Prague, Czech Republic
A hot-pink confection of Bohemian Neo-Renaissance style, the Hotel Opera stands in the less touristy Nové Město, or “New Town,” quarter of storied Prague.
During the time of the German Empire it was a luxury to have a bathroom, especially one that you didn’t have to share with multiple other families. In fact, in 1910, only ten percent of Berliners were able to shower or bath in their own homes leading to sanitation crisis in the growing city. Stadtbad Oderberger Strase – also called Stadtbad Prenzlauer Berg – is a bathing establishment that was opened in 1902 in Berlin’s Prenzlauer Berg district as a place for the city dwellers to wash up.
In 1897, city councilor Ludwig Hoffmann delivered plans for a city bath on Oderberger street, and construction began in 1899. Three years later, the lavish Neo-Renaissance building was opened on February 1, 1902 with the ornamentation and sculptures crafted by the sculptor Otto Lessing.
The plastered brick building is approximately 61 meters long and 43 meters wide. Attention was paid to newly discovered sanitation practices, including making sure that the partitions in the shower stalls were 3 centimeters off the floor to allow for ventilation. Because of the traditional appearance of the façade and interiors, Hoffman was not given enough credit for his thoughtful designs by his modernist counterparts.
The swimming pool appears to be set within the confines of a church surface due to the three-story vaulted arch and window styles. It was a major social reference point for the local people as many had learned to swim here and in the first decades of the 20th century, the 63 public showers and bathtubs were extremely important for public hygiene.
Due to foundational issues, the baths were closed in 1986, and redevelopment plans were held up for political reasons. However, in 1990, a citizens’ initiative was founded to kickstart the renovations and a decade later, over 1,000 members of the co-operative bought the city bath.
Unfortunately, the co-operative’s grants fell through, however the adjoining language school announced interest in taking over the building. They would end up taking over the renovation and integrate the pool into their school allowing for some public access, while the rest of the building would be transformed into hotel rooms.
The official reopening of the baths took place on September 29, 2016. The adjoining 70-room boutique hotel opened shortly after. The rooms are partly furnished with historical building elements from the swimming pool area and the guest rooms contain photos of hotel pools from all over the world.
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