October 11-19, 2019
From Romanesque to Art Nouveau to High Tech, Prague has been a veritable melting pot of architectural styles and treasures. Delve into the architecture of “the City of a Hundred Spires,” through an exploration of sites including the Prague Castle, known as Prague’s most iconic building; the Cubist houses, discussed for their political backdrop under which they were created; and the National Library of Technology, one of the most celebrated examples of contemporary architecture. Meet with architects, city planners, restorers, and historians who share their unique experiences of working within a historical canvas.
Kimberly Elman Zarecor teaches architectural history and design at Iowa State University. A two-time Fulbright grantee, she has been researching architecture in the Czech Republic for twenty years. She is the author of Manufacturing a Socialist Modernity: Housing in Czechoslovakia, 1945-1960 (Univ. of Pittsburgh Press, 2011).
Day 1 – Begin your journey
Depart from your preferred airport and fly to Prague
Day 2 – Arrive in Prague
Check-in to the centrally-located Hotel Paris in the heart of Prague. Meet fellow travelers for a welcome reception at Prague’s Municipal Hall, Obecní Dům, and meet a representative of the Czech Chamber of Architects. Dinner and live music will follow at this national heritage building which celebrates the Golden Age of Art Nouveau.
Day 3 – Old Prague
Set out on foot to tour the layers of Old Prague, which span from medieval to modern. Observe the dramatic changes the city underwent at the turn of the 20th century as Art Nouveau transformed capitals across Europe. Completely surrounded by Old Town, visit the Old Jewish cemetery and synagogues of Josefov, Prague’s former Jewish ghetto. Venture into The Church of Our Lady Before Tỳn. This Gothic building has been the main church of Old Prague since the 14th century. Walk across the renowned arch styled Charles Bridge, with construction starting in 1357 and finished in the 15th century, to see a panoramic view of the city and its many bridges. See the Franz Kafka Society Center, which was designed by Steven Holl and houses Franz Kafka’s private library, where a local architectural expert will give a talk on the tensions between historic preservation and contemporary development.
Day 4 – Prague Castle
With a local expert, explore the Prague Castle complex, which dates back to the 9th century. Examine the myriad architectural styles represented from the most historic to the modern-day contributions from the period of Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk and Václav Havel. Taking advantage of incredible city views, descend the magnificent Old Castle Stairs to Malostranské náměstí. Wander into the Wallenstein Garden and meet with a member of Klub za Starou Prahu, the oldest historic preservation organization in Prague, before visiting the breathtaking 12th-century Strahov Monastery, which completed a major reconstruction in 1994. Visit a landmark of early modernist architecture, Villa Müller by Adolf Loos, followed by the newly-renovated and recently opened to the public, Villa Rothmayer.
Day 5 – Colliding old and new Prague
Walk along the former city walls to the bustling shopping street, Na Přikopě, which connects Wenceslas Square to the Square of the Republic, separating Old Town and New Town. With local architects, tour Wenceslas Square and the ring road which cuts through the city’s center, and view Prague’s famous Cubist houses built under the ancient Vyšehrad Castle. Visit the National Library of Technology, an award-winning, environmentally-inspired building designed by Roman Brychta, Adam Halíř, Ondřej Hofmeister, and Petr Lešek on the campus of the Czech Technical University. Moved from its former home in Old Prague, this new construction was completed and opened to the public in 2009. In addition to its extensive collection relating to technology and the applied and social sciences, the building itself is architecturally impressive and a celebrated example of contemporary Czech design. Enjoy dinner with architects at the Center for Architecture and Planning to discuss current architectural issues facing Prague and the Czech Republic.
Day 6 – Discover Kutná Hora and Sedlec
Travel east of Prague to the UNESCO World Heritage towns of Kutná Hora and Sedlec. Explore Kutná Hora’s medieval center, built when the city enjoyed great wealth from silver mining in the 13th and 14th centuries. Visit the Gothic Church of Saint Barbara, with its distinctive five naves and tour the Italian Court, the former royal mint and royal palace built by King Wenceslas IV when Kutná Hora was the second most important city in Bohemia. In nearby Sedlec, visit the Cathedral of Our Lady at Sedlec, one of the oldest examples of Baroque Gothic style connected to Jan Blažej Santini-Aichel, and its famous Ossuary. Stop in Kolin en route back to Prague. See the Petr Parler-designed St. Bartholomew’s Cathedral and the city’s 17th-century Baroque Jewish synagogue, which was the cornerstone of a once-thriving Jewish community which all but disappeared after World War II.
Day 7 – Neighborhoods of Prague
Explore the New Prague quarters of Vinohrady, Holešovice, and Karlín, which were developed from the second half of the 19th century to the beginning of the 20th. Vinohrady dates back to the 14th century, and was originally a place for vineyards. Now an upscale suburb near the city center, its Art Deco-inspired homes and beautiful parks make it an enviable neighborhood. Visit the church at Jiřího z Poděbrad, designed by Slovenian architect, Josip Plečnik, and the MCA Atelier, an architectural firm whose focus is revitalization and reconstruction in an historical environment. Travel to the iconic avant-garde Trade Fair Palace to see the international art collection of the National Gallery, and then see the exhibitions at the DOX Center for Contemporary Art. Cross the river into Karlín, one of Prague’s oldest suburbs, which was revived after being devastated in a 2002 flood. Stroll the neighborhood while discussing the merging of historical and contemporary architecture in the rapidly developing quarter.
Day 8 – Explore the outskirts of Prague
Discover the postwar-era outskirts of Prague accompanied by a guest expert. Ride on Prague’s first metro line to Pankrác for a tour of early experiments with mass-housing. Returning to the metro, travel to the end of the subway line for a visit to South City, a 1970s district with massive prefabricated tower blocks and large open landscaped spaces that have been rehabilitated since 1989. Explore the National Museum exhibits in the former Federal Assembly Building with its iconic 1960s architecture. Explore Solidarita, a 1940s housing development in Prague-Strašnice, and tour this unique early cooperative housing project and receive special access to unrenovated and renovated interiors of the neighborhood’s delightful row-houses and their large gardens. Toast to this Prague adventure with another of Prague’s cultural gems: beer! Enjoy a guided tour of Vinohradskỳ Microbrewery followed by a beer tasting and farewell dinner at its restaurant. Na zdraví! (Cheers!)
Day 9 – Depart Prague
Transfer to the airport for your flight home.
Hotel Paris – Built by renowned architect Jan Vejrych in 1904, the Hotel Paris epitomizes classic Art Nouveau style. Located in Prague’s Old Town, this five-star property boasts 86 elegantly-appointed and soundproof rooms are equipped with complimentary Wi-fi and satellite TV.