The Dancing House in Prague (also called the Fred and Ginger house) was built in 1996. The construction of the Dancing House took 4 years from the first meeting of the architects. However, Dancing House’s history is more than 3 decades long. Also, the Nationale-Nederlanden building was the formal name of the Dancing House in Prague. But, the nickname is more popular.
The Dancing House in Prague was constructed on the corner plot near the Vltava river. It provides a splendid view of the river and Prague city. But its Dancing House history and origin are far from the glamour the building has today.
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Table of Contents
The Dancing House of Prague – History
The Dancing House History is full of political, cultural and economic twists and turns. Prague is as old as 1306 BC. It is the capital of the Czech Republic. The city has a rich culture accumulated during the Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque eras. Owing to its different structure, the Dancing House in Prague challenged the existing architectural styles and is a timestamp of the 20th Century on Prague’s cityscape. The Dancing House history today adds to the rich heritage of Prague.
Interestingly, the Dancing House gets its name from the unique two-building structure which looks like two people dancing. It also symbolizes the cultural and political transition that the Czech Republic was going through in the 20th Century.
|Jiráskovo nám. 1981/6, 120 00 Nové Město, Czechia
|Vlado Milunić and Frank Gehry
|Year of completion
|No. of Floors
|More than 5000 SqMt
In 1945, during WW II U. S. Army Air Forces had dropped numerous bombs over Prague due to a navigation mistake. But, the actual target was Dresden. One of the bombing sites was the location where the Dancing House in Prague stands today. The area was in a bad condition post bombing. It was cleared only in 1960.
In 1986, Vlado Milunić, a prominent architect at that time in Czechoslovakia had innovation in mind for the site. He approached the neighboring plot owners with the idea. Vaclav Havel’s family owned the plot – it was serendipity. In the 1980s Vaclav Havel was a dissident. But in the coming years, he would rise as a distinguished name in the Czech political scene. Further, he would lead the transition from Czechoslovakia to the Czech Republic.
Vaclav’s popularity rose a couple of years later, during the Velvet Revolution. Post the revolution Vaclav won the elections for the President of Czechoslovakia in 1989 and then the Czech Republic from 1992 – 2003. He wanted to build a modern building at the bombing site. In addition, his idea was to make it a culture center and give a new identity to Czechoslovakia.
Eventually, the Dutch insurance company, Nationale-Nederlanden, agreed to sponsor the building. Milunić inspected the site. He had the idea of having 2 separate towers. Further, another architect was brought in, for the want of an international context. Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry was onboarded, after discussion with many. The discussion between Milunić and Gehry started in 1992.
Moreover, Nationale-Nederlanden had a strong financial portfolio then and hence funds for the building were available in abundance.
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The Dancing House of Prague – Structure, and Architecture
The structure of the Dancing House in Prague has 2 towers. One is the cylindrical concrete structure and the other was the asymmetrical glass building. The deconstructive style was used in making the building. This style involves structures and elements where there is a break in the continuity and general symmetry of the building. This style became popular in the postmodern era.
The Dancing House in Prague is also called the Fred and Ginger house. It is named after American dancers Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. The two towers also represent the Ying (which is the dynamic energy) and Yang (which is the static energy). Moreover, the political and cultural climate in the Czech Republic at the time was reflected in this.
Firstly, the Ying (dynamic) tower – is the asymmetric glass structure supported by multiple columns. The changing shape of the building is supported by these steel columns. It becomes narrow in the middle and opens up on the top, leaning slightly backward. This represents the female dance partner – also dedicated to Ginger Rogers. This also shows the dynamic part of the building as one can see the tower flowing in the air.
Secondly, the Yang (static) tower – which is the cylindrical concrete structure – has 99 support panels. Also, the building has multiple windows and curved asymmetric lines across the building. The framed windows create a 3D optical illusion. The top of the building has a metal structure with a mesh. Likewise, this represents the male dance partner and is dedicated to Fred Astaire. This building shows the static part of the building.
There is a viewing gallery on the top which gives a full panorama view of the city. The natural color of material (concrete and glass) was retained to give the building an aesthetic look.
In conclusion, the Dancing House in Prague was indeed ahead of its times and could not save itself from controversies.
The Dancing House of Prague – Controversies
The Dancing House was much criticized for its asymmetrical and different structure. Many people declared it a misfit for the Gothic architecture of Prague. Controversies took center stage even before the completion of the Dancing House in Prague. Looking at the opposition from critics, the architects changed the Dancing House plan of a taller building. Further, the architects changed the original draft of the building owing to strong opposition.
Even after the completion of the building, there were strong reactions from opposition political parties and the general public. They called it a misfit in Prague’s rich architectural history. Some also called it the ‘Drunk House’ for its asymmetrical structure.
Also, one of the panels of the glass buildings covers a part of the payment, making it narrower for the pedestrians to walk. This attracted a lot of negative attention, affecting the general public.
There were also demands that the Dancing House in Prague be demolished!
Today, the Dancing House in Prague is considered one of the signature buildings of Prague and is world-renowned. Some local people of Prague still feel it is an ugly building. But largely, the building has got the appreciation and attention of the world.
The Dancing House of Prague – Significance
The Dancing House in Prague is more than a distinct building. It is not only a beautiful piece of art, it represents what the Czech Republic stood for. It represents the transition from Czechoslovakia to the Czech Republic, from Communism to Democracy, from Gothic to modern.
The Yin and Yang elements in the Dancing House in Prague were also suggestive of the political atmosphere after the formation of the Czech Republic.
The Dancing House in Prague has faced many criticisms but also has many accolades to its credit.
Awards and Accolades
The Dancing House in Prague won many awards:
- Czech National Bank issued a coin featuring the building under a series called Ten Centuries of Architecture.
- Architekt Magazine names the Dancing House in Prague as the 5 most important buildings.
- Also, The Dancing House in Prague won Time Magazine’s design contest in 1997.
Amusing Dancing House Facts
The Dancing House history is long and rich. Owing to this, there are many interesting Dancing House facts that one comes across:
- The Dancing House in Prague is one of the most famous tourist destinations in Prague – a popular selfie point for tourists.
- The two architects who worked on the Dancing House plan belong to two countries that are 4351 miles apart.
- Milunić approached Jean Nouvel, before Gehry. Nouvel turned down the offer as he found the area of the plot too small.
- Eva Jiřičná designed the interior of all 9 floors including 2 underground floors. Eva is a Czech-British architect and designer. She took up the challenging task of doing the interiors for all floors. Each floor was different in shape due to the asymmetry and required attention to detail.
- The Dancing House never became the cultural center it set out to be. In fact, it is a commercial building that houses offices, a hotel, and a restaurant.
- The Dancing House has a fine dining restaurant on the top floor with a rooftop bar that provides a 360-degree view of Prague city.
What is The Dancing House Used For?
When the Dancing House in Prague was built, there was a vision of it being a cultural center. But it did not become one. But, today, what is the Dancing House used for?
The Dancing House in Prague is a commercial building now. It earlier had only offices making public entry restricted inside the building. The building now has:
- The Fred and Ginger Restaurant
- The Dancing House Hotel
- The Dancing House Gallery
The Fred and Ginger Restaurant
The gourmet restaurant is located on the 7th floor of the Dancing House. It also has a rooftop glass bar. The restaurant is extremely popular amongst tourists and city dwellers alike. The restaurant offers a good variety of vegetarian and non-vegetarian options. It is open from 07.00 hrs to 24.00 hrs. The bar on the top offers a 360-degree view of Prague city and makes a good choice for a relaxed, special occasion with someone special.
The Dancing House Hotel
The Dancing House Hotel is on 2 floors of the building. The hotel opened in 2016 in a partnership with 5 investors. One of the investors is Vladimir Smicer, the international soccer champion. The hotel has 40 luxurious rooms with views of the river Vltava and Prague castle. In some rooms, the views are visible from the washroom as well. So, you can relax in a hot bath with your favorite view of Prague and make unforgettable memories.
The Dancing House Gallery
The Dancing House Gallery hosts various art exhibitions from local and international artists. The gallery hosts theme-based exhibitions occasionally. This gives the people of Prague a window into international art and culture. Books and designs are sold at shows in the building. There are also shops that sell art designs and books. People have to buy a ticket to enter the exhibitions.
Apart from this, there are some offices and a cafe too in the Dancing House in Prague.
The bombings destroyed the land in 1945, but, today it is buzzing with activity. It has stood the test of time and proved all the criticism about it being a misfit wrong. Do make a point to visit the building and stay at the hotel if possible. Postcard memories are waiting for you!
Frequently Asked Questions:
Building the Dancing House of Prague costed $13 – $15 Million (USD).
The Dancing House of Prague, being a commercial building, is open from 10.00 am to 10.00 pm.
The Square of Jirásek is the nearest Tram station to the Dancing House of Prague. Charles´ Square – line B is the nearest metro station.
Amongst many famous buildings designed by Frank Gehry, Olympic Fish Pavilion in Barcelona, (Spain), and Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles (California) are remarkable.
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