Touches of Renaissance: Studying Renaissance Architecture in its Authentic Place


1) BEFORE the workshop: each group of university students from a different country must prepare a preliminary work, to be presented in Florence.

2) DURING the workshop there will be formed different international mixed groups of students; each international group will present a final work at the end of the week.

3) AFTER the workshop: once coming back home, each national group of university students will prepare a final version of the project.

Project phase: BEFORE

Prof. Bohumil Fanta, Professor at the Czech Technical University in Prague, Faculty of Architecture, Czech Republic


Czech Technical University Prague, Faculty of Architecture

Prof. Bohumil Fanta, Doc. Eva Fantová, Klára Brůhová, Anna Beránková, Jakub Vysoký, Michal Bednář

Czech Technical University Prague, Faculty of Architecture BEFORE THE WORKSHOP


In the late 15 and the early 16 centuries, as the evolution of the Bohemian Gothic was culminating in the Vladislav late Gothic style, Italian Renaissance forms started penetrating into the country.
Since 1489, the renovation of Prague Castle had been in the hands of late Gothic artist Benedikt Rieth; he was the first to apply the element of the new style; the construction of Renaissance windows in the facade of Vladislav Hall is a historic event indicating the beginning the New Age in the art of Czech countries; from the 16th century the Vladislav Hall served particularly royal state purposes; it was the scene of coronation festivities and banquets, knights' tournaments and markets with artistic and luxurious goods.
Political situation: after the tragic death of King Louis Jagiello, Archduke Ferdinand I of the Habsburg dynasty was elected Bohemian King; he lived in the Castle until 1547 when he left Prague and moved to Vienna, and appointed his son Archduke Ferdinand as Governor of Bohemia.
Italian artists bringing the new style from Italy and spreading in through Central and Northern Europe directly influenced artistic life in Prague; their stay and work in this country between 1537-1576 is considered the peak of the Renaissance architecture here.
The renovation of Prague Castle started under Ferdinand I by the Court architects Ulrico Aostalli and Bonifaz Wohlmut, continued.
The late Renaissance era (1576-1614) started in Prague with Emperor Rudolph II, who moved in 1584 from Vienna to Prague, his court was one of the main centers of the late Renaissance in Europe.

Louis Wing

The south-west wing, called Louis Wing of the Old Palace, is the first Renaissance palace in this country.
Realized by Benedikt Rieth, built between 1503-1510.
Renaissance building not only in the details, but also in its general conception (several floors above one another, large rectangular windows, modern two-flight Renaissance staircase replacing the Gothic internal spiral stairs).

Royal Summer Palace

It was built by Ferdinand I for his wife Anna of Jagiello.
The Summer Palace was intended to serve as a scene of events organized for the entertainment of the court and also as a feature enhancing the pleasure of a sojourn in the garden.
Constructed by Italian architects Giovanni Spazio and later (as of 1538) by Giovanni Mario Aostalli del Pambio and Giovanni Lucchese; Bonifaz Wohlmut completed the construction of the upper floor and surrounded the structure with a arched gallery (1557-1563); an original and unusual roof in the form of an upturned ship’s keel was created .
Situated in the eastern part of the new Royal Garden (with Singing Fountain – ranking among the the most important Renaissance sculptures in this country; it’s the work of Tomas Jaros of 1564 to 1568, the special sound of the falling drops of water, bringing the ringing of bells to mind, can best be heard directly under the wide lower bowl of the fountain; then exotic plants; greenhouses with fig-trees, orange-trees, apricot-trees, rare tulips).
In the arcade walls are applied fine ornamental and figural relief with ancient motifs brought by Paolo della Stella from northern Italy.
In the late 18th century the Summer Palace was placed at the disposal of the Austrian army and after its stay here its reconstruction had to be started in 1836.

Ball-Game Court

Last building constructed by Wohlmut, built between 1563 and 1568.
A vary sophisticated plan, large and 14m high, 60m long building containing a hall and covered by a tunnel vault with lunettes.
Ball-games very popular among the aristocracy at that time, such buildings often constructed. The northern arcaded facade is articulated by tall Palladian sandstone columns, whose roughness contrasts with the fine sgraffiti.
This Renaissance, richly decorated building has a dramatic history: until the 17th century it served successively for ball games and as a riding school and a stable; during the reign of the Emperor Joseph II it was used as a military storehouse; in the 20th century it was damaged by static defects and gunfire; it was burned to such an extent that only the peripheral walls remained of it.
Accessible to the public after 1989, used mainly for exhibitions of creative art, concerts and important social events.

The Castle

The great fire in June 1541 destroyed the Lesser Quarter and quickly spread to the Castle. This disaster facilitated the advent of Renaissance architecture.
The fortification system of the Castle was repaired in the first year after the fire.
Recently built wooden bridge (linking Castle with the new Royal Garden) was restored. Restoration of the so-called Third Courtyard, new houses were built around it.
The Cathedral was repaired too – new roof truss covered with copper + renovation of the tower, finished after 20 years.


In 1547, King Ferdinand I decided to have there his game park.
From 1541 to 1543, a wall around the wood was built, with two gates.
The palace was planned by Ferdinand of Tyrol, son of King Ferdinand I and Imperial.
Governor of Bohemia; he also suggested the unusual ground form of a six-pointed star after which the palace was named.
Built from 1555-1557 by the Prague Court architects Giovanni M. Aostalli and Giovanni. Lucchese under the guidance of the Court architect Hans Tirol and later Bonifaz Wohlmut. The centralized plan complies with the renaissance principle of having a centralized structure above a regular geometric figure.
The building originally had a conical roof, now is replaced by a low tent roof. The interior is fruitful of architectural detailing in luxurious private rooms with mirrors and stuccowork, banqueting hall.
The stuccowork was made by unknown Italian masters, it’s valuable example of Renaissance art.

Rožmberk Palace

Constructed from 1545 to 1573 by Giovanni Fontana. It is the first noble house in new style and it had the oldest arcaded courtyard in Prague.

Lobkovic Palace

Dwelling houses stood here already in the 13th century.
Later two large Gothic houses belonging to Czech noblemen were built on this site.
The construction of a palace building was started here before the mid- 16th century by Wolf Krajir of Krajek and continued after him by the lords of Pernstejn, one of the largest Bohemian noble families of the 16th century. The Renaissance palace had four wings surrounding a courtyard and it was outstanding for its rich architectural decoration. During the period of from 1651 to 1668 Carlo Luragho adapted it in Early Baroque style for Eusebius of Lobkowicz, then the Bohemian governor. Two rooms and the chapel on the first floor have been preserved in their original form.

Old Burgrave house

This seat of the castellans and later the burgraves was evidently situated on its present site already in the Romanesque period. In the 14th century the Burgrave's House served as the temporary residence of the later king and emperor Charles IV. After the fire of 1541 the palace was rebuilt in Renaissance style, in the course of another reconstruction carried out in the 60's of the 20th century some of the original buildings were demolished and replaced with new ones

Another Czech towns with castles:

Kačina, Nelahozevs, Kostelec nad Černými Lesy, Brandýs nad Labem, Mělník, Opočno, Moravský Krumlov, Telč, Velké Losiny, Český Krumlov, Jindřichův Hradec

Working Buildings

To the townscape of Prague also contributed many interesting renaissance technical and functional structures, such as mills and water towers.
Water-mills existed on the Vltava River as of the 10th century.
More dominant have been the water towers. The oldest one, called Peter´s Tower, stood near the mill at Charles Bridge, and burned down in 1425.
A characteristic feature of Kampa Island in the Lesser Quarter is the Grand Priory Mill on the Čertovka
Another remarkable technical work should be mentioned here: the 1 km long tunnel under Letná Square built from 1581 to 1593 to supply water to a new pond in the Royal Game Park.

Technical constructions were included in the ancient building conservation system rather late and their value was therefore mostly consideres from the point of view of their practical usefulness.

Middle-Class Houses

The town called Hradčany built Renaissance town.hall from 1598 to 1604, which was quite small, but decorated with sgraffiti and beautiful gables with volutes. Now it is dwelling house. In the Lesser Quarter of Prague a new townhall was built from 1617 to 1719 by Giovanni Filippi. It was used for its original purpose until 1784.
Many houses of the Lesser Quarter had arched gables and attics. Also houses at both ends of what is now Nerudova Street had renaissance gables.
However, the bearing walls and the interiors of the above house were still Gothic and the Renaissance style was just applied to the new facades – decorated with geometrical and figural sgraffiti, coupled Renaissance windows and portals, and exceptionally with lunette cornices, as well as volute (Lombardian type) and arched (Venetian type) gables – and to the arcaded courtyards.
Prague became a genuine Renaissance town in the reign of Emperor Rudolph II (1576-1611). Construction activity at that time concentrated in the Lesser Quarter, Hradčany and Pohořelec.

Late Renaissance

The reign of Rudolph II was the last chapter of the Renaissance for Prague and the Castle. The Castle was an important centre of science and the arts in the Empire.
When Rudolph II came to power, Ulrico Aostalli was still working in the Castle. He realized plans by other architects, such as B. Wohlmut and G. Gargiolli.
Giovanni Gargiolli of Florence was appointed imperial Architect, he worked in Prague from 1586 to 1599.
There were also many artists from the Netherlands and Germany.
The first late Renaissance building here was martinic Palace on Hradčany Square, built in 1583

Architectural Details

The first Renaissance elements applied in Prague were architectural details, used quite early, in the late Gothic period, apparently as a result of the stylistic exhaustion of Gothic architecture after thriving for centuries in Prague.
Renaissance windows and portals used in the late Gothic Vladislav hall heralded the new style. This style was applied by Benedikt Rieth.


As in other European countries, there were efforts in Bohemia aimed at developing a typical national style in architecture. These efforts culminated in the 1880s in a style imitating 16th century architecture, the period when the local gothic tradition mixed with north Italian Renaissance. The Bohemian neo-Renaissance bought new motifs into the streets of Prague and other Czech towns. Motifs such as sgraffito decoration, ornamental and figural paintings, or medallions and reliefs on the facades. The attic was usually articulated and crowned with gables and turrets.
The neo-Renaissance style was usually used for representative buildings such as for luxurious villas. These were usually ment more for recreation and entertainment than for living in and were built in well-kept gardens. The architects followed the example of the Italian renaissance villa. However they did not just imitate this example, but adapted it to the local climatic conditions. Examples of these houses are Lanna house, Groebe House, etc. Examples of the most famous ones:

National Museum

The Idea of establishing a Museum of Bohemia emerged as early as the end of 18th century. At first the museum had its seat in several palaces in Prague. However in 1864 it was decided to construct a new building for the museum. In 1883, there was organized a competition and in 1884 the competition jury which consisted, amongst others, of arch. Josef Hlávka, ascribed the first prize to the proposal marked with the password “Pro patria”, created by the architect Josef Schulz.
The main museum building, located on the upper end of Wenceslas Square was completed in 1890. The monumental neo-Renaissance palace of the National Museum has a rectangular ground plan of 104 and 75 m and rises above two access ramps and a three-flight staircase with a fountain. Above the plinth is the rusticated band of the basement and the ground floor, surmounted by two upper floors that are articulated with Corinthian columns and pilasters. The building is crowned with a tower covered by a dome on a square base and with a lantern reaching a height of 70 m. In the interior, there is a number of valuable works of art, such as various sculptures or depictions by famous Czech artists. It is worth to mention also the monumental six-flight main staircase surrounded by arcaded galleries.
The building was damaged during World War II in 1945 by a bomb, but it reopened after intensive repairs in 1947. During the 1968 Warsaw Pact intervention the main facade was again severely damaged by shots, which made numerous holes in sandstone pillars and plaster, destroyed stone statues and reliefs and also caused damage in some of the depositaries. Despite the general facade repair made between 1970 - 1972 the damage still can be seen because the builders used lighter sandstone to repair the bullet holes. Also the construction of the Prague Metro in the seventies was no good for the structure and the opening of the North-South Highway in 1978 on two sides of the building resulted in the museum being cut off from city infrastructure. This also lead to the building suffering from an excessive noise level, a dangerously high level of dust and constant vibrations from heavy road traffic.

National Theatre

The National Theatre is the embodiment of the will of the Czech nation for its national identity and independence. Collections of money among the broad masses of the people facilitated its construction and so the ceremonious laying of the foundation stone on May 16, 1868 was tantamount to an all-state political demonstration. In 1865 the thirty-three-year old professor of civil engineering at the Prague Technical College, architect Josef Zítek was requested to draft a design for the National Theatre. He then came out on top in a later declared open competition and in 1867 construction work began. On May 16, 1868 the foundation stone was laid, and in November the foundations were completed. In 1875 the new building reached the full height and in 1877 the theatre was roofed over. As of 1873 there was an on-going competition for the interior decoration of the building whose scenario had been elaborated by a special commission: the themes were on the one hand in the spirit of the Neo-Renaissance concept of a classic building, on the other hand they were inspired by the current enthusiasm for Slavonic mythology these concepts were based on Josef Mánes' paintings and connected with the contemporary style of romantic landscape painting, providing the fundamental ideology guiding artistic expression which to day is described as the art of the generation of the National Theatre. The Theatre includes many art works as a triga (a three-horse quadriga) and exterior allegorical sculptures on the facade such as an interior sculptures, murals and paintings.
The National Theatre was opened for the first time in 1881 to honour the visit of Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria. Then the theatre was closed down to enable the completion of the finishing touches. While this work was under way a fire broke out, which destroyed the the building pretty much. The fire was seen as a national catastrophe and met with a might wave of determination to set up a new collection: within 47 days a million guldens were collected. Architect Josef Zítek was no longer in the running and his pupil architect Josef Schulz was summoned to work on the reconstruction.


The booming cultural life in Prague in the 1860s failed to produce a concert hall and a centre for the fine arts, the Provisional Theatre, the future National Theatre or any other facility being unable to serve this purpose. The Czech and German management of the bohemian Savings Bank, wishing to express their “provincial patriotic feelings” and their rivalry with Wienna, decided to build such a cultural centre to mark fiftieth anniversary of the bank’s existence.
A competition was organized in 1874 with eight architects from Prague and Vienna taking part. Two separate buildings were required: one for exhibitions and the other with a concert hall. Two architects Josef Zítek and Josef Schulz planned one building only with interior divided in two parts. The concept was adopted and both architects were invented to prepare a final plan. The building was completed in 1884 and palace was named the Rudolfinum (after the Austrian Crown Prince).
The front part of the neo-renaissance House of Artists faces Jan Palach Square and contains a 1200-seat concert hall with excellent acoustics. There are eighteen Corinthian columns on the edge of its gallery that support the conical ceiling. The hall is surrounded both on the ground floor and the upper floor by promenade divided by columns. There is a richly illuminated foyer facing the square, flanked by two meeting-rooms in the corners of the building. The rear part of the building has a top-lit exhibition hall in its centre where the Art-lovers’ Association once organized exhibitions. Facing the street and the waterfront are a number of rooms and exhibition halls both downstairs where, in the past, collections of the Society of Patriotic Friends of the Arts were displayed.
The main southern facade of the Rudolfinum facing the square is convex, following the curve of the auditorium. The side and rear facades are shaped according to the interiors. The roof balustrade bears statues. Other statues are on either side of the external stairs facing the square (statues of two sitting muses). There are the pairs of lions by the carriage-way on the east front and the sphinxes at the entrance to the exhibition hall on the west side of the building. The general architectural concept of the Rudolfinum could by fully applied on the large vacant site and the most progressive ideas of the time could be put into practice in accordance with the motto “putting old clothes on a young body”(G.Semper).

Prague’s Middle-Class Villas

The first private detached houses appeared in Prague in the later half of the 19th century. Vilas were initially more for recreation and entertainment for living. Houses were built in beautiful, well-kept gardens.

Tenement Houses

Tenement houses appeared in Prague in the 1860s and later in other towns in this country. Houses had apartments containing all amenities, each with one main door from staircase.

The School Buildings

The social class controlling trade and industry and, consequently, also government of Austro-Hungarian Empire, including Bohemia and Moravia, soom understood the importance of education for the productivity of people at all levels of qualification. In the early 1860s the country started developing rapidly, including national education.

Other buildings

In the last third of the 19th century were also built other neo-renaissance buldings like churches (St.Wenceslas’ Church), markets hall (Vinohrady Market-Hall, Smichov market hall) and Old People’s and Children Homes.

Images of the WORK

Czech Technical University Prague, Faculty of Architecture
Prof. Bohumil Fanta, Doc. Eva Fantová, Klára Brůhová, Anna Beránková, Jakub Vysoký, Michal Bednář
Before - After

Slovak Technical University, Faculty of Architecture
Ing. arch. Nadežda Hrašková, PhD., Michaela Kesanová, Adriana Slabejová, Jozef Veselovský, Radovan Zelik
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Warsaw University of Technology, Faculty of Architecture
Prof. Robert M. Kunkel, Urszula Koziarska, Mateusz Potempski, Maja Wieczorek, Leszek Włochyński
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Odessa State Academy of Civil Engineering and Arrchitecture. Prof. Nadiya Yeksaryova. Student: Dmytro Mironov, Kseniya Gerasymova, Olga Polonska, Oleksandra Tymofyeyeva,.
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