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The Dancing House

Prague, Czechia
1 of 8

The Dancing House (Czech: Tancici dum) or Fred and Ginger is the nickname given to the Nationale-Nederlanden building in Prague, Czech Republic, at Rasinovo nabrezi (Rasin's riverbank). It was designed by the Croatian-Czech architect Vlado Milunic in co-operation with the renowned Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry on a vacant riverfront plot. The building was designed in 1992 and completed in 1996.

The very non-traditional design was controversial at the time because the house stands out among the Baroque, Gothic and Art Nouveau buildings for which Prague is famous and in the opinion of some it does not accord well with these architectural styles. The then Czech president, Vaclav Havel, who lived for decades next to the site, had avidly supported this project, hoping that the building would become a center of cultural activity.

Gehry originally named the house as Fred and Ginger (after the famous dancers Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - the house resembles a pair of dancers) but this nickname is now very rarely used; moreover, Gehry himself was later "afraid to import American Hollywood kitsch to Prague", so refused his own idea.


The "Dancing House" is set on a property of great historical significance. Its site was the location of a house destroyed by the U.S. bombing of Prague in 1945. The plot and structure lay decrepit until 1960 when the area was cleared. The neighbouring plot was co-owned by the family of Vaclav Havel who spent most of his life there. As early as 1986 (during the Communist era) V. Milunic, then a respected architect in the Czechoslovak milieu, conceived an idea for a project at the place and discussed it with his neighbour, the then little-known dissident Vaclav Havel. A few years later, during the Velvet Revolution Havel became a popular leader and was subsequently elected as Czechoslovak president. Thanks to his authority the idea to develop the site grew. Havel eventually decided to have Milunic survey the site, hoping for it to become a cultural center, although this was not the result.

The Dutch insurance company Nationale-Nederlanden (since 1991 ING Bank) agreed to sponsor the building of a house on site. The "super bank" chose Milunic as the lead designer and asked him to partner with another world-renowned architect to approach the process. The French architect Jean Nouvel turned down the idea because of the small square footage, but the well-known Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry accepted the invitation. Because of the bank's excellent financial state at the time, it was able to offer almost unlimited funding for the project. From their first meeting in 1992 in Geneva, Gehry and Milunic began to elaborate Milunic's original idea of a building consisting of two parts, static and dynamic ("yin and yang"), which were to symbolize the transition of Czechoslovakia (Czechia) from a communist regime to a parliamentary democracy.


The style is known as deconstructivist ("new-baroque" to the designers) architecture due to its unusual shape. The "dancing" shape is supported by 99 concrete panels, each a different shape and dimension. On the top of the building is a large twisted structure of metal nicknamed Medusa.

"In the interior of a square of buildings in the eighteenth and nineteenth century, the Dancing House has two central bodies. The first is a tower of glass that is close to half height and is supported by curved pillars, the second runs parallel to the river, which is characterized by the moldings that follow a wavy motion and distributed through the windows so the non-aligned.[clarification needed] This solution has been driven mainly by a kind of aesthetic consideration: the windows lined evidenciarian that the building has two windows, although they have the same height as the two adjacent buildings of the nineteenth century. They also do not have to be perceived in the will of the designer, as simple forms on a flat surface, but must achieve the effect of three-dimensionality, hence the idea of frames as outgoing frames of paintings. Also the winding moldings on the facade make it more confusing perspective, diminishing the contrast with the buildings that surround it."


The site is centered in a densely built section of Prague; nearly all of the structures in the area are Baroque or Art Nouveau in style, making the Milunic-Gehry design stand out. The once stirred debate has now calmed down and the building is now seen as a work of art adding value to the cityscape of Prague.


The general shape of the building is now featured on a gold 2,000 Czech koruna coin issued by the Czech National Bank. The coin completes a series called "Ten Centuries of Architecture".

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coltrane, April 25th, 2022
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