An exhibition on the life and work of great Czech architect opens in Prague's Municipal House

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The Municipal House in Prague is currently hosting an exhibition acquainting visitors with the life and work of Jan Kotera, one of the most significant of all Czech architects. Alena Skodova was at the opening ceremony and brings back this report:

The Jan Kotera exhibition is organized to mark the 130th anniversary of the great architect's birth, and the opening ceremony took place on his birthday -December 18th. The organizers told us there had been three exhibitions of Jan Kotera's work since his death in 1923, but this was the biggest one.

Utilising a wealth of materials, including drawings, sketches, models and photographs, the exhibition tries to demonstrate the entire scope of Kotera's architectural work, from college projects completed in Wagner's studio in Vienna, through the peak of his career to the closing phase featuring Cubist and Neo-Classicist traits. I spoke with professor Vladimir Slapeta from the Faculty of Architecture of the Czech Technical University who explained to me why Kotera is considered to be the father of modern Czech architecture:

"Kotera was really the father of Czech modern architecture - the father and founder. He played a very special role when he came back to Prague from Vienna, where he studied under Otto Wagner at the Viennese Academy of Fine Arts. He immediately became the leader of the whole Czech modern movement around the turn of the century. He became a professor at the School of Applied Arts - at a very young age, he was only 27 - I think this record has never been beaten and won't probably be even in the new century. He also became the chairman of the artists' association Manes, and editor-in-chief and an artistic journal Volne smery - Free Directions. He initiated a change of orientation of Czech modern art from Vienna to the West."

Kotera was not only famous in Austro-Hungary and Czechoslovakia - he was also acknowledged internationally:

"He had a network of important contacts in Germany with Hermann Muthesius, the author of the famous book Das Englische Landhaus, or English Cottage Houses, then he had very good contacts to England, to Vienna, to Ljubljana, so he was really one of those European figures who had fixed the position of Czech culture at the beginning of the 20th century."

And as professor, Slapeta explained, Jan Kotera maintained close contacts with Western Europe, and introduced some completely new elements into Czech architecture:

"He looked at the Netherlands, Belgium, to England, he travelled to England and he was very impressed by the work of English arts and crafts movement and of Charles Rennie MacIntosh in Scotland, and he transformed this experience into his domestic architecture in the first years of the 20th century. He also brought brick architecture from England and from the Netherlands and introduced it to Prague and to Czech architecture since 1906 when he came back from London, where he organized an exhibition of Austrian art with Czech participation."

The exhibition will be open till the end of March.