Now the municipal court of Prague, this great ship of a building was constructed between 1926 and 1928 as the headquarters of the national Tobacco Company.
As a young man, the architect, Alois Dryák, had been responsible for the art nouveau facade of the Grand Hotel Evropa in Wenceslas Square. There can be no greater contrast of changing styles and sentiments in architecture than this. Gone are the gilded and curlicued neo-baroque elements of the 1880s; in come the weighty, strong, uncompromising lines of post-war neo-classicism.
This is truly a temple to the power of commerce, exemplified in the epic Parthenon-like frieze at its four corners. Depicting the gathering, manufacture and sale of tobacco, the bas-reliefs are by Josef Jiříkovský, who also designed the interiors (see the contemporary black and white photograph below).