Prague City Hall - New Building
An important piece of Art Nouveau architecture dating back to 1908-1911. Since 1945, it has been the seat of the Prague City Hall and Prague’s Mayor. The Grand Hall is the venue for Prague council meetings, seminars, conferences, and gala events. Exhibitions are occasionally held here. The building is one of the most attractive camera lens targets for visitors to the city.
Prague City Hall
When the Old Town Hall was no longer sufficient for the growing Prague in the beginning of the 20th century, it was decided to build a new town hall, possible not far away from the original one. A location was selected between the squares Linhartské náměstí and Mariánské náměstí. In place of the later Linhartské náměstí, there used to be Jaroš Estate in the 13th century, which was purchased by the city in the 14th century, and established a fowl market here, where the Prague citizens could purchase poultry. The market was abolished in the 15th century, but the square Linhartské náměstí opposite the house At the Green Frog remained there until the beginning of our century. There used to be a renowned Old Town smithery here until 1880, in front of which a municipal kitchen was established to cook and sell cheap food for the poor Prague citizens. At the square Mariánské náměstí, there used to be a Church of Virgin Mary at a puddle, the name of which was derived from the fact that during each flood, this place was flooded and a puddle of water remained here for a long time afterwards. There was a block of houses between both these squares, which the town hall purchased and demolished. Many of these houses had the „right of fire“, which means there was a smith’s forge in the house. Armourers used to make armour and plates here, spur-makers made spurs, helmet-makers made helmets, can-makers made tin dishes, and kettle-smiths cast goods of bronze and brass. One of the houses, for example, was owned by a blacksmith named Ringhofer, whose grandson founded the well known Smíchov plant.
In 1909, the winner of the competition for the new building, Osvald Polívka, presented his last project, modified in accordance with the remarks of the artistic committee. The house had to correspond in appearance to the surrounding monumental buildings: Clementinum and the Clam-Gallas Palace. In the years 1909 - 11, construction took place, including the demolition works on the land plots, under the management of the company of builder František Tichna. The newly build Secession building has a rectangular shape of 90.5 x 37 m, and it extends on a surface area of 3,350 m2. The town hall block has cellars, it has four stories, and the buttresses and towers above the main cornice are covered by mansard roofs. The construction is for its most part made of ferro-concrete skeleton. The building is entered via a monumental entrance in the central buttress of the main front at Mariánské náměstí. The three-part copper-forged gate leads to a ground-floor vestibule, and then there is the main three-flight staircase and a side two-flight staircase. There is a personal elevator, and it is the first place in Prague using the paternosters. There was a box-office assembly hall on the first floor with a surface area of 568 m2, second largest in Prague after the Main Post Office in Jindřišská Street. There was the city box office, the accounting office, tax offices, etc. Altogether, the building could offer 7 463 m2 of offices and there were 250 official rooms.
Rich sculptural decorations concentrate around the main front. Around the main portal, there are relief sculptures by Stanislav Sucharda: the sculpture on the left represents the Citizens bearing a load together, i.e. it stresses out the principle of group work and obligations, and on the right side, there is the Common benefit for the citizens, i.e. the benefit of schools, science, social care, etc. Sucharda’s relief above the main entrance arch represents the Protection of the City Treasure, and above the large central window on the first floor, there is a relief of a Girl bowing towards the symbols of the city independence and self-government, i.e. the town emblem and the bailiff right. There are figural sculptural groups with the themes of Strength and Endurance by Josef Mařatka on both the ends of the balustrade. There is an allegoric statue of Nobility and Humbleness by Josef Mařatka on the main cornice at the top left, and on the opposite side on the right, there is again the allegory of Strength and Endurance, this time by Stanislav Sucharda.
On the corner at Linhartská Street, there is a statue of Rabbi Löw, and on the corner at Platnéřská Street, there is a statue of an Iron knight. Both statues were made by Ladislav Šaloun. The sculptural decorations underwent a reconstruction in 2004; the statues were sanded.
When the town-hall wing of the Old Town Hall opposite the Týn Temple burnt down during the May fighting in 1945, the Old Town Hall was only preserved as a representative place and the entire city administration had to move to the New Town Hall, which had to accommodate to the new regime. Back then, the large assembly hall was changed into a large session lounge for the plenary meetings of the city representatives, and the offices of the representing bodies and city managers were also moved here.
Information source: Prague City Tourism; www.praha.eu