Once divisive Dancing House goes on market

Dancing House, photo: CzechTourism

Co-designed by the world famous architect Frank Gehry and the locally based Vlado Milunic, the Dancing House is Prague’s best-known and most distinctive modern building. Now the riverfront structure, which sharply divided opinion when it was completed in the mid 1990s, is set to go on sale.

Dancing House,  photo: CzechTourism
Overlooking the Vltava on Rašínovo nábřeží, the curved structure – actually called the Nationale-Nederlanden Building, after the company that commissioned it – does resemble a couple ballroom dancing.

Indeed, architect Frank Gehry originally suggested the nickname Fred and Ginger, though it never caught on and the Dancing House has become the accepted name.

The Dancing House had been backed by President Václav Havel, who for decades lived immediately adjacent to the long vacant site where it went up after the fall of communism.

However, when it was completed in 1996, it was highly divisive; many felt that the unusual structure, located not far from Prague’s historical centre, contrasted too strongly with the classical apartment buildings surrounding it.

Adam Gebrian,  photo: ČRo
Architect and journalist Adam Gebrian says that from his perspective the building, as a Frank Gehry design, was necessarily radical; but nevertheless it did fit its context.

“Related to buildings, we have been very conservative – way more than we have been in history. I think for many people it was too radical and they were surprised that such a thing could happen here. That’s why it was very heavily criticised. But I think it’s changed. Let’s say 10 years later, or 15 years later, I think the acceptance is way bigger than it was in the beginning.”

Dancing House,  photo: Kristýna Maková
The business daily E15 reported this week that the Dancing House’s owners, CBRE Global Investors, were planning to put it on the market for the first time. This was confirmed by international real estate services firm Jones Lang LaSalle, which said it was acting as a consultant in the proposed sale.

The building’s value has been estimated at between CZK 250 million and 300 million, or around USD 13 to 15 million. The exceedingly high price and the specific nature of the structure mean that any sale could take years to complete.

Jan Zachystal, a real estate broker with the Prague company Remax, says properties like the Dancing House are in a particular category.

Jan Zachystal,  photo: Remax
“Such famous buildings also have a value that is referred to as genius loci, which is very hard to put a price on. Properties of this type rarely appear on the market. When they are sold, it’s done in the standard way that is common for buildings of this type.”

At present the Dancing House is home to a café, offices and – on its top floor – a high-end restaurant with a spectacular view.

E15 reported that its owners could seek to sell it to a wealthy patron of the arts who might then convert it into a gallery or museum, fulfilling the late president Havel’s original vision.