Monday, March 19,2012: Where in the World …?

ceiling contest

Not as Baroque as the Theatre of the Estates, but interesting and attractive nonetheless ...

Where in the World is This Ceiling?

You’d never guess that under such a clear, heavenly night-sky of a theatre ceiling there rests a stage with a very cloudy history. Do you recognize this location? Keep reading …

This theatre sits right next to the St Ursula Convent and used to be part of a building complex known as Kaur’s Buildings — which were all collapsing by the end of the 1950s.

So the architect Bohuslav Fuchs ultimately won a long, drawn-out competition to design a replacement, in 1966; the final plans weren’t actually approved, though, until 1976. His design called for three buildings: one to house the theatre management, a restaurant, and a building including a reception hall.

Meanwhile, a famous landmark building on the other side of this venue was also undergoing reconstruction. And in the middle of all the noise and construction, someone suddenly yelled, “Hold on!”

It was the legendary scenic designer Josef Svoboda. He convinced the-then Communist Council, in 1980, to halt construction and accept his proposal to modify things a bit to make room for his own, by-then famous avant-garde theatre as well.

The idea was approved, but the-then Communist Party municipal committee delayed the actual work, finally insisting that the whole project be finished by Nov 18, 1983, giving all the projects about a year-and-a-half to begin or complete the work.

They did it, but not particularly well. Technically, the designs and layouts didn’t synchronize well enough to provide a great theatre space which was also convenient for all the backstage players to use. Nevertheless, the massive project was finished, providing space for ballet, theatre, opera, and more.

Today the complex still nestles up against the convent on one side, and the landmark building – The National Theatre – rests impressively across an open area on the other side. The back part of the mystery theatre building, which you surely now can identify as Nová Scéna, The New Stage, looks like an ordinary office tower, but the front rises from the main street like a giant, partly melted ice cube.

That’s because it’s composed of 4,000 shaped pieces of glass, designed and produced by the legendary Czech glass master Stanislav Libenský. (You can see part of them in the photograph to the right.)

The New Stage has been re-reconstructed a bit, and today is mainly the venue for Svoboda’s Magic Lantern, some drama, and some dance performances, and The New Stage has been warmly adopted and made part of The National Theatre collection of stages. — oo

Photo Credits: Miroslav Setnička

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