Prague is a city known for its magnificent architectural design. The Dancing House is the one of the most magnificent structures built towards the end of 20th century, because it represents a man and a woman dancing together. The building was designed a few years after the fall of communism in Czech Republic. The structure was built on a vacant lot overlooking the river. It is likely that it was planned to incorporate a cultural center (Smith 280)
Dancing House as a Representative Building of Postmodern Architecture
1. The Origin of Nationale-Nederlanden Building
a. The structure of the Dancing House has been controversial since its inception. On one hand, it stood out as a stylistically asymmetrical house, as it had more than its traditional setting. It represents an architectural statement of liberation and freedom from the oppressive communist regime. On the other hand, it is criticized to represent global American culture (Smith 280). The Dancing House was built from 1994 and was opened in 1996. It is one of the symbols of the new Prague. It was designed by architects Frank Gehry and Vlado Milunic. The idea of its structure was inspired by the famous dancers Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. It is an office building, which is also called Ginger e Fred. The former building on this site was accidentally destroyed in 1945 by an American bomber. The space remained empty for several decades. However, in 1992 the Nationale Nederlanden bought the place and decided to build an administrative block. Although the initial plans for a cultural center were not realized, currently the building has a French and many multinational offices. It is obvious that Dancing House is the representative building of postmodern architecture, which reveals the intent of building symbolizing the social status, the unusual sculptural form portraying two people dancing, and the structure embracing certain continuity.
b. Dancing House was designed by the Croatian-Czech architect Vlado Milunic who cooperated with a Canadian–American architect Frank Gehry on a vacant riverfront plot, and their cooperation combined multiple architectural styles in the building.
Dancing House was designed by the Croatian-Czech architect Vlado Milunic who cooperated with a Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry. Their cooperation brings multiple architectural styles to the building that stands on the historic waterfront. In Gehry’s work, transparency articulation as a surface blurs the passage from outside to inside. This style causes confusion that subverts the free passage proffered by glass and enhanced by the building’s departure from the simple vertical forms (Jeremy 88). Transparency becomes a ground for complicated distancing between the inside and the outside. The building seems to reach out beyond the space it occupies and to gather light from the outside. Most importantly, this style allows the building of its own form to have a shimmering surface for interpretation concerning both perception and idea (Jeremy 88). In addition, the Dusseldorf windows literalize the gap between the outside and the inside. The windows are extending to the exterior, while at the same time pulling the grid towards the interior. The self-supporting surface substituting the idea of movement is expounded into a more elaborate zone of planar convergences (Jeremy 88).
Gehry has reversed modern transparency by enlisting glass in delaying the passage from the inside to the outside, rather than making it a matter of immediacy. He uses glass to open buildings to the outside (Jeremy 89). Illustratively, his continuous use of glass and the idea of transparency have returned the building’s façade to the status of skin that conceals the insides. However, modernism had sought to eliminate this skin approach due to aesthetics. Contrary to Gehry’s work, modernist architects used white to purpose both continuity and absence (Jeremy 90). Modernism uses whiteness articulated by lines that marks the edge of surfaces or the limits of volumes. Gehry’s works with surfaces exceed drawing. However, his works are challenging, as not all features can be drawn. They precede the drawing rather than being added to it, thereby reversing the terms of traditional ornamental works (Jeremy 90). With its architectural outlook, the Dancing House won the most significant prize.
c. Gehry and Milunic elaborate Milunić’s original idea of a building consisting of two parts, static and dynamic (“yin and yang”), which symbolize the transition of Czechoslovakia from a communist regime to a parliamentary democracy.
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The structure of the Dancing House was designed in the 1990s. During that period, the recently elected president came to Prague. There was a significant number of Czechs on the streets who came to witness this event. The Czechs were recovering from the oppressive effects of the communist rule (Smith 294). At the same time, the architect Vlado Milunic submitted his design for a new art gallery that was commissioned by the President. The president, who was a former prisoner, approved it. The gallery was designed to occupy a prominent location along the Vlata River overlooking the Prague Castle that has been the home to Bohemia’s rulers for many years. The design gave rise to the concept of what would become the Dancing House (Smith 297). Milunić’s masterpiece was designed in partnership with Frank Gehry. They succeeded in designing the architectural form of transition and celebration in Czechoslovakia. In addition, the corner towers represented a yin-yang duo. The core design of the Dancing House alludes to a dancing couple (Smith 297). The Fred tower portrays some pants around the ankles, while the Ginger tower is in the shape of a naked woman. Both towers were creatively designed to show the energy of the country’s transition. In the same location, a house was destroyed during the bombing of the Prague in 1945. Coincidentally, the neighboring land was co-owned by the family of Vaclav Havel (Smith 297). It is during Havel’s authority that Milunić’s idea was commissioned. The design added something special that symbolizes Czech Republic after the Velvet revolution to a site.
2. Postmodern Architecture versus Modern Architecture
Characteristics of Post-Modernism
In architecture, postmodernism refers to the improvisation and spontaneous perfection. Instead of one style, postmodern artists combine several contradictory styles. A postmodern structure displays more than simple functions (Richard & Susan 464). It represents deeper ideas of the architect. The works of Frank Gehry are some of the most prominent designs in postmodernism. The remodeling of his home in Santa Monica transformed a typical suburban house into a cluster of industrial materials (Richard & Susan 464). Postmodern architecture continues to influence the present-day architecture. Some of the styles pronounce visible ideas that can still be seen in modern designs. The shapes that are functionally formalized are replaced by diverse aesthetics, therefore leading to new ways of viewing familiar styles and spaces (Richard & Susan 466). Postmodernism is marked by a rediscovery of the symbolic expression of architectural elements, since these forms were not used in modernist works. In accordance with this style, most architectural buildings incorporate traditional elements and references to color and symbolism (Richard & Susan 466). In addition, postmodernism has a characteristic of Precisionism. Urban and especially industrial subjects were depicted smoothly and precisely, creating clear and sharply defined cubist forms (Richard & Susan 468). Although there was no formal group, some of the artists involved in the movement exhibited together. Precisionism had a great influence on both imagery and methods used in architectural realism.
The Characteristics of Modern Architecture
Architects of modernism favored new forms of artistic experimentation. It involved ground breaking designs that were built in direct significance to their purposes. Modernist structures have a more complex notion, but they display clear results, because they eliminate unnecessary details (Jeremy 55). The creators of the structures put a greater emphasis on visually horizontal and vertical lines. Therefore, materials used in constructing structures in modernist styles are placed at 90° to each other. Furthermore, unlike the traditional forms, the concept of truth of materials creates real value for the appearance of materials (Isenberg et al. 57). They are not concealed or altered, because visual expression is improved by the increased use of machine aesthetics. These are the styles that were facilitated by technological and engineering developments.
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Dancing House Represents Postmodern Architecture, not Modern Architecture
The design of the building uses postmodern styles, especially its façade and structural systems. The architects extensively used glass in order to improve transparency. As a result, even though the size of the structure was reduced, on the other hand, the visibility was improved (Patterson, 9). The building is highly flexible due to lightweight structural systems. The design intent of transparency defined the structure. The diversity of innovative glass in its façade and enclosure designs are showcased in the Dancing House (Patterson, 9). In addition, modern structures had heavy masonry walls acting as both weather barriers and load-bearing structures. However, they lack structural iron framing systems that allow for far greater freedom of design (Patterson 4). Furthermore, in a postmodern building, non-structural cladding glass material is designed to act as a barrier. The glass cladding acts as a skin of the building, because it is attached to slender metal components. The transparency of the building improved remarkably because of high-rise towers sheathed in glass (Isenberg et al. 4). The very non-traditional design was controversial and stirred public debates over the Dancing House. However, upon its completion, it stood out as one of the most contemporary designs in modern Prague. In addition, the structure is largely constructed of steel, glass and concrete. The roofing is made of metal tubes that are covered with a mesh of stainless steel. In this context, considering the superiority of chosen function and design, the building carries several postmodern styles. The architects have the right to focus on failures of modern architectural styles (Mathewson & Casey 55). The structure of the Dancing House depicts the idea of new forms and the diversity of postmodernism. The boundaries regarding the styles are significantly improved, because the building displays other ideas, such as political transition and social lives. The luxurious offices inside the building show an important aspect of postmodernism (Mathewson & Casey 68). For instance, there is an elevator that makes it easier for people to move between the levels. However, it still stands in a space that was left empty in the center of the Prague after the bombings during the World War II.
3. The Specialty of Dancing House’s Façade Relates to Its Structural System
The Nationale-Nederlanden building was named as the Dancing House because of its twin towers form, which are portraying two people dancing together.
Gehry has been an innovative architect since the 1970s. In Prague, there is an imaginative reflection of the elements in the traditional row houses around the city (Richard & Susan 464). The two towers at the corner are known as Fred and Ginger because of the way one twists towards the other like the famous dancer from the Hollywood film. The pinched waist and twist of Ginger has an additional purpose, besides just decoration. It preserves the view of a castle for the dwellers in the apartment next door (Miklosko 40). The visual appearance of the Dancing House represents an innovative architectural project with total artistic freedom. The protrusion near the top of the right tower is a symbolic representation of Fred’s chest (Miklosko 42). Ginger is his dancing partner with expressed curves highlighted by the choice of glass as a construction material. The right tower (Fred) has an arm wrapped around the waist of the dancer on the left (Ginger). Her beautiful legs are portrayed at the bottom of the glass tower (Miklosko 42). On the same note, the pillars create the impression of dancing. Moreover, the sense of masculinity is enhanced by the dome at the top which is a symbol of Fred’s hat.
b. The architecture of the Dancing House is remarkable, as it has two towers that significantly improve the visibility of the building. They illustrate the legendary American dance duo: Ginger and Fred. One of the towers stands on a cylindrical volume of reinforced concrete with numerous bay windows, while the other one consists of a set of glass double-walled cones forming a curtain wall.
The roof and the center are shaped in three different approaches. On the right, there is a triangularly shaped roof, while the façade displays arced pieces. At the center, there are features of aggressive diagonal lines that lead to the openings. In addition, a precise three dimensional view is represented by the fast stroke shading on the façade (Smith 280). Conceptually, there is an expressive theme of fluidity shown by the wavy-lined roof. These indicators of expressive architecture are remarkable. Moreover, on top of the building, there is a metal work that is twisted to form a structure named Medusa (Gehry 39). The concrete tower has a metal cupola on the top that represents hair. While solid volume tower has a cylindrical shape to depict dance, it is supported by 99 concrete panels, each one of which has a different shape and dimension. The glass tower of glass by curved pillars, while the concrete structure is held by moldings that have a wavy form and are distributed through the windows (Gehry 40). It is not represented as a simple form on a flat surface, but achieves the effect of a three-dimensional structure.
c. The geometry of works of the architect Frank Gehry is complex. Similar to the design process, shapes evolve through an interaction between scale models and computer modeling. The building process combines new industrial techniques with extensive handwork (Vollers 66). The nicknames of Fred and Ginger came as an inspiration from the two elegantly curved intimate shapes of the façade. The transparent one resembles a tailored ballroom gown faceted with flat sheets of glass (Dale Co 32). The glass tower called Ginger bends and clings to the concrete tower called Fred. Practically, the structure is constricted and produced from glass in order to maintain the view on the historic buildings across the river (Dale Co 28). The tower named Ginger consists of two layers of the steel-supported glass curtain wall. The interior layer is the actual wall of the building, while the outer layer acts as a screen for the office spaces underneath. Ginger’s vertical steel T-members curve in two twisted directions. The ground level of the building is directly accessible from the river and from the public square (Vollers 69).
Therefore, it is obvious that the Dancing House is the representative building of postmodern architecture, which reveals the intent of symbolizing the social status, the unusual sculptural form portraying two people dancing, and the structure embracing certain continuity. It is an amazing building alongside the Vltava River in Prague. Extensive glass use enhances the historic architecture that attracts a lot of admiration. A continuous glass work can be compared to the skin, as it creates a barrier from the inside. The towers are designed in curvy outlines that seemingly symbolize the legendary dance duo, Fred and Ginger. These towers clearly represent dance moves.
All in all, Ginger & Fred Restaurant draws inspiration from various international cuisines, especially French. In 1996, the design of the Dancing House was new to construction. However, it has become quite popular because of postmodern structures, especially the metal decoration on the roof, famously called the Medusa. The façade shows interesting features as well. It is a simple transparent support of glass fixing. The glass compositions are further supported by the drills in the glass panes. The building does not represent simple forms on a flat surface, because it has achieved the effect of a three-dimensional structure. Visually, the appearance of the Dancing House shows innovations that can be derived from total artistic freedom. Thus, one of the most notable designs of postmodernism is the twin towers with the right one nicknamed Fred and the left one – Ginger, his dancing partner.