Plzeňské sympozia

Jindřich Vybíral

The “Authentic Style” of Our Homes for the Poor. Prague’s Vyšehrad Poorhouse and Its Architecture

pp. 284–294 (Czech), Summary p. 295 (English)

In its introductory section, this paper deals with how, from the beginning of the 19th century onwards, the institutional care for needy citizens projected into the appearance of institutions built to provide them with shelter. In terms of form, such buildings were designed, in tune with the tradition set up during the Age of Enlightenment, to embody the ideal concept of the style of public architecture, as well as to comply with the practical criteria of maximum economy. The essay’s central subject is the specific case of a municipal poorhouse which was in the late 19th century the Prague city administration’s largest social institution, lodging at the early stage of its existence approximately 400 inmates. The premises of this institution were the result of the rebuilding and extension of what was originally a medieval infirmary located below the Vyšehrad Castle, previously closed down by Joseph II and then reopened in 1808. The writer follows the history of the premises’ rebuilding and extension between the years 1881 and 1885, as well as dealing with the layout of the poorhouse’s interior and the furnishings of its various sections. The city of Prague conceived the modernization of this institution as a prestigious project which was to present the city government as a model public authority. On the architectural plane, this became manifest notably in the streamlined premises’ showy facades and their sculptural decoration. The author documents the local public’s response to the project, citing several analogies from elsewhere dating from the same period.

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