The credit for this luxurious beauty belongs to two Josephs – Zítek and Schultz, who were tasked with creating a multifunctional building in Prague. The beginning of Rudolfinum dates back to 1876, when initial work began. The main initiator of the project and the oldest financial institution in the Bohemian Kingdom, Česká spořitelna, is responsible for the monumentality for the building. This institution could afford to finance the building for 10 years until its official completion in 1885.
The construction was affected by contemporary national disputes, as is reflected by the following joke that appear in contemporary newspaper: “Excuse me, but who’s showing an exhibition of sticks here?” “You are mistaken. These are merely discarded canes of the Bursch fraternity, whose long-term stay here gives the house a unique atmosphere”. The joke refers to the low representation of Czech authors in the construction work; these did not finish their work on purpose as a means of protest. It also hints at the fact that the majority of attendees of the ceremonial opening of the building were German-speaking. After all, it was a triumph of the Czech art world.
The monumental building combined sections for concerts and exhibitions. These two are connected visually by external elements, the façade with Ionic columns on the south-facing side ended with a balustrade railing; the north-facing wall includes a spectacular corner tower. The entrance is located on the west side and is lined with 25 arcades. The dominant feature of the entry hall is a staircase that leads to the gallery.
Rudolfinum therefore became a respected place for music and art muses. It hosted the Czech Philharmonic and one of the oldest clubs in this country moved a luxurious picture gallery from the Černinský palace in Hradčany to here. On 4th January 1896 Rudolfinum, witnessed a one-of-the-kind event: Antonín Dvořák conducted his own musical works and thus gave name to its concert hall.
In 1919 and 1939 the interior underwent a reconstruction in order to meet the needs of the newly established Czechoslovak Republic. This was carried out by architects Václav Roštlapila and Rudolf Kříženecký. The newly modified premises were used for meetings of the Chamber of Deputies of the National Assembly.
If you are interested in the history of the Rudolfinum during German occupation, we recommend reading the book Na Střeše je Mendlessohn by Jiří Weil; it also has a deep, highly symbolic story.
Rudolfinum lives on. The building is well maintained. In the 90s, it underwent a general reconstruction and in 1989 it was declared a part of the national cultural heritage. And you can still enjoy musical and art muses in Rudolfinum.