Moskevská 967/34: Hussite Church, Vršovice

Since the early 1920s, pressure had grown for a Hussite church in the neighbourhood of Vršovice. The plan was finally realized in 1930 by the architect Karel Truksa, and the church constructed within a year by Václav Nekvasil using the novel building material of pre-stressed concrete. The 'lighthouse' tower, topped with a geometric Hussite chalice, was designed in co-operation with Pavel Janák.

The foundation stone was the gift of the community of Tábor, the central Bohemian city whose associations with radical Hussitism date back to the 15th century. It was brought from the gothic castle of Kozí Hrádek, where Jan Hus himself found refuge in 1414 before being burnt at the stake the following year in Konstanz.

Formerly on this plot of land there had stood a coaching inn, Na Kovárně (The Smithy), from which the earliest electric trams in Prague used to run at the turn of the twentieth century. Like its exact contemporary, Janák's Hussite church in Vinohrady, part of the Vršovice building also functioned as a theatre. This one uniquely still serves both purposes.

Mahlerovy sady 2699/1: Žižkov TV tower


The first television signals in Prague were transmitted from Petřín Hill in 1953. By 1974, however, there was a clear need for a purpose-built high-power transmitter, and plans started to be drawn up for a replacement.

The result, conceived and built by architect Václav Aulický and engineer Jiří Kozák, was constructed from 1985 to 1992 in the neighbourhood of Žižkov; and its rocket-and-gantry appearance has inspired love and loathing in equal measure ever since. 709 feet high, the tower is a tripod in cross-section, with nine observation platforms emerging from the central core at three different levels. The tallest structure in Prague, it can be seen from almost every part of the city.


Since 2001, ten gigantic fibreglass babies designed by avant-garde artist David Černý have been affixed to the three enormous supporting pylons. It's a gesture whose humour has somewhat softened the tower's reputation both architecturally and politically - during Communist times it was rumoured that the tower's true purpose was to block pro-Western broadcasts.

Vítkov Memorial


Vítkov Hill, due east of Prague's historic centre, has always been an important strategic site. It was here in 1420 that Jan Žižka, scourge of the Holy Roman Empire and zealous warrior of the Hussite cause, led his troops to victory over the Emperor Sigismund.

Unsurprisingly, then, it was Žižka who became synonymous with the fight for Czech emancipation from Austria-Hungary in the late nineteenth century. In 1887, the sprawling suburb below the hill was renamed 'Žižkov' after the indomitable one-eyed general of four hundred years earlier; and in 1912 the first plans were drawn up to erect a memorial to him on the summit. Delayed by the first and second world wars, the eventual choice - a monumental equestrian bronze by Bohumil Kafka -was finally unveiled on 14 July 1950, the 530th anniversary of the battle of Vítkov.


Looming beyond the 60-foot-high pedestal and rider is the vast functionalist monolith of the National Memorial, originally built during the First Czechoslovak Republic to honour the sacrifice of the Czech Legionnaires, a great army of some 60,000 soldiers who - trapped literally between the First World War and the Bolshevik Revolution - made their way battle by battle through Siberia to Vladivostok and thence by ship via America, Ceylon and South Africa before returning home to newly independent Czechoslovakia and a heroes' welcome.

The memorial was constructed in 1925 to a plan by Jan Zázvorka. The remains of two unknown legionnaires, one from the First World War battle of Zborov and one from the Second World War conflict at Dukla, are interred in a vault between six massive pillars that in turn support the monument of Žižka.


The heavy bronze doors to the memorial, added in the mid-1950s by Josef Malejovský and Antonín Strnadel, display twelve scenes in bas-relief, in a manner similar to the renaissance doors by Ghiberti in Florence. The six on the left show scenes from the history of the Hussite wars, while those on the right show scenes of the Soviet liberation of Prague. There is no reference in these panels to the Czech legionnaires: despite the victory of the common man enshrined in the figure of Žižka, the idea of Czech nationhood was anathema to the communists. Instead, during their time in power, they turned the Memorial into a mausoleum for the embalmed puppet leaders of the ČSSR.


Tomb of the Unknown Warrior


Doors (detail): Jan Želivský holds aloft a chalice, symbol of the Hussite movement


Doors (detail): Soviet liberation of Prague, 9 May 1945

Na Smetance 505/1


This neo-renaissance secondary school in Prague 2 was constructed by Josef Franzl from a plan by the great Prague architect Antonin Turek, who was also responsible for the beautiful Vinohrady water tower and numerous other public buildings in the neighbourhood.

Opened on 16 September 1888 (the year can be read in the inscription under the clock face), the school suffered badly in the Second World War, with the forced expulsion and execution of Jewish students, bombardment by the allies in February 1945, and damage sustained in the Prague Uprising of the following May.

Between 1920 and 1930, the school's chapel served as the home of the Vinohrady Hussite community, prior to the building of the new church on Dykova Street.

Contemporary sketch by Antonín Balšánek

Archivní 2257/4: National Archive


The new National Archive was constructed between 1994 and 1997 to a plan by the architect Iva Knappová. The bold decoration of its ceramic surface lends a certain fluidity to the building's otherwise forbidding exterior: and its pattern, echoing a geological cross-section, is perhaps suggestive of the way that an archive may be used to dig into the past.

Štefánikova 68/12: Portheimka


In 1722, the celebrated Prague architect Kilián Ignác Dientzenhofer purchased a plot of land formerly held by the Jesuits, where his patron Count Jan Václav Michna already owned a substantial garden. Over the course of the next three years, he constructed an elegant Italianate baroque villa for himself and his family.

In 1758 the house was bought by František Leopold Buquoy, an acquaintance of Mozart, who stayed nearby in the 1780s. From its dainty east-facing balcony, supported by its twin allegories of Day and Night, guests would have been afforded an uninterrupted view over the formal Slavatovská gardens stretching down to the riverbank.


During the century that followed, the house was associated with two families whose industrial interests lay respectively in the production of chicory and calico. The last of these, the Jewish Porges family, were honoured for their innovations in steam-driven manufacturing by Emperor Ferdinand V with the hereditary title of Portheim. As the last private owners before Nazi confiscation, they bequeathed their name to the house: it is still known as Porthheimka.

Today the villa sits in a hollow below present-day street level, a remarkable survivor in an area which has been heavily built up over the course of the ensuing centuries.

Národní 1010/9: Topič Gallery


In 1883 the publisher František Topič opened his first bookshop here on Národní třída (National Avenue). From its central location opposite the National Theatre, Topič was able to exert great influence as a promoter of graphic design, and his salon of 1894 became a central meeting point for the artists of the fin-de-siecle. It was here in 1895 that the first Czech art exhibition took place.

In 1905, the prominent art nouveau architect Osvald Polivka was commissioned to redesign the facade, incorporating elements of the Topič 'brand' including polychromic mosaics, stucco reliefs, and the gilded name of the gallery's founder.

In the thirties, the building became the property of the Stránský publishing family, owners of a string of newspapers including Lidové Noviny (The People's News) - of which Karel Čapek was the editor - Literární noviny (The Literary News), and Přítomnost (The Presence). The last of these, resurrected in Czech and English versions in the mid-nineties, still has its offices here, while the gallery still functions as an exhibition space for contemporary art.