Praha hlavní nádraží (Main Station)
A mere thirty years after the arrival of the first railways in Prague, the urgent need for expansion resulted in the demolition of the original neo-renaissance Franz Josef station. Its replacement – built between 1901 and 1909 to designs by Josef Fanta – included a magnificent domed entrance hall and a splendid cafe – the Fantova Kavarna, from which travellers could set off in style to every major European city (as shown in the coats of arms overhead). From left to right: Rome, Paris, Budapest, Prague, Vienna, Moscow and Berlin.
‘Prague, mother of cities’. 28 October 1918, the date of the foundation of the Republic of Czechoslovakia.
Sculptural motifs and statuary by leading sculptors Stanislav Sucharda, Ladislav Šaloun and Čeněk Vosmík completed the magnificent setting of what was a grand example of the prevailing European art nouveau style.
But political and artistic times were changing, and with the construction of a vast new subterranean concourse in the 1970s, Fanta’s building began to fall into a state of neglect.
Since 2006, however, substantial investment by the Italian-owned company Grandi Stazioni has resulted in the reconstruction of Fanta’s original interior by Czech architects. The rotunda is now almost completed, and from 2014 will once more open for travellers wishing to take a stylish espresso before boarding their train.
Fanta is considered a major exponent of the Czech art nouveau, and as such, the monumental wings of his station building have been mooted as a possible permanent gallery for his friend Alfons Mucha’s extraordinary series of paintings narrating the history of the Slavic peoples, the ‘Slav Epic’. Watch this space for further updates.