Reconstruction, renovation and development of the National Museum
In 2019, the most important investment chapter in the history of the National Museum came to an end. The process of the largest construction investment, which was undoubtedly the general reconstruction of the Historical Building of the National Museum and the construction of a connecting corridor that connected the Historical and New Buildings of the National Museum underground, was completed. The reconstruction was carried out according to a project developed by a consortium of design companies VPÚ DECO PRAHA and SUDOP PRAHA in cooperation with architect Zdeněk Žilka. The construction was carried out by the association of construction companies Metrostav, PRŮMSTAV and IMOS Brno. The project was financed from the Programme for the Care of National Cultural Treasures and, to a lesser extent, from a purpose-targeted subsidy provided by the City of Prague and from the museum’s own resources - the reproduction of the assets fund.
The set goal of the reconstruction, i.e. the overall renovation and revitalization of the Neo-Renaissance building and the construction of an underground connecting corridor between the museum buildings, was met. This created a unique modern cultural and social complex, meeting the technical and social requirements of the 21st century, which will provide visitors with above-standard user comfort. Exposition and exhibition areas with the possibilities of modern technological and presentation forms have grown significantly. Modern technologies were sensitively incorporated, contributing to the extension of the useful value of the interior spaces while maintaining the maximum authenticity of the building from the time of its creation.
Specifically, the two previously opened rectangular courtyards were newly roofed at a level just above the crown cornice in the shape of a saddle all-glass roof with a shading effect. A multifunctional hall was created in the western hall, enabling the presentation of large-scale exhibitions and expositions, including the organization of cultural and social events, etc. By ceiling the eastern courtyard at the level of the raised ground floor, a new service and parking capacity was obtained, while the created ceiling area will be used as a social hall with a café, a museum shop and an exhibition area. In the dome of the main central tower, after the construction of a new glass floor, a lookout lounge with a unique view of the panoramas of Prague was created. The 1st basement with a newly created vestibule and facilities for visitors underwent a major construction modification. Also, all new modern technologies and equipment were “invisibly” installed in the listed building.
Countless craftsmen, restorers, artistic and technical workers worked on the restoration. Under the careful supervision of conservationists, specialized restorers carried out the restoration of works of art and artistic elements, restoring them to their original form, often using technology of a given period. The replacement of missing and damaged elements of the original interior and exterior decoration is also worth mentioning. Specifically, in the interior, painted glass window fillings, a painted glass ceiling above the staircase hall and above the dome of the Pantheon were realized. In the exterior, replicas of cast iron flagpoles with lanterns, cast iron historical fencing were made, the original and newly installed candelabras with a glass ball and a copper crown were added, etc.
Part of the original restored furniture has been returned to the interior. Furthermore, the interior equipment of the building was supplemented by high-quality contemporary production, which with its design corresponds to the quality of design and workmanship of historical furniture.
Extensive modification of the outdoor space has cultivated the environment around the museum building. New compositions of roads and sidewalks were realized. Furthermore, the existing mature trees towards Čelakovské sady were professionally treated and new mature trees were planted by the sidewalk in Vinohradská Street. Perennials were planted in flower beds and slope solutions. A new grass carpet was laid, including a vegetation formation, and pruning and transplanting of mature shrubs, planting of new shrubs, etc. were also carried out.
The course of realization and the result of the demanding reconstruction was and is positively received by both the lay and professional public. The exceptionally successful restoration was honoured with a number of prestigious awards, the most important of which is the main prize GRAND PRIX OPERA HISTORICA. Specifically, it was a nationwide competition in which major projects for the preservation and restoration of architectural monuments from all over the Czech Republic realized over the last 30 years were nominated.
In the past year, intensive work was also carried out in connection with the creation and realization of new exhibitions. Activities related to the preparation of project documentation of individual exhibition units were performed. Furthermore, the NM announced several public contracts, some of which had to be repeated due to the lack of interest of the bidders. This created a time delay in terms of months compared to the original plan, which will have a negative impact on the opening dates of individual parts of the exhibitions. Work continued on the restoration of collection items and their preparation for adjustment in permanent exhibitions. Replicas or copies of objects, which cannot be exhibited for a long time due to their physical condition or material nature, were being prepared. In November, the first museum exhibition was completed and opened to the public in the area of the underground corridor connecting the Historical and New Buildings of the NM. In the unique environment of the passage, a unique multimedia exhibition was created with animation accompanying the visitors through important historical events of the 20th century and the architectural development of Wenceslas Square.
Another important project of the past year was the completion of the Jan Palach Memorial in Všetaty in Central Bohemia, which was created by rebuilding the original village house of the Palach family. The authors of the timeless project of the Memorial are, based on the result of the architectural-artistic competition for design, Ing. Arch. Miroslav Cikán and Ing. Arch. Pavla Melková from MCA studio. It is an unmissable object, the dominant feature of which is the monumental steel wedge intersecting the village house. The Memorial also includes a new exhibition pavilion with a multimedia exhibition, which presents the time and deed of Jan Palach in the context of 20th century events, and a small meditation garden.
The revitalization of the Náprstek Museum is one of the NM program financing projects with a longer time horizon. In 2019, the pre-project and project preparation of the revitalization continued. In an open tender, a consortium of Brno designers was selected, namely Ing. arch. Radko Květ, Rada Architekti and Adam Rujbr Architects, who at the end of the year began work on a proposal for the renovation of the historic complex on Betlémské náměstí and on a conceptual study of a new central depository located in the NM complex in Horní Počernice.
In October, the museum concluded a contract with the academic sculptor Antonín Kašpar for the rehabilitation of Palach’s pylon. The original idea comes from 1969, when the architect Karel Prager decided to honour the memory of Jan Palach by installing a sculpture by Miroslav Chlupáč called “Plamen” (Flame) on a 30-meter pylon made of solid steel plates, in close proximity to the former Federal Assembly. The author’s intention was not possible to keep secret and realize in the political regime of that time. Thus, within the rehabilitation of Palach’s pylon, a bronze sculpture will be cast and installed on the pylon, according to a preserved plaster model by Miloslav Chlupáč. The work will be completed in November 2020.
The table shows the actual funds drawn in 2019 for individual actions, including the state, municipal, and own resources that were spent within the funding programmes:
It is clear from the table above that some of the available resources were not exhausted, for the reasons given below:
- New exhibitions in the Historical and New buildings of the National Museum - lower than expected drawing of funds occurred due to the repetition of tenders and the period for the fulfilment of the contract continuing to 2020, including the payment of some contracts.
- NM - revitalization of the Náprstek Museum - financial performance was negatively affected by the postponement of the start date of work on the project documentation, due to the lengthy approval process of the public contract for the revitalization designer.
- NM - rehabilitation of Palach’s pylon - work began in October 2019, while the work in progress can only be paid for in 2020.
In addition to the above-mentioned projects, the NM carried out the restoration of two stone Baroque sculptures from the workshop of Matyáš Bernard Braun from the resources of the reproduction of the assets fund. The sculptures, symbolizing Hercules fighting with the giant Kak, are part of the artistic decoration of the front part of the garden of Michna’s summer palace. Part of the work was the removal of unsuitable materials and surface treatments, filling in missing parts of the stone and filling in cracks.
As part of the pre-project and project preparations for the works, the elaboration of project documentation for the realization of the attic installation of the NM depository in Terezín II was completed. Furthermore, project work was being carried out on the reconstruction of the road around the New Building of the NM and an expert opinion was prepared on the construction and technical condition of the roof cladding of the depository building in Litoměřice, which will be the basis for subsequent design work for its overall reconstruction.