PHOTOS: Massive stained-glass panels removed from Prague landmark

As part of a long-term renovation, the removal of the hockey-rink-sized panels marks the largest renovation of historic stained glass in 100 years.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston Published on 11.05.2022 15:45:00 (updated on 12.05.2022) Reading time: 2 minutes

Work to restore the historical elements of the Industrial Palace in Prague’s Výstaviště have reached the landmark building’s stained glass windows.

All 5,023 parts of the central hall’s windows will be dismantled. Care must be taken to avoid damaging the individual panes. The stained glass windows have a total area of 2,256 square meters, which is the size of two hockey rinks. This is the largest renovation of historic stained glass in the Czech Republic in the last 100 years.

The work is part of the ongoing restoration of the palace. Its left wing burned down in 2008, and a temporary tent stood on the site of the wing for over a decade. At the same time that a replica of the destroyed wing is finally built, repairs and alterations will be made to the central part and right wing.

Each pane of the stained-glass windows is anchored in a steel supporting frame by a powder that is as solid as concrete. The bond has to be broken without endangering the fragile glass.

The industrial Palace in Výstaviště is under renovation. Photo: Raymond Johnston
The industrial Palace in Výstaviště is under renovation. Photo: Raymond Johnston

“We had to create our own specially adapted tools and techniques. We will gently shake them with the help of chisels with a hammer and we will gently remove the individual panes,” Zdeněk Kudláček from the Kolektiv Ateliers studio, which is in charge of restoring stained glass, said.

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One of the experts working on the project is back for the second time.

“Our colleague, the restorer Zdeněk Henych, who carried out the last general renovation of the stained glass 50 years ago, is also taking part in the work. At that time, he was starting out as a restorer at the age of 20. Now he is returning here after years,” Kudláček said.

The entire completion of the burnt-out left wing and the renovation of the right wing and the central pavilion will cost approximately CZK 2.5 billion and should be completed in 2025. The palace will continue to be used for trade fairs, conferences, and cultural events.

The restorers will remove, clean, and place each glass piece in new support frames. Some glass will need to be replaced – especially on the west wall of the middle pavilion. During the 2008 fire, they were irreversibly damaged by extreme heat.

The Industrial Palace was built in the Art Nouveau style by Bedřich Münzberger for the Jubilee Exhibition of 1891, which was held at the newly built Výstaviště fairgrounds in Holešovice. During the communist era, party congresses were held in the building, and it for a while sported a red star on top in place of the original regal crown.

Since the Velvet Revolution, the venue has occasionally also hosted rock concerts. Nirvana was supposed to play there in 1994 but the show was canceled due to Kurt Cobain’s health issues. The building has also appeared in films. Part of the front entrance can be seen in the 2005 film “Everything Is Illuminated,” but disguised to stand in for a location in Ukraine.

Other parts of Výstaviště, such as the Křižík Fountain, are also being renovated. A new show called “Magical Fountain,” inspired by the life of inventor František Křižík, has just re-premiered.

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