120 years of the Rudofinum concert hall


This month is the 120th birthday of one of the most beautiful Prague concert halls - the Rudolfinum. But the building, down by the river in Prague's Old Town, and now home to the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, is not only a concert hall. There is also an art-gallery, a smaller concert hall, a café and even a recording studio. I asked the architectural historian Zdenek Lukes how this famous Prague landmark came to be built.

"It was a bank - Ceska Sporitelna who financed the project .The architects were two very important architects from Prague, Josef Zitek and Josef Sulc, both of them were professors of Prague Technical University and former students of a famous school of architecture - the Academy of Arts in Vienna. Both of them were also responsible for many important buildings in Prague like the National Theatre. They worked together. Sulc was responsible for the National Museum on Wenceslas Square and for the Museum of Applied Arts which is very near the Rudolfinum."

So how was the actual building designed? What was its original purpose?

"There was a competition in the beginning and two winners Zitek and Sulc designed this beautiful building in neo-renaissance style. I think the wish of investor was to create a house for artists named after Rudolf, the eldest son of Emperor Franz Josef I. One part of the building is the famous Dvorak Hall, now housing Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, and the rear part of the building is used as a gallery for art exhibitions, and called the Rudolfinum Gallery. The building was decorated by artists of the so-called 'National Theatre generation', like Zenisek, Schnirch and others. The entrance is lavishly decorated, and there are figures of famous European composers on the roof."

You have already said that the building was designed mainly as a concert hall - that is also its purpose today. But has it always been the same? Has it been used as a concert hall for all the time?

Rudolfinum - the Dvorak Hall
"This is very interesting. Just after establishing the independent Czechoslovak Republic in 1918, there was a decision of the state to rebuild Rudolfinum for a new function - as a main building of Czech Parliament. It was said that Rudolfinum is one of the best examples of architecture in Prague, suitable for this important function. 15 - 20 years later it was decided to turn the Rudolfinum back into a cultural centre - the Dvorak Hall, the concert chambers like the organ hall, and of course, exhibition spaces were renovated."

If you'd like to see the building, you can of course go to see one of the concerts there or visit the gallery. But the Rudolfinum management is also preparing some events to celebrate the anniversary in the autumn. As part of this, there will also be guided tours in different languages.