The Industrial Palace: a symbol of modern Prague turns 130

Industrial Palace, photo: Ondřej Tomšů

The Art Nouveau glass and steel building opened to visitors on March 15, 1891 on the occasion of the General State Exhibition.

Industrial Palace,  photo: Tomáš Vodňanský / Czech Radio

The Industrial Palace was designed by the Czech architect Bedřich Münzberger. The palace consists of a glass building with steel construction, the highest point of which is the 51-metre-high clock tower. The tower was open to the public during the Jubilee Exhibition celebrating Czech industrial and technological Innovation. Visitors for the first time could enjoy a bird’s eye view of the Troja Chateau on the opposite bank of the Vltava River.

In the years 1952–1954, the building was reconstructed according to a concept by Pavel Smetana, and Socialist Realist elements were soon added. Originally, the Industrial Palace façade was decorated with a majestic portal and with statues of great Czech. At the back of the building, this portal has been preserved. Busts of important Czech technicians were placed at the side wings.

At that time (after the Communists came to power), the building was already called the Congress Palace and the exhibition centre was called the Julius Fučík Park of Culture and Leisure. The St. Wenceslas crown on the palace tower was replaced with a Soviet red star. While exhibitions and cultural events continued to take place there, until 1981 the main events were closely monitored conventions of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia.

Industrial Palace in 1935,  photo: archive of City of Prague Museum

The Industrial Palace fire of October 2008

On October 16, 2008, the entire Left Wing of the palace burned down, started by an electric stove left on in an exhibitor’s stand. The damage totalled 1 billion crowns. After the fire, Prague City Hall discovered that the original blueprints had gone missing. However, later they were returned. Reconstruction of the Industrial Palace has only recently begun.

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