Žofín Palace (Palác Žofín)
The neo-Renaissance Žofín Palace is one of the most important cultural and social centres in Prague. Concerts, conferences, and balls are held here. The Great Hall of the Žofín Palace regularly hosts the biggest personalities from the economic, political and cultural life of our country and from abroad. In November 1882 Bedřich Smetana’s cycle of symphonic poems, My Country, was performed here for the first time.
Before 1817, a spa, a dye-house, and also a pub were built on the island. In 1830, the island was bought by a miller named Václav Novotný, who built a house here in the years 1836 - 1837, and in place of the old pub he built a one-storied new-Renaissance building with a concert hall and a social hall, according to the plans of architect Carl Pollak. The building, and thus the entire island connected with the road via a wooden bridge, became one of the most significant centres of political, cultural and social life. The new building was festively opened in 1837 by a great ball. On the 2nd June 1848, the Slavic Congress began here, also attended by Ludovít Štúr as a speaker. To commemorate this event, the Slovak student associations donated a memorial text plaque to Prague in 1936, which is fitted on the building. In 1925, the entire island was renamed to Slavic Island (Slovanský ostrov), to commemorate the Slavic Congress. The island was renowned for its national dances named “beseda”. The profits from these dances supported Bohemian national institutions. In the years 1841 and 1843, Božena Němcová attended the balls here. All-Slavonic bazaars were held here, as well as exhibitions, and in 1899, for example, a meeting against the destruction of Prague sights during Prague sanitation, organized by Vilém Mrštík. Classical music concerts were especially popular: authors like Ferenc Liszt, Hector Berlioz, Zdeněk Fibich, Petr Iljič Čajkovskij had their concerts here; in 1863, Richard Wagner conducted his concert here, for the first time ever to conduct with his back towards the audience. The future violin master Jan Kubelík had his first concert here. Smetana’s Má vlast (My homeland) was played here as a set for the first time. In 1840, Žofín Academy was founded here, as a significant Bohemian-German music association. A choir named Hlahol often performed here, and in 1878, Antonín Dvořák had his first individual concert here. On the building, there is a plaque to commemorate the performance of a Ukrainian politician and writer Ivan Jakovyč Frank, translator of Bohemian authors (in 1891). Zdeněk Fibich and Julius and Eduard Grégr also have their memorial plaques on the building.
In 1884, the entire island was purchased by the City of Prague, which decided to thoroughly re-build and extend the original building, which was no longer sufficient for the needs and interests of the Prague citizens. The project was elaborated by a young architect Jindřich Fialka. A new, two-storied new-Renaissance building was built, with the basement and a part of the ground floor being preserved from the old building in the Northern part. The spa objects, which used to be located in front of the building, were demolished in 1928. Fialka’s architecture was continued in architect Achille Wolf, who projected an addition to the building in the form of ground-floor tracts (restaurants) and an extension of the large hall. In the North, the square building is adjoined by a one-storied part with entrance premises and a staircase; a terrace is annexed from the South. Semi-circular windows are divided by pilasters. There is a saddle roof with a metal truss from 1885, covered by copper sheet metal. The main hall is accessed from a three-flight staircase. There is a foyer, a lounge, and a new large hall with coffered, richly stuccoed ceiling and painting by František Ludvík Duchoslav on the first floor. Four figural panes on the ceiling were painted by Viktor Oliva. They depict the activities that took place here: music, dance, food, sport. Today, the capacity of the large hall is 580 visitors, the small hall takes up to 150 persons, and there is a chief-magistrate lounge for approximately 80 people. The rarity of the building is in the fact that there is no bottom insulation; it is set on a base made of oak beams. There are ventilation cavities around the object, and pumping wells in the basement, and when the level of the groundwater rises, the pumps start working.
In the years 1991 - 1994, there was a general reconstruction of the object according to a project of arch. Tomáš Šantavý and ing. Alexandr Döbert. The ceiling paintings were also restored. The building was festively opened in 1994. Today, Žofín represents one of the most significant cultural and social centres in Prague