A Spirit at Work / Architecture and Czech Politics 1918–1945
Created: 15. 10. 2020 from Vysoká škola uměleckoprůmyslová v Praze

Spirit that Works. Architecture and Czech politics 1918–1945

Due to coronavirus restriction is the gallery temporarily closed!

15. 10. 2020 – 17. 1. 2021

House of the Black Madonna, Museum of Applied Arts in Prague, Ovocný trh 19, Prague 1


To what extent can politics influence architecture and its development? This question was asked by a team of experts from the Department of Theory and History of Art at the Academy of Arts, Architecture, and Design in Prague. The results of their research can be seen in the exhibition Spirit that Works. Architecture and Czech politics from 1918 - 1945 in the house of the Black Madonna.

 The authors use an analysis of political concepts that influenced society during the First Czechoslovak Republic and the Second World War. They observed how these concepts were reflected in the architectural production of the period financed from public sources - representative buildings of administrative institutions, foreign councils, educational, medical, and other buildings.

 "During research, it was interesting to follow the development of the search for an architectural language that was to express the values of a democratic state and at the same time to reflect its economic and cultural achievements. Personally, I was surprised by the degree of the First Republic's Prague centric conception of the organization of state administration. I expected that the state showed a higher degree of determination to locate some administrative offices to Brno, for example. We present architecture in Brno primarily as a result of the modernization efforts of local city government. We also noticed the input of Czech architects in Slovakia and Subcarpathian Russia. Projects for the construction of new administrative centers and new social infrastructure were created here ", describes Dita Dvořáková the curator of the exhibition about the period during pre-war Czechoslovakia.­

 The exhibition also includes a selection of buildings, through which the state and municipalities supported the achievement of social peace, especially residential buildings. The period of the protectorate is reflected in the exhibition by the inclusion of unrealized proposals for the reconstruction of Prague, which applied the urban practices of the nazi totalitarian regime.

 When choosing the exhibits, the authors of the exhibition did not primarily emphasize issues of style and aesthetic value of buildings. On the contrary, they also include lesser-known designs and realizations that do not fully meet art-historical demands but form an integral part of the modernization project of the First Republic's democratic society or the protectorate occupation administration.

 The atmosphere of the time and the interconnection between politics and architecture are also analyzed in detail in the book published for the exhibition of the same name "Spirit that Works / Czech Architecture and Politics 1918-1945", edited by Vendula Hnídková. It looks at the issue and explains it by confronting political science theory and architecture.

 The exhibition project is one of the outputs created within the Program for the Support of Applied Research and Experimental Development of National and Cultural Identity (NAKI). Simultaneously with it, the UM Gallery hosts an exhibition entitled "Strength and Future are the Nation’s Nationality“, which thematically follows up on the exhibition "Spirit That Works ". This second exhibition focuses on the relationship between architecture and politics in the Czech lands of the 19th century.


Curator of the exhibition: Dita Dvořáková
Exhibition concept: Vendula Hnídková
Architectural solution: Filip Kosek, Jan Říčný (RCNKSK architects)
Graphic design: Tereza Hejmová
Artistic collaboration: Eliška Perglerová
Production: Ditta Pfefferová (UMPRUM), Eva Koktová, Dušan Seidl (UPM)
Sound recordings: Archivní a programové fondy Českého rozhlasu

Collaboration: The exhibition was created in collaboration with the Museum of Applied Arts in Prague

The exhibition presents one of the outputs of the research project Architecture and Czech Politics in the 19th and 21st century of the Department of Theory and History of Art at the Academy of Arts, Architecture, and Design in Prague. The project was supported by the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic within the Program of Applied Research and Development of National and Cultural Identity NAKI II (DG18P02OVV041).