Prague’s Baroque Invalidovna complex will get modern glass wings as part of its renovation

Modern extensions will help to integrate the former military hospital building into the growing Karlín district

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston
Published on 02.10.2020 10:56 (updated on 02.10.2020)

The 18th century Invalidovna complex in Prague’s Karlín district will see the addition of modern glass-covered extensions as part of its extensive renovation. 

Once completed, the Baroque complex will become the seat of the Territorial Monument Administration of the National Heritage Institute (NPÚ) and home of the Prague Philharmonic Choir. There will also be exhibition and conference facilities, as well as space for community activities. Part of the complex will be open to the public for tours.

“We will open Invalidovna to the general public, rehabilitate a unique Baroque monument and at the same time provide a dignified environment for an excellent choir. We have chosen a modern extension … to show that monument care can and wants to work with modern architecture,” NPÚ general director Naďa Goryczková said.

“It is obvious that such a solution based on the contrast between an authentic monument and new architecture cannot be applied in general. It is always necessary to work with the individuality of a particular place. Karlín is a city monument zone, but also a modern progressive part of the city, in which the new Invalidovna will symbolize the blending of the old and the new, further develop the dynamics of this locality and support local community life,” she added.

The renovation of Invalidovna is the the largest investment project of both the NPÚ and the Ministry of Culture, financed from the state budget. Work should be completed in 2027 at the earliest.

Visualization of the side of Invalidovna / design by Petr Hájek Architekti, visualization by vize.com
Visualization of the side of Invalidovna / design by Petr Hájek Architekti, visualization by vize.com

The current estimate of project implementation costs is 1.95 billion CZK. The preparatory phase of the restoration is currently underway, and should be completed by end of 2021. A use study, a construction-historical survey and a rescue archaeological survey have already been prepared.

Petr Hájek, who designed the extension, explained the reasoning that went into it. “The external shape of the extensions is the result of the regulation of the basic volume with regard to archaeological finds, the requirements of monument care and the limits of statics and acoustics. The extensions have a facade made of profiled glass, which gives the place a dignified and festive atmosphere during evening lighting,” Hájek said.

Main hall of Invalidovna /  design by Petr Hájek Architekti, visualization by vize.com
Main hall of Invalidovna / design by Petr Hájek Architekti, visualization by vize.com

For The Prague Philharmonic Choir, the extension fulfills a long-held dream to have a base.

"The Prague Philharmonic Choir is one of the most respected European choirs. It regularly performs with the world’s best orchestras and conductors, recording for the most prestigious recording companies,” Prague Philharmonic Choir director Radim Dolanský said.

“Despite all efforts, however, this ensemble has not been able to find its own premises in its entire 85-year history until today. It is a cause of immense appreciation and happiness for us to be there,” he added.

Multifunctional hall in Invalidovna /  design by Petr Hájek Architekti, visualization by vize.com
Multifunctional hall in Invalidovna / design by Petr Hájek Architekti, visualization by vize.com

TEACHER PROFILES

An information center and an educational center will be established to strengthen awareness of the Czech cultural heritage, as well as exhibition and conference facilities and spaces for creative, leisure and community activities with the intention of making the city a cultural and social center.

Invalidovna was built in 1731–37 based on designs by architect Kilián Ignác Dientzenhofer. He was inspired by a similar building for disabled veterans in Paris.

It was used for accommodation and care for disabled war veterans until the 1930s. After that it was used by the Czechoslovak and later Czech Defense Ministry as an archives. It was badly damaged in the 2002 floods and has been in disrepair ever since. In May 2018, it passed into the administration of the NPÚ.

Current look of Invalidovna / via Facebook @invalidovna
Current look of Invalidovna / via Facebook @invalidovna

The building appears briefly in the 1984 film Amadeus as the asylum where composer composer Antonio Salieri narrates the story from.

The building was originally supposed to be nine times larger, but funds ran out and only one corner was ever completed. Changes to the design had to be made to make the corner look like a finished building. A statue of Count Petr Strozzi, who began a foundation for disabled soldiers, was added in front in 1898.

Invalidovna is located near several real estate projects that are already underway such as the Nová Invalidovna project, which will feature a massive sculpture by David Černý, and the Rohan City project, which will create a new neighborhood.

The NPÚ is the largest contributory organization of the Czech Ministry of Culture. It is entrusted by law with a number of professional tasks related to state monument care, and performs research and education. In addition, it manages over 100 state-owned immovable monuments, most of which are open to the public.