The Dancing House (Tančící dům) is the most famous contemporary building in Prague, a city most known for its historic architecture. The renowned restaurant Céleste is located on the upper floors of this bold structure on the Vltava River. Guests dine in style here, with a breathtaking panorama of Prague as a backdrop.
The extraordinary office building is also sometimes called ‘Fred & Ginger’ after the famous dancing couple Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Anyone looking at the curves and kink in the building from a distance will indeed see a graceful swaying couple. Although this elegant ultramodern building initially met with quite some resistance from the inhabitants of Prague, the Dancing House has now truly found its place in the city and is a popular attraction for fans of both architecture and French cuisine. The menu at the upscale Céleste on the top floor positively insists that you spend the evening dining with Prague at your feet.
The stylish ‘dancing’ building has an exceptional history. The lot was vacant for decades after being levelled by bombing in World War II. In the turbulent 1980s, the Croatian-Czech architect Vlado Milunić lived in the adjacent building. His neighbour was the dissident Václav Havel, who would become the leader of the Velvet Revolution and president of the Czech Republic. When Milunić told Havel of his plans to build a modern building on the lot, the latter immediately supported the idea – he hoped the building would become a cultural centre.
Havel found a Dutch bank willing to finance the construction, which, however, conditioned its support on another architect being brought in. The choice fell on the Canadian Frank Gehry, who started out in 1992 with Milunić’s drawings as his starting point and yielded the final plan in 1996. Not everyone was pleased with this asymmetric creation in the middle of Prague’s historical centre. Yet for many the building came to symbolise the embracement of freedom, democracy and a worldly modern architecture.
““For many, the asymmetric building symbolises freedom, democracy and a worldly modern architecture.””