Lucerna palace

Nové Město, Štěpánská 61

Between Vodickova and Stepanska streets stands one of the most famous and also largest buildings in Prague, the multipurpose Lucerna Palace. Previously, the low, two-storied Aehrenthal Palace stood here, named for its owner Jan Lexa of Aehrenthal, who bought it in 1773 from its previous owner, Simon Truksa. There used to be here the brewery at the Black Eagle, or at the Bakery; some time in the late 14th century. Lucerna is a large building made up of a network of passages, constructed in a style transitional between Art Nouveau and modernist. Construction started in 1906, to the design of Vaclav Havel and J. Camsky. The building has a reinforced concrete structure, according to the designs of academic and well-known statistician Stanislav Bechyne. The foundations of the palace consist of a giant concrete slab laid on gravel subsoil at a depth of 14 metres. The whole building's design is very unsual, one of the very first reinforced concrete buildings in Prague. The structure consists of seven floors and three wings, with three basements and several staircases. In the junction between two wings of the building a courtyard was constructed, which was to serve as a stage for the National Theatre, but was later converted into a cinema with 820 seats. In the attic by Vodickova street, there was originally a spacious artists' studio, the largest in the centre of Prague up until the First World War. Exhibitions were held here, and for many years it housed the graphic school of Academy of Fine Arts professor Max Svabinsky. The portion of the structure facing Vodickova was completed in 1908. To this finished structure a four-storey building on Stepanska street was later added, which was interconnected with the existing structure. The second floor of the Stepanska building was covered with glass structures. After this, the building was extended to the third section, and a dome was constructed over the hall, creating an exagerrated impression of a real lantern. This reinforced-concrete structure was glazed with special, thick glass. As the final step, the Lucerna Great Hall was completed in 1920, then the largest hall in Czechoslovakia.

Lucerna can lay claim to other firsts, as well. It was Prague's first arcade, and housed Prague's first self-service cafeteria, with serving girls known as 'Ruzenky'. The spaces connecting the Great Hall and the front of the structure formed a smaller hall, in which was placed a cabaret - popular at the time. It had a rotating circular stage with a circular sunken pit. Karel Hasler worked here, and then it was briefly home to the Comedy Theatre. which burnt down in 1927, after which is was home to the Cabaret Restaurant Lucerna, under the management of Jiri Voskovec and Jan Werich. There were also dancing and tabarin performances. They already used at this time very modern low-voltage coloured lighting. Later, a music bar was opened here, in which concerts are held (Lucerna Music Bar). Today, Lucerna palace belongs to the wife of Ivan Havel - Vaclav Havel's brother.

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Updated 01-01-1970 01:00