When people visit Prague they return raving about the massive medieval castle on the hill, the historic Charles Bridge, the famous Astronomical Clock. They praise the Old Town Square, the steeples, spires and turrets of buildings in a myriad of architectural styles and the remnants of hippie chic.
While I loved seeing all of these iconic locations when I visited this magical and somewhat mysterious city, I vividly remember the sleek and modern Frank Gehry building. Known as Fred and Ginger or sometimes the Dancing House, it was designed by Gehry and Vlado Milunic in 1992 and completed in 1996.
Consisting of two cylindrical towers in daring shapes, it resembles two people swaying and dancing to music. One tower one bends at the middle, curving back, inspiring many to think of Ginger Rogers twirling about in the arms of Fred Astaire.
The other tower-also a distorted cylinder- gets larger as it gets taller. Tiny columns under Ginger’s skirts makes one think of legs. I couldn’t help but half expect the whole thing to dislodge from its river side location and go waltzing down the street.
In a city known for 1000 years of art and architecture, the Gehry building provides a sleek and modern contrast to the Gothic, Baroque and Art Nouveau standouts all around the town.
The actual motivation for this form came from a need to fit into the surrounding area. In the book, Conversations with Frank Gehry,” author Barbara Isenberg, quotes Gehry as saying, “ Look at the balcony of an existing building with a view of the castle across the river, which my tower would block. So I pinched in my building.”
We attended a dinner in the elegant French restaurant on the top floor. We were delighted to have champagne and nibbles on the roof, overlooking the city, the bridge and castle, all lit up and glorious, before going in for a splendid feast. It was memorable and so is the building.
This quirky city is well worth visiting, especially if you enjoy architecture. It wasn’t bombed during the wars in Europe so there is much to see and enjoy. Don’t miss the Dancing House when you go.