Národní 223/2: National Theatre

A theatre was planned for this riverbank site as early as 1844, but it was not until 1862 that the first National Theatre (Národní Divadlo) appeared in the form of a neo-classical building designed by Ignác Vojtěch Ullmann. Only ever intended as a provisional structure, it actually survived until 1881, the year of the grand opening of Josef Zítek’s magnificent neo-renaissance extension on the adjoining plot.

Only two months after the opening, the new theatre inauspiciously burnt down. Undeterred, the great and the good of Prague dipped into their pockets a third time, awarding the reconstruction to Zítek’s pupil Josef Schulz (who went on to design both the National Museum, and, with Zítek, the Rudolfinum concert hall). Schulz’s scheme incorporated Ullmann’s original theatre in a cleverly-articulated plan which included a southern extension for administrative offices. The theatre re-opened in November 1883.

National Theatre, Prague

This picture demonstrates well the integration of the three buildings according to Schulz’s plan. Zítek’s theatre, with its distinctive jewel-box roof, is furthest away, the administrative extension closest to the camera, and Ullmann’s original theatre the elevated section sandwiched between them: