Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Praguescape: Cubist kiosk

By Kristina Alda |
Prague Daily Monitor |
9 December 2008

praguescape icon

kiosk: The authorship of the 1920s kiosk remains unknown. (KRISTINA ALDA)The authorship of the 1920s kiosk remains unknown. (KRISTINA ALDA)

Commuters rush past it on the way to catch the train or dash in to buy a paper before boarding the tram. Chances are the little newspaper stand that squats on the edge of the park Vrchilického sady, right by the Hlavní nádraží tram stop rarely gets a second glance. That's a pity. It happens to be one of Prague's most original kiosks. Not many tobacconist shops have architectural landmark status.

The late cubist or rondo-cubist building dates back to the 1920s and its authorship remains a mystery. In 1981, when the city planned to tear the kiosk down, preservationists came out with the theory it was an original design by either architect Josef Gočár – the author of the House of the Black Madonna – or Pavel Janák – who designed Škoda's Palace, which stands across from the Municipal House – in other words, two of most prominent Czech cubist architects. The kiosk was saved, reconstructed and awarded landmark status.

Experts today dispute this opinion. Architectural historian Zdeněk Lukeš recently said in an interview with Lidové noviny that the names of these famous architects were probably brought up in order to save the building from demolition.

Whoever the author is, the fact remains this little structure has earned its status. Newspapers have been sold here without interruption for some 90 years. Its row of arches and columns gives it the air of a much grander building, while the white and rusty brown panels that line the bottom, painted with a gaudy circle pattern, make it look cheerful, more like a doll house.

Prague 1 reconstructed spent CZK 165,000 on repairs, removing decades-old layers of grime and spray paint, and in the next few months, the kiosk will receive a plaque declaring its landmark status.

Next time you're waiting for a tram by the main train station, take a closer look.

Kristina Alda is the Monitor's managing editor. She likes writing about buildings and public space.
You can reach her at kristina@praguemonitor.com. You can read more of her stories here.