Villa Winternitz: Bitter History With Happy End
If you want to experience the Czech lifestyle during the golden era of the 1930s, villa Winternitz has an open door for you. Besides the guided tours, concerts, and exhibitions, you will learn a turbulent history of the villa that had been shaped by various regimes running through Czech history.
Villa Winternitz Today
It has been already three years since Villa Winternitz permanently opened its door. We can finally admire this architectural gem made by famous architect Adolf Loos, the author of the iconic claim “ornament is a crime”. The path to the opening was really tough, and you can learn about this extraordinary story in the following section.
Villa Winternitz has exceptional experiences to offer both English and Czech speakers. If you are an English speaker, you can visit the villa anytime from Sunday to Wednesday between 12:00 and 18:00. Grab a guide and explore the villa by yourself (you can also find guides in French, German, and Hebrew). If you prefer commented tour, you can arrange a visit beforehand, no problem.
During your visit, you can explore a cozy garden and modest entrance to the monumental living room. Here you can experience the typical features of architect Adolf Loos – segmented space with two floors that denies rules of flat living space. Underground is a space for staff taking care of the household. On the first floor are bedrooms of family members, an original bathroom, closet, and a huge terrace with a view to the different Prague quarters. On the second floor are two additional small rooms. Unfortunately, the original equipment is not in place anymore, besides the inbuilt wardrobe and few objects of family members. However, the furnishing of the villa evokes the atmosphere of its time.
On the second floor, you can learn more about the history and admire occasional exhibitions. Furthermore, you can enjoy several concerts during the year. Check the program for actual information. There is one additional specialty of the villa – you can rent it for a whole night and have it just for yourself.
If you are a Czech speaker, you have even more options. Vila Winternitz organizes regular classes of art history with several thematic focuses. Another interesting experience is theatre performances in the villa. I especially like the experimental performances of Pomezi group.
I promised you the story of the Winternitz family. Beginning in the 1930s, the Jewish lawyer Josef Winternitz ordered a project of a family house from famous architect Adolf Loos, who recently finished Muller Villa nearby. In 1932, the whole family, Mr. Winternitz with his wife Jenny, daughter Suzana and son Petr, moved to the villa and lived happily there until WW2. In 1941, they were forced to leave the villa and donate it to the Nazi regime. In 1943, the whole family was transported to concentration camp Terezín and then to Auschwitz. Josef Winternitz and his son Petr were immediately murdered in the gas chamber. Jenny, together with her daughter Suzana, were ordered to work in a factory and survived the war until liberation.
During the war, Prague municipality bought the villa from the German office and opened the kindergarten there (that served here until 1995). When Jenny with Suzana come back to Prague, they were requested to pay taxes to get the villa back. Of course, they had no money after several years in concentration camps, so they decided to donate their villa to Prague municipality. They never speak about villa and family history anymore. They made one exception. Once, they took their grandchild for a walk by the villa and talked about their happy life there before the war.
Beginning the 1990s, the ancestors of Jenny and Suzana asked for the return of family inheritance and got back the ruin in 1997. The whole family intensively worked on renovation between 1999 and 2002 and opened it only occasionally. However, since 2017, you can finally visit it during the regular opening time, and you might even meet a grandson of Suzane, David Cysař. Unfortunately, Jenny and Suzane never come back to their villa again.
Adolf Loos is known as the founder of modern architecture and his iconic claim that “ornament is a crime”. He was born in Brno in 1870 and continued his studies of architecture in Liberec and then in Vienna (without finishing any of them). His typical feature is thinking about architecture as a set of boxes instead of in standard floor plans – no ground floor, first and second floor, but rather interlinking them.
You can find the majority of his pieces in Vienna, but also in Czech cities such as Brno and Plzeň. In Prague, the most famous one is the Mullerova villa. Shortly after its realization, he created Villa Winternitz as the last piece of his life. Shortly after its realization, he died in 1933. You can admire the functionalism also in the building of the National Gallery in the Trade Fair Palace.
How to get to Villa Winternitz:
You can find villa Winternitz in a residential area up on the hill (so, a good view is secured). The easiest way is to get to metro station Anděl (yellow line), find a bus 137, and drive three stops to the bus station “Malvazinky”. Then, find an Albert supermarket and street Na Cihlářce (about 3 min walk from there).
Address: Na Cihlářce 10, Praha 5
Map: click here