This first public exhibition of historicist architecture in the Czech lands was an important event in the Austro-Hungarian architectural world. It was held on the occasion of the Third Congress of the German Association of Engineers and Architects in Prague and, because there is no catalogue, it has no fixed name. Reports in the press do not mention the exhibition’s organizer, but the preparations were likely headed by either the chairman of the congress and professor at the Prague Technical University, Carl Wiesenfeld, or the chairman of the congress committee, Paul Strobach, the chief director at the Construction Directorate in Prague, who oversaw the promotion of “mutual communication about science and art” [Förster 1844]. The participating architects themselves installed the show in the Karolinum halls, now Charles University. Three halls have been designated for the exhibition of drawings depicting old and new works of architecture, studies, designs, models and paintings” [anonymous author 1844]. The themes presented at the exhibition partly reflected the themes of the congress: 1. the emerging historicism examined in contributions about reconstructions of medieval monuments (St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna, St. Vitus’s Cathedral in Prague, the history of architectural monuments in Bohemia, medieval monuments in Saxony, medieval mason lodges in Germany), 2. contemporary engineering and urban planning.
The reviewer for the Prague daily Bohemia highlighted drawings that showed the evolution of the Neo-Gothic in the Czech lands: the design for the memorial of Franz I by the Prague native Josef Kranner on the Prague embankment, executed by Bernard Grueber, and Grueber's "tomb church," probably one of the designs for the Berger family tomb in Svatý Jan pod Skalou [anonymous author 1844d]. The authors writing for the magazine Kunst-Blatt, the culture supplement of Morgenblatt für gebildete Stände (published between 1807 and 1865 in Stuttgart and Tübingen), criticized the exhibiting architects for having missed the opportunity to also present their works at the congress. For example, Ludwig Förster, the editor of the prominent Austrian periodical Allgemeine Bauzeitung, exhibited his model for the expansion of Vienna following the dismantling of the city’s fortification, that is, the design of the future Ringstrasse. In his paper at the congress, however, he discussed the use of original Gothic plans by modern construction companies. Some of the artifacts were exhibited for the second time, particularly those associated with the change of state religion in Prussia in 1842, and so the critiques and reviews paid less attention to them. The emerging generation of Austrian architects was strongly represented at the Prague exhibition. These architects included students and younger colleagues of Pietro Nobile, the director of the school of architecture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, none of whom exhibited at the previous shows of the Association of German Architects and Engineers in Leipzig and Bamberg. These exhibitions were likely open for the public for only a short period of time [Egle 1843].
The 1844 Prague exhibition was important because of its association with the congress of engineers and architects. It was the first architecture show to feature a discussion about current problems in urbanism and architecture employing the Neo-Gothic historicism, a style that both local and international architects had already been using in their practice. The Czech nobility turned to Gothic designs when commissioning the refurbishment of the Prague Castle for the coronation of the Czech king Ferdinand V in 1836. Influenced by their travels to England in 1825, 1838 and 1839, prominent Czech aristocrats Ernst Franz Harrach and Jan Adolf Schwarzenberg used the Neo-Gothic for their country residences.
anonymous author 1844: anonymous author, Bemerkungen über die Ausstellung bei Gelegenheit der Architekten Versammlung, Bohemia XVII, 1844, no. 108, 8. 9. pp. 3–4
Egle 1843: Joseph Egle, Bericht über die Ausstellung zu Bamberg, Allgemeine Bauzeitung VIII, 1843, pp. 181–196
Förster 1844: Ludwig Förster [?], Ueber die Ausstellung während der Architektenversammlung in Prag, Allgemeine Bauzeitung IX, 1844, pp. 292–294
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Claus Döhmer, „In welchem Style sollen wir bauen?“ Architekturtheorie zwischen Klassizismus und Jugendstil, München 1976, p. 48, 114
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Věra Vostřelová, Zkamenělá hudba: Tvorba architekta Bernharda Gruebera 1806–1882, Praha 2018, pp. 114–115
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Anonymous author, Bemerkungen über die Ausstellung bei Gelegenheit der Architekten Versammlung, Bohemia XVII, 1844, no. 107, 6. 9., pp. 3–4; no. 108, 8. 9. pp. 3–4pdf
Anonymous author, Die deutsche Architektenversammlung in Prag, Kunst Blatt XXV, 1844, no. 81, 8. 10., s. 340; no. 88, 31. 10., pp. 367–368pdf
Anonymous author, Wissenschaftliche und Kunstnachrichten, Oesterreichisch-kaiserliche Priviletierte Wiener Zeitung XLVII, 1844, 6. 9., pp. 3–4pdf
Ludwig Förster [?], Die dritte Versammlung deutscher Architekten und Ingeniure, Allgemeine Bauzeitung IX, 1844, pp. 237–250pdf
Prof. [Karel] Wiesenfeld, Prag, Prager Zeitung X, 1844, no. 91, 13. 6., p. 1
Prag. Ztg., Böhmen, Oesterreichisch-kaiserliche Priviletierte Wiener Zeitung XLVII, 1844, 15. 8., p. 3