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Side view of the Dancing House
|Former names||Fred and Ginger|
|Location||Prague, C R|
|Address||Rašínovo nábřeží 80, 120 00 Praha 2|
|Town or city||Prague|
|Design and construction|
|Architect||Vlado Milunić, Frank Gehry|
The Dancing House (Czech: Tančící dům), or Fred and Ginger, is the nickname given to the Nationale-Nederlanden building on the Rašínovo nábřeží (Rašín Embankment) in Prague, Czech Republic. It was designed by the Croatian-Czech architect Vlado Milunić in cooperation with 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, Václav 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 Fred and Ginger (after the famous dancers Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers – the house resembles a pair of dancers) but this nickname is now rarely used; moreover, Gehry himself was later "afraid to import American Hollywood kitsch to Prague", and thus discarded 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 neighboring plot was co-owned by the family of Václav Havel who spent most of his life there. As early as 1986 (during the Communist era) V. Milunić, 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 Václav Havel. A few years later, during the Velvet Revolution Havel became a popular leader and was subsequently elected president of Czechoslovakia. Thanks to his authority the idea to develop the site grew. Havel eventually decided to have Milunić 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 "superbank" chose Milunić 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 Milunić began to elaborate Milunić's original idea of a building consisting of two parts, static and dynamic ("yin and yang"), which were to symbolize the transition of Czechoslovakia 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 Mary'.
In the middle of a square of buildings from the eighteenth and nineteenth century, the Dancing House has two main parts. The first is a glass tower that narrows at half its height and is supported by curved pillars; the second runs parallel to the river and is characterized by undulating mouldings and unaligned windows.
This design was driven mainly by aesthetic considerations: aligned windows would make evident that the building has two more floors, although it is the same height as the two adjacent nineteenth century buildings. The windows have protruding frames, such as those of paintings, as the designer intended for them to have a three-dimensional effect. The winding mouldings on the facade also serve to confuse perspective and diminish contrast with the surrounding buildings.
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