PRAGUE (AP) — For many of the millions of tourists who flood the Czech capital every year, taking a selfie in front of the Dancing House has become as important as walking across the medieval Charles Bridge.
The unusual building, which resembles a pair of dancers, is a rare example of contemporary architecture in Prague, which otherwise abounds with picturesque historical buildings, churches and monuments.
Originally designed as an office building, access for visitors has been limited. But now a part of it has been turned into a hotel, offering visitors the chance to stay in rooms with magnificent views over the city.
Here are some details about the architectural landmark and its new function:
The Dancing House is located on the bank of the Vltava river, next to the building where the late President Vaclav Havel lived most of his life. It was built on a plot of land that earlier housed a 19th-century neo-Renaissance building that was destroyed in a World War II air bombardment. Havel is said to have been the first who approached Czech-Croatian architect Vlado Milunic with a request to make an architectural study of a possible arts center. In 1992, the Dutch company Nationale Nederlanden acquired the land with the aim of construction an office building and Milunic approached famed architect Frank Gehry to participate. Their nine-story project was completed in 1996.
GINGER & FRED
Due to its shape, the Dancing House has become a widely used nickname for the building, but it is also known as Ginger and Fred after famed dancers Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. It's formed by two central towers; the one known as Ginger is made of glass and steel, while Fred has a concrete body and a metal head. The unusual architecture initially caused some controversy, with critics saying it doesn't fit its historical surroundings, but such arguments gradually disappeared as it drew the attention of an increasing number of tourists. The Czech National Bank issued a gold coin in 2005 with the Dancing House on it as the final piece of its "10 Centuries of Architecture" series. So far, a restaurant, a bar and a gallery have provided visitors a chance to look inside.
Apart from staying in an architectural masterpiece, the 21 rooms offer breathtaking views of the city and of Prague Castle in particular. They can be seen from the beds, and in some of the rooms even from the bathtub and the toilet. Some rooms in the Ginger tower have walls made of glass and breakfast is served in the restaurant at the top of the building. Prices start at 180 euros ($201) per night for a single room.
Five investors rented two stories in both towers for 10 years to operate the hotel. One of them was the former international soccer star, Vladimir Smicer, who was also the first person to test the new facility. The soccer player, who won the Champions League with Liverpool in 2005, said it was a surprise present for his wife to mark the 20th anniversary of their wedding. "It was a perfect sleep," Smicer said. "I think the Dancing House is an incredible place. It is a beautiful building, a world renowned building, and I think the views from our hotel give an incredible experience to our guests."