Tag Archives: Cubist Architecture

A History of Prague, Part 8, The Capital of an Independent State

The end of the 19th century and the first decade of the 20th century were a time of great growth and prosperity for Prague.

Belle Epoque Buildings in Prague
Belle Epoque Buildings in Prague

As part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the city was transforming into a large modern European metropolis. The peaceful co-existence of Jews, Germans and Czechs contributed to an environment where both industry and culture flourished. Businesses and factories sprang up, along with grand streets, beautiful shops and elegant hotels. The suburbs burgeoned.

The Fine Arts blossomed and artists like pre-Raphaelite painter Mucha, became leaders in a world-wide movement. While many of the new buildings followed the Art Nouveau style of the Parisian Belle Epoque which was colonising European cities, an original Czech Cubist architecture was emerging too.

It was an age of visionary rule too. Francis Ferdinand d’Este who was a descendent of the Jagellon, Luxembourg and Premyslovic Dynasties, had succeeded the Emperor Francis Josef. He was married to Czech aristocrat Sophie Von Chotek and the couple lived at Konopiste Castle near Prague. Francis Ferdinand was a proponent of the expansion of the Dual Monarchy into an Austrian-Hungarian-Czech triple Monarchy. However his plans were cut short when he and Queen Sophie were assassinated by Hungarian student, Gabriel Princeps in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914. This incident was the catalyst for the commencement of World War I.

At the end of the War the Austro-Hungarian Empire was dissolved and Czechoslovakia was created with Prague as its capital. Prague Castle became the seat of the first president, Thomas Garrigue Masaryk.

The transformation into a big, modern, industrial city continued. In 1920 the Law of Greater Prague of 1920 expanded the city and in 1922 it incorporated several neighbouring towns and citizens. By 1930, the population had reached 850,000.

Prague’s prosperity endured, even through the Great Depression of the 1930s. The development of Czech Cubist Architecture, interrupted by the War, resumed and soon the cityscape featured the unique and impressive Functionalist buildings which were to distinguish it. Prague’s architecture had earned its place among the European greats and the city itself was one of the most beautiful and prosperous in Europe.