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Admiring modern architecture is in

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An increasing number of Czech towns are trying to attract visitors thanks to their modern landmarks. Besides brochures, they are also offering guided tours that can be uploaded into mp3 players.

Tourists seem as interested in old factories, functionalist villas and cubist apartment buildings as they are in baroque churches. More and more Czech towns are becoming aware of this. Hradec Králové, for example, is offering a special tour of 20th century architecture. Brno is preparing an audio guide of its modern landmarks and Prague’s Archifest has evolved from a conference for a handful of experts to a massively popular event.

Guides you can download

“In the past, modern architecture was mostly something only experts were interested in, but in the last few years, it’s becoming trendy,” said art historian Lukáš Beran, commenting on the surge of interest in modern architecture.

The austere beauty of Loos’s villa seems to exert the same sort of magnetism on lay people as a special meal at an exclusive restaurant. They don’t need to understand it in depth, but they are fascinated by it.

“Eating a meal prepared by a famous chef and visiting Villa Tugendhat is now part of a successful modern person’s lifestyle,” said Jana Duffková, a sociologist who specializes in lifestyle.

Modern architecture has been trendy abroad for several years. In the Czech Republic the TV series Šumná města has helped generate interest in this type of architecture. In the series, actor and architect David Vávra presents modern buildings designed by architects who were, until recently, mostly unknown to the wider public: Ladislav Žák, Jan Kotěra, Adolf Loos and Josef Gočár.

These days Czechs are interested in things like an urban tour through Prague 3 on a Saturday morning. On the tour, they can see things like Městská spořitelna on Koněvova street or an apartment building designed by Adolf Foehr on Husinecká street.

Visitors to Brno will soon also be able to take part in guided tours of modern architecture. Instead of an actual physical guide, they will be provided with an audio guide that can be downloaded from the city’s website and uploaded into an mp3 player.

Each point of interest along the route will also include a plaque with information. Besides the famous Villa Tugendhat, they will also be able to see Zemanova Kavárna, designed by Bohuslav Fuchs and the functionalist hotel Avion, the narrowest building of its kind in Europe.

On glossy pages

Hradec Králové is a city that has been “selling” its modern architecture for several years now. The city’s modern architecture guides available at the local information centre are almost all gone.

“The brochure on modern architecture is in great demand,” said Filip Kubišta, who works at the center. The route takes visitors to the Museum of eastern Bohemia, designed by Jan Kotěra, and to the Labe power plant, one of the most beautiful art nouveau landmarks in the city.

Publishing houses are also riding the wave of interest in modern architecture. The book Industriál Libereckého kraje (Industrial Architecture in the Liberec Region), invites readers to check out former textile factories. A pocket guidebook on architecture in Prague 3 contains photographs by Karel Cudlín and Ester Havlová. And there is also a series of books on famous villas in regions across the country. The glossy pages of these books present works such as Baas’s famous “hranol” (prism), the duplex in Prague that belonged to the Čapek brothers, Eltis’s villa in the Ústí region, as well as the functionalist villas of Prague’s Baba.

Translated with permission by the Prague Daily Monitor.

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