The Langhans Palace
This palazzo positioned between the pulsating vivaciousness of Vodičkova street and the green oasis of the Franciscan garden has for more than 130 years been a place associated with photography. Its name comes from Jan Langhans, the renowned Czech portraitist, whose photographic portrait studio was once the most sought after in the Czech Republic. Although there is no shortage of Neo-Renaissance and Art Nouveau façades in Prague, the Langhans building’s recent refurbishment has elevated it to an architectural work of exceptional merit. The ground floor of the building serves as business premises, with apartments and offices on the other floors.
In 1880, Jan F. Langhans established a photographic studio in a three-storied new-Renaissance house located on a narrow and very deep land plot, and this studio became the most prominent portrait-making business in Bohemia with many branches. Jan Langhans took pictures of the most prominent personalities of the time. In 1922, he already had half a million of negatives in this archive, and this number grew to over a million after World War I. A Gallery of Personalities was formed from the portraits of artists, politicians, businessmen, noblemen and others. In 1919, the prosperous family business was taken over by Viktor Meisner, husband of Langhans’ daughter, and he continued to expand his unique photographic portrait archive. His son of the same name continued the family tradition after World War II, but it was severed by the nationalization in 1948. The studio was then taken over by the association Fotografia. In the beginning of the 1950s, the famous archive with about two and a half million of negatives was taken to a dump in Kyje and destroyed. The family only got its house back in restitution in 1991.
The founder’s great-granddaughter had the house rebuilt according to a project of a team of architects lead by Ladislav Lábus. As the reconstruction started, boxes with glass negatives of portraits of famous people were found in an old wardrobe in the annex building in the yard. Approximately 8000 negatives were saved with portraits of actors, singers, artists, musicians, writers, politicians, industrialists, scientists and noblemen. The reconstruction of the main building managed to sensitively combine the original doors, windows, fittings and pavements with modern elements made of metal, glass and stone. Besides the functional premises and the gallery, also the flats and offices were restored. The successful reconstruction of the building was declared the construction of the year 2003 and awarded Grand Prix of the Society of Architects. The photographic gallery was abolished in 2011.