons who visited it, namely the actors from the National Theatre opposite the street.
In 1907, builder Jan E. Deport established a new portal of the coffeehouse with a Secession marquee. However, the greatest intervention regarding the Lažanský Palace came with the reconstruction of the coffeehouse during the 1930s, when, among other things, large glass windows were installed in the coffeehouse. Interior modifications were carried out by Josef Hukal. The interior is decorated with a copy of the famous painting Absinth drinker (Piják absintu) by Viktor Oliva.
In the years 1932 - 1933, today’s restaurant Parnas was established according to a project by Oldřich Stefan, formerly a famous jazz coffeehouse.
In 1982 - 1983, Café Slavia went through a general reconstruction according to a project of architects Jan Fišer and Ivo Los. After the reconstruction, it was opened on the same day as the reconstructed National Theatre. The legendary coffeehouse with its theatre, literary and bohemian traditions keeps attracting the guests until today, with only a short interruption in the 90s.
A larger part of the Lažanský Palace is today occupied by FAMU (Film and TV school of the Academy of Performing Arts). In 1982, there was an extensive breakdown of the embankment wall, and subsequently, the building faced problems with statics, and so it was anchored via 250 micro piles 11 - 14 m deep, and via jet grouting during the 90s. In 2001 - 2003, there was a reconstruction of the FAMU residence, which now has appropriate conditions for studying and working. The Lažanský Family used to have two more palaces at Malá Strana in Prague, in Sněmovní Street No. 5, and in the Old Town on the corner of the streets Husova and Zlatá.