21. 7. 2016 15:11
The life of the Straka Academy
About Straka Academy
The Straka Academy, a neo-baroque building perched on the left bank of the Vltava just down the road from Letná Plain, is best known to the general public as the seat of the Office of the Government of the Czech Republic. The Straka Academy was built according to a design by architect Václav Roštlapil on the site of a former Jesuit garden between 1891 and 1896 at a total cost (at the time) of more than CZK 1 million. The building takes up 4,000 m2, with the garden – landscaped by František Thomayer – spreading for a further 17,000 m2. Sculptors Josef Mauder and Celda Klouček contributed to the building’s décor. A prominent interior feature is the Chapel of St Wenceslas with the (subsequently lost) altarpiece by the painter Emanuel Dítě.
The original purpose
The Straka Academy was originally an educational institution for the indigent children of Czech noble families. The aim of the exhibition organised to celebrate the 240th anniversary of Count Straka’s foundation and the 120th anniversary of the Straka Academy is to shed light on the history and fortunes of this important edifice.
The seeds of the idea to help impoverished members of the Czech nobility were sown by Count Jan Petr Straka of Nedabylice in his will of 1710, in which he declared that, were the male line of the Strakas to die out, a foundation was to be established that could use its income to raise and educate poor Czech nobles. After circuitous negotiations with the Viennese authorities, the original plan came to fruition more than a hundred years down the line and the Straka Academy started to function as intended. The chance to study at the Straka Academy was a matter of prestige and attracted a great deal of interest during the institution’s heyday. One of its boarders, for example, was the famous First-Republic actor Theodor Pištěk.
Shortly after the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, the building was placed at the disposal of the Red Cross to serve as a makeshift hospital. The dormitories and classrooms were filled to the brim with 470 beds, while offices took up the ground floor and the assembly hall was converted into an operating room. After the end of the First World War, building was put into the service of the First Republic’s state institutions. During the occupation, the Straka Academy became the seat of the Protectorate’s government. This role was short-lived because the premises were ceded to the Imperial Court in 1942. On 15 May 1945, the Academy building was commandeered for the requirements of the Czechoslovak government and, by 1992, had played home to 20 postwar government politburos. Since 1993, the Straka Academy has been the seat of government of the Czech Republic.
The place’s history and stories, chronicled in unique photographs, are showcased by an exhibition entitled The Fortunes of the Straka Academy..