The area of present day Smíchov, occupying the left bank of the Vltava River south of the Petřín Hill, was formed by the creeks that flow in the western-eastern direction into the Vltava River and that sculpted the deep valleys. The focal point of the settlement of Smíchov must be sought in the narrow plain by the river, whose banks changed frequently. Smíchov had since 1838 been a suburb (which was in 1849 designated the site of the district hetman) and since 1903 an independent town. In 1920 (effective in 1922) Smíchov became a part of Greater Prague.
At the beginning of the 21st century, Smíchov is one of Prague’s administrative districts; specifically, it is a part of Prague 5. The cadastral area of Smíchov borders on several Prague districts, with Břevnov and Malá Strana in the north, Hlubočepy in the south, Radlice in the southwest, Košíře and Motol in the west. In the east, Smíchov is demarcated by the Vltava River. Nové Město, Vyšehrad and Podolí are located on the opposite bank. Two islands (Dětský and Císařská louka) in the Vltava River are a part of the Smíchov cadaster. Smíchov’s life was not as closely bound to the river as was the case of Podskalí on the right bank – in spite of the existence of numerous mills and the water works in Malá Strana. However, without the adjacent river, Smíchov would never have in the 19th century become an industrial town. In the course of history, the area of the present day Smíchov had close bonds with Malá Strana and Zlíchov; it shares a long history with Košíře and Jinonice. The number of inhabitants started growing significantly in the second half of the 19th century when it doubled in the course of twenty years; in the 1890 was almost 33,000. And yet, two other Prague suburbs were even more populous than Smíchov: Žižkov and Vinohrady, which had a direct connection with the center of Prague, without the traffic impediment that was posed by the Vltava River. The number of inhabitants grew also in the first half of the 20th century and reached its maximum in 1961 (63,330 inhabitants). Since that date, the number of inhabitants of Smíchov continues to decrease. In 2011, there were 33,172 inhabitants living on the area of 705.1 ha; the population density was 4,705 inhabitants per km².
The local geographic name Smíchov comes, according to Ivan Lutterer and Rudolf Šrámek, from the personal name Smiech (which means laughter, gaiety), the name Smíchov, therefore, means belonging to Smiech (Smiechův) or to Smích (Smíchův). However, different interpretations exist as well.
The area of present day Smíchov has been continually occupied since the Neolithic period. Since the 14th century, the focal points of later urbanization, an older village Újezd and then a newly planted Smíchov, were located in a short distance from each other in the plain not far from Vltava’s bank, separated by the Motolský Stream. There were also homesteads scattered in the hills, and the landscape had for long centuries an agricultural character. In the early modern period, the northern part of the present day cadaster of Smíchov, separated since the end of the 17th century from Prague’s Malá Strana with a massive baroque fortification, was transformed into a recreation zone of the leading noble families, who built follies and villas with decorative gardens here. Many of them became cultural and social centers. The 19th century brought a massive transformation: Smíchov became an industrial district, whose population, as a result, grew significantly. Smíchov’s leaders, since the end of the first third of the century, in which Smíchov gained the status of a suburb, began systematically to build public buildings. The flat areas of Smíchov were filled with continuous, several story high blocks of buildings; Smíchov was gaining an urban character.
The immediate vicinity of the metropolis and the close relationship that bound Smíchov to Prague influenced its formation in several different ways. What is extraordinary, in comparison with the majority of urban settlements in the Czech Republic, is that Smíchov lacks an unequivocal city center. And even though three squares were formed in the course of the 19th century, only one of them was of a medieval origin (Kostelní/Arbesovo Square) and, what is more, after some hesitation that lasted decades, it was not chosen as the main public space of the new suburb (town) with the greatest potential.
In the rugged terrain of the valleys of the the Motolský and Radlický Streams and, generally, in the more elevated areas, the building boom did not begin until after the creation of Czechoslovakia and after the creation of Greater Prague. The roads, especially those going in the north-south direction, starting from Újezdská Gate in the direction of Zbraslav and of Plzeň, branching off from the aforementioned road at the intersection U Anděla, were for centuries the main axes of the urban development of Smíchov. In the second half of the 20th century, however, the planned development of transport infrastructure threatened to extinguish extensive parts of the district. These area reclamations were, however, realized only in part. Smíchov retained its industrial character; it transformed to serving primarily residential and commercial-administrative functions only at the turn of the 20th century.
As many large European cities, in which the industrial revolution significantly interfered with their social, economic and urban development, Smíchov also underwent a dramatic transformation, which in its case was not the first. As in other cities, one can find here a number of brownfields, abandoned areas with unused, dilapidated buildings, remnants of the industrial boom that lasted more than a hundred years. The largest of them is located in the vicinity of Smíchov train station and in the catchment area of the former Walter’s factory in Jinonice. The central part of Smíchov underwent a fundamental change when the industrial complexes were replaced by distinctive multi-story buildings serving office-commercial functions. The block Zlatý Anděl, which dominates the historical intersection, had become its symbol. In relation to the metro station and along with the adjacent public space, at the beginning of the 21st century, it fulfills the function of the actual center of Smíchov. In the context of all of Prague, Smíchov is important for its traffic function and is characterized as a residential and administrative-commercial district.
In 1993, an urban protected zone (of 220 ha) was created in Smíchov; it includes all of central Smíchov, Malostranský Cemetery, Kinský Garden etc. The question remains, how modern society would treat the above-mentioned areas, abandoned by industry and railways, especially in the southern part of the cadaster.
Archeological finds (especially important discoveries made in the recent years) testify to the existence of a practically uninterrupted settlement community in the area of Smíchov since the time of the first agriculturalists to the present time – that is to say, for the past seven thousand years. A fragment of Avar-Slavic belt ironwork from the 8th century is the oldest medieval artifact found in the present day cadaster Smíchov. There are two Slavic skeleton burial grounds from a slightly older period, the 10th century. The one located more to the south was destroyed during construction in front of the Smíchov train station (1949–1954). The second burial area can be located, based on finds from the 19th century, to the area of Kinský Garden. The settlement that belonged to the burial areas had not yet been unearthed. In contrast, a settlement layer from about the 12th or 13th centuries of about 50 centimeters had been found in the vicinity of the present day Arbesovo Square, which suggests that contemporary settlement had been concentrated in the immediate vicinity of a Romanesque church, St. James (later Sts. Philip and James), which used to be located here on the Jakubské (now called Arbesovo) Square since its founding, probably in the second half of the 12th century. It was located in the village called Újezd, which as one of the two settlement cores of later Smíchov was located in the space between the foot of the Petřín Hill and the Vltava River. The area of present day Smíchov belongs to one of the oldest settlement enclaves in the immediate vicinity of Prague –then the castle of the Přemyslid dukes and the adjacent settlements. The fortification of Malá Strana divided the village Újezd and the church of St. James. The church, as evident from the first written sources (in 1333 it mentions the church as being on the outside of the suburb (“ecclesia s. Jacobi apostoli sita extra suburbium ... civitatis“) found itself on the outside oft he fortifications. The oldest building memorial in Smíchov was torn down in 1891. The property rights to Újezd were held by monastery St. George in Hradčany (who also owned the patronage of St. James’s church), and in part also by other ecclesiastical institutions. The high medieval development in Smíchov formed along the road to the south, towards Zlíchov and Zbraslav, in relation Újezd’s road axis (present day Karmelitská Street), which passes through Újezdská Gate.
The key moment, which gave shape to this space, was the foundation of the Carthusian monastery Hortus Beatae Mariae by John of Luxembourg in 1342. The first Carthusian monastery in Bohemia was endowed by its founder, among others also by the gift of Temlin’s manor house in Újezd (“… curiam Toemlini de Monte in Ugesd prope Pragam, super rippam fluminis Wultawe sitam“). The charterhouse became known for its extraordinary cultural significance, rich library and by the literary activities of its members, its significance spread across Central Europe (in part because it was from here that other Carthusian houses, for example in Gdaňsk, were planted). According to the founding charter, it must have been a large area occupying the bank of the Vltava River to the east of the road to Zlíchov, which included also older settlement formations. It probably occupied the area between the church of St. James’s and the original river-bed of the Motolský Stream on the southern edge of present day Square 14. října. Behind the wall (discovered in 2000 by archeological research) and behind the river-bed of the stream there were the monastery’s fields all the way to Vyšehrady’s ferry. The charterhouse was burned down on 1419 and dissolved although unsuccessful attempts to renew it or to found it again were made repeatedly until the early 18th century. What was left in the area was the place name, Kartouzská (Charterhouse) Street, which runs in a certain distance from the aforementioned place.
There is no direct evidence that the church of St. James was burnt down during the Hussite wars (along with the charterhouse or later) although it can be presupposed. It is certain that in 1446 it still served its purpose – as a parish church for the villages of Smíchov and Radlice. Extensive description of the church’s incomes, prepared in that year, is also extraordinary from the perspective of local micro-topography.
The origins of the village Smíchov can most probably be placed in the last quarter of the 14th century. The oldest written evidence with the toponymy Smíchov come from the early 15th century, but local settlers who belonged to the church of St. James (“ecclesia sancti Jacobi ante Cartusium“), surrounded by a cemetery, are mentioned in the visitation protocol of the archdeacon Paul from Janovice (1380). Charter dated to January 22nd 1386 is another important source of information about the development of local settlement networks. It suggests that the prior of the charterhouse had the field between the road to Zlíchov and Vltava River (in the area between the Motolský Stream and Vyšehrad’s ferry, that is to say present day street Na Bělidle and Vyšehradská) measured twice. What emerged were 24 equal parts – plots, for the construction of 24 houses. Thusly founded village Smíchov was located to the south of the present day intersection U Anděla.
There is evidence of mills on the Vltava River since the last third of the 14th century. The Carthusians owned the island (now a part of the Dětský Island), where an early renaissance water works tower, now called Malostranská or Petržilkovská, was constructed in place of the mill. It served to supply Smíchov with water, and later also the follies, villas and garden fountains in the northernmost part of present day Smíchov. Since the beginning of the 16th century, the first decorative gardens were constructed behind the Újezdská Gate. The abundant fields and meadows, as well as hop fields and vineyards, gave this area a generally rural and agricultural character. Estates were founded in their vicinity. We have specific news about them from the 16th century, but service buildings in the vineyards (whether they took on the sentry character or they were, for example, wine presses) existed much earlier.
Property rights and home ownership in Smíchov were very fragmented, following the extinction of the charterhouse and after the secularization of its estates. Burghers from Prague’s towns owned the real estate and, especially, the surrounding vineyards and gardens. Prague, which until 1547, when Smíchov – along with Újezd – found itself on the list of estates, which the ruler had confiscated from the rebellious town, was Smíchov’s high authority. Smíchov was the property of Old Town again in 1594. In 1622, it was acquired as a collateral by Pavel Michna from Vacínov, in years 1678–1683, the Michnas were replaced by the president of the curial chamber Jiří Ludvík from Sinzendorf. In the following year, Ferdinand Vilém duke from Schwarzenberg purchased the estate Jinonice, which comprised a village of the same name as well as Butovice and Smíchov, in a public auction; he purchased it for his son Jan Adolf. The Schwarzenberg family, who are commemorated by a number of local names across Smíchov (Na Knížecí (Ducal Road), the fact that Schwarzenberg’s Avenue was the original name for Nádražní Street and others) held the estate until 1920. Újezd along with Košíře was acquired in the early 1550s by the noble burgher from Nové Město Adam Myslík from Hyršov. When, thirty years later (in 1585), his son Vilém Myslík sold his estates in Košíře to the highest chancellor of the Czech kingdom Adam II. From Hradec (1549–1596), Újezd had nine subjects. Košíře and Újezd after the death of lord Adam left the insolvent dominium of the lords from Hradec and, until 1597, became a part of the estates of the supreme burgrave. This property and legal status lasted until the first third of the 19th century.
We have iconographic sources depicting the territory of present day Smíchov since the second half of the 16th century. Although the extant vedute are not topographically accurate (on general views of Prague, Smíchov is usually depicted schematically), they give an idea about the general character of the local landscape. The landscape is used primarily for agriculture; the space is divided by high walls, which separate the individual estates. Between them are paths and roads. This is the depiction of Smíchov as depicted by Václav Jansa from the beginning of the 19th century. On the plans from that time period that feature the entire city of Prague, four Prague towns, the area of present day Smíchov is recorded only due to its location – in close proximity to Malá Strana, so that the requisite page could comfortably feature Nové Město. Plans, both schematic printed ones and detailed manuscript ones, clearly reflect the division of the territory of present day Smíchov into two parts, divided by the Motolský Stream. In addition to the bird-eye view by Josef Daniel Huber from 1769, which survived as a extensive drawing with an unusual level of topographical accuracy not only in the territories of Prague towns but also in their hinterland, the other kind of individual manuscript plans that were preserved in a number of archives and libraries not only in Prague (the oldest extant ones come from the end of the 17th century) are topographically important as well.
We lack more accurate information about the scattered development in the cadaster of present day Smíchov until the last third of the 18th century. In 1785, Josefský cadaster records 60 street numbers in Smíchov itself, as well as additional 64 street numbers in Nesypka (Na Hřebenkách), Some estates were recorded separately even though now they belong to the cadaster of Smíchov. Soon thereafter, the number of street numbers in Smíchov began sharply to increase and in 1836 there were 196 street numbers. However, it is reasonable to presume that the triplication of buildings in Smíchov was not only caused by nascent urbanization, but also by the inclusion of numerous vineyard estates within the cadaster of Smíchov, which older sources did not do. In 1857, Smíchov had as many as 237 street numbers. In 1654, Smíchov, which found itself in the domain of Hlubočepy belonged to the Slánský district. After regional reforms in 1751, it belonged to Rakovnický district. The village Smíchov belonged to the above mentioned church of Sts. Philip and James. The parish was finally established in 1749 and it comprised villages Smíchov, Zlíchov, Radlice, Hlubočepy and Červený Mlýn. The church was at that time reconstructed in the baroque style; adjacent was a cemetery with a morgue surrounded by a stone wall.
The area of present day Smíchov immediately bordered on Prague, but since the medieval times it was clearly demarcated by a fortified wall. After the expansion of Malá Strana, Charles IV had a new set of fortifications built in the 1360s; the fortifications remain extant to this day in a segment longer than one kilometer between Újezd, crossing Petřín to the Strahovský Monastery. In 1650, emperor Ferdinand III decided that a baroque bastion fortification ought to be built; the 14 km long fortifications was not finished until 1727. It was comprised of 20 bastions, whose numbering began in Újezd. Újezdská Gate was re-purposed again as one of the ten gates in the new fortification; it was situated in the curtain wall between second and third bastion. This baroque gate served its purpose until 1862, when it ceased to be sufficient and was walled up. It was replaced by another gate with greater capacity, with three portals a few meters down, built in the style of English Tudor New Gothic. On Smíchov’s side behind the moat there was a protective zone, which remained undeveloped and was tens of meters wide.
As mentioned above, the northern side of the Smíchov’s plain, east to the main road in the area between the fortifications and the Motolský Stream, began to transform into a prestigious recreation area as early as the renaissance period. In the course of the 18th century, the original estates and follies were rebuilt into palatial garden villas with decorative gardens and parks. These recreation and representative complexes thus complemented – as they did in other metropoles – the structure of the settlements by leading noble families. Those families owned, in addition to country estates and palaces in Prague, recreation residences outside of the fortified walls; the following families owned residences in Smíchov: Slavata, Eggenberg, Buquoy, Kounici, Defoursi, Clam Gallas or Kinský. The folly of Jan Oldřich from Eggenberg was among the most important complexes with a garden from about 1650 (the folly was torn down around 1890). The garden belonging to the counts Slavata was established probably between 1678 and 1687, when the folly (Neugebäude) was also constructed. The complex was transformed into one of the oldest charterhouse in Smíchov – Przibram’s factory, the folly was torn down in 1899.
The garden of the Jesuit convent St. Batholomew was located nearby, closer to the Vltava River. Next to the main house, since 1735 there was also a pavilion designed by K. I. Dientzenhofer (which was torn down in the early 1930s). Following the dissolution of the order, the site was turned into the botanical garden of the Prague University. Due to repeated flooding, it was moved to the Na Slup Street in Nové Město, where it was opened in 1898. Further to the south, Kilián Ignác Dientzenhofer built his own villa between 1725–1728. In the 1760s, the Boquoy family established here and on adjacent land a magnificent baroque garden. The original of Dientzenhofer’s villa is the only one that remains to the present day, although only as a torso – it is known as Portheimka (according to the Porges from Portheim, family of entrepreneurs, who had purchased the complex in 1828.)
These and other follies and gardens became social centers. Villa Bertramka serves as a good example from the end of the 18th century; it was located a little bit higher, and re-constructed from an estate to a suburban villa after 1743 by the couple Bertramový from Betram; it is well known thanks to visits by W. A. Mozarta at the residence of Dušková family (in 1787 and 1791).
The location in the close proximity to Prague near important roads did not only bring with it numerous benefits. The area of Smíchov, as well as the entire region of Prague, suffered significant damages several times in the course of the early medieval period, especially during the siege of Prague and during repeated battles for the city. The area suffered great damages during the invasion of Pasovský armies (1611) and again during the repeated sieges and conquests of Prague in the course of the Thirty Year War. The tax documents from 1654 mentions, aside from a freeholder’s estate, only 16 cottages and houses, of them only one inhabited. The entire surroundings of Prague suffered greatly between 1741–1742 as well as two years later; it was least disrupted during the Seven Years’ War (1757), when the Prussian army intent on bombarding Prague was located in the hills above Smíchov. These military operations meant another catastrophe for the vineyards, hop fields and gardens in Smíchov. Tereziánský cadaster from the second half of the 18th century records only eight householders in Smíchov. However, sources also suggest that this area rebounded relatively quickly.
First manufactories were being established in Smíchov since the mid-18th century; it was thanks to them that the development between the main street and the bank of Vltava slowly became more condensed. Probably the very first manufactory in the area of Prague, mentioned as early as 1750, was a place for the processing of leather in the garden complex belonging to Jan from Westerhold. In contrast, the Kinský family built a villa in the 1920s on the hills of Petřín; it was built by the Viennese architect Heinrich Koch and it dominated the surrounding romantic park. The complex, which was not unusual in the area of present day Košíře and Motol, became one of the symbols of trips that inhabitants of Prague made to the area south of town.
The development in Smíchov in the first half of the 19th century was depicted on a number of vedute and, especially on maps of the stable cadaster (basic sketch from 1840); it can be characterized as a diverse combination of crumbling follies and their gardens, in part under transformation into factory productions, emerging several story blocks of flats, or emergency housing near factory courtyards and estates, combined with an effort to build (public) buildings that are characteristic of towns. The introduction of a ground school in the reconstructed parish building (1786), catchment school for the nearest surrounding villages, and the abolition of cemetery by the church of Sts. Philip and James (1791) were among the first signs of modernization (undertaken as part of the reforms by enlightened monarchs). Malostranský Cemetery near Plzeň road at the edge of Košíře became the new joint cemetery for Smíchov, Hradčany and Malá Strana. The cemetery was founded by the Italian Hospital in Malá Strana along with the ambulance and the chapel of Blessed Virgin Mary at the time of the plague between 1679–1680. It also served its purpose during other bouts of the plague. In the 19th century, it was also used during epidemics of cholera, which repeatedly afflicted Smíchov.
The year 1833 is a milestone in the history of Smíchov; in that year, Smíchov gained, by the rescript of emperor Ferdinand V. Habsburg from January 15th , the status of a suburban area. The first development plan comes from that year as well.
The growing importance of Smíchov was caused primarily by the development of textile, chemical and food industries. The manufactories for calico printing were the most important. The first one (founded in 1814) was owned by Aron Beer Przibram, and the second one (founded in 1815), located on the site of Buquoy’s gardens, was owned by brothers Moses and Leopold Judah Porgesové von Portheim. The most important operation in Smíchov, the factory for machines and wagons of František Ringhoffer, was founded later, in 1852, in the triangle area between present day Plzeňská, Štefánikova and Kartouzská Streets. Numerous additions on newly purchased land were added to the factory in subsequent years. F. Ringhoffer also served, in the 1860s, as the mayor of Smíchov and the representative for the election district Smíchov. The composition of industrial operations, that were steadily added to, changed in the last third of the century, when the glories of the textile factories slowly faded into the background. The importance of engineering, but also of leather, glass and food (especially beer brewing) grew in importance.
Agricultural production, located on the lands of former vineyard estates, especially extensive gardens, which supplied the nearby Prague with fruit, vegetables and flowers, retained its importance; some of the original estates were leased and used for entrepreneurial activities. These lands were mined for building materials; a few brick kilns were established.
After the abolition of patrimonial administration, the political community of Smíchov (1849) was founded, with Košíře and Újezd as their constituent parts. Whereas Košíře separated themselves from Smíchov in 1864 and subsequently became an independent town (1895), Smíchov retained the remainder of the former village Újezd for ever. The name Újezd survives to the present day only in local and street names. Starting in 1850, Smíchov became the center of the district administration and of other administrative institutions.
Demographic and economic development and the political and administrative functions, which the suburb now fulfilled, grew in importance, encouraged building growth (in 1869, Smíchov had 15,382 in habitants in 350 buildings and in 1890 it had 32,646 inhabitants in 678 buildings, that is more than doubling the number), the overall modernization of the town and the construction of public buildings. An older building near the north-south road (present day Nádražní and Štefánikova Streets), which stood to the north of the intersection U Anděla underwent several reconstructions in 1866 and 1874 (Josef Schulz) and was reconstructed into a representative building of the town hall. In the 1850s, Smíchov had its own post office, and gas works, which supported the public illumination of the town. The main road was paved between 1866 and 1867. The entrepreneur Salomon Przibram donated the land for the first independent school building, which in 1857 replaced the school in the old parish building, which was by now completely unsatisfactory. A number of elementary and secondary schools were constructed before the beginning of the 20th century. With the growing concentration of the population, the question of improving the hygienic conditions became more and more important. Smíchov finished building an expensive town waterworks in 1872. The water supply, although only with service (non-drinking) water filtered from the Vltava River, was in subsequent years expanded to include surrounding villages. In 1876, a new cemetery Na Malvazinkách was opened after a lengthy discussion. In 1884, the work on the town workhouse was completed, and the year 1901 saw the completion of a spectacular Home for the Deaf and Dumb at the foot of the Petřín Hill. At the end of the century, three monastic institutions were added to Smíchov: the religious house of St. Charles Borromeus in the present day Drtinova Street (1869), the convent of the nuns of the Sacred Heart of Jesus – the neo-gothic convent from 1882–1884 and, in its vicinity, the most massive building of the convent of Benedictines with the church of St. Gabriel (1889–1891). The community lacked a hospital until the great flood in 1890, at which point it was threatened by infectious diseases and the district hospital for infectious diseases (town’s sick house) was established. Since 1861, Smíchov had its first financial institution - Občanská záložna, which functioned successfully since the 1870s in its own building in Štefánikova Avenue. The cultural offering was also relatively rich; it included several theatres and the community life continued to develop, including Sokol.
The rail road played an important role in the development of Smíchov. The train station of the Česká Západní Line was opened in 1862 as the foundation of a quickly growing complex of train station, which filled the entire southern portion of the cadaster. The train station of the Bustěhradská Line was added in the 1870s (1872), and, of course, the Pražská Spojovací Line, which joined Smíchov with the present day Main Train Station using the railway bridge. The railway station of the Pražsko-duchcovská Line was added to them (1873). After the completion of the railway in 1862, the construction activities in Smíchov intensified. Whereas living quarters continued to spread from the north along the main road, the center of Smíchov and its southern part continued to be set apart for industry.
Thanks to the railroad, Smíchov gained a direct access to the right bank of the river, which had previously been accessible only with a ferry or by crossing the Charles’s Bridge from Malá Strana to Staré Město, and since 1841 also by crossing the chain bridge of emperor František I. from Újezd to Nové aleje (present day Národní Street) in Nové Město. In 1901, it was replaced by a new bridge (present day Bridge Legií). In the meantime, Smíchov built its own bridge in 1878, the bridge of František Palacký, which led to Nové Město. The transportation conditions at Smíchov were much improved by Otletova koňská dráha (horse train), which replaced omnibuses on the route between the chain bridge and Smíchov’s train station (1876). It worked until 1905, when the entire route was electrified. Between 1900-1901, the older rail bridge was replaced by a new double-track bridge with a foot bridge for pedestrians. According to the oldest regulatory plan (1838), Smíchov was designed more as a residential quarter with typical blocks of flats rather than an as a center for big industries. The regulatory plan from 1862 followed this conception. But the second half of the 19th century was decisive for shaping the face of Smíchov that exists to this day; at that time, residential and industrial development competed with one another, and the development in the area of present day Smíchov continued to become denser. The building wave continued from the Újezdská Gate in the north along the main street to the south. Since the mid-19th century, the residential buildings, which were built primarily into gardens, were enclosed by the surrounding development into blocks.
It was not until 1874 that the Prague baroque fortification was demolished. It was in 1901 that the Prague magistrate also took over the bastion fortification of Malá Strana and Hradčany. The segment that bordered on Smíchov was, however, importantly changed even earlier (first in relation to the construction of the bridge to Újezd in 1841, later the ditch was filled out, in 1891 the old Újezdská Gate was demolished and a year later the new, main part of the bastions was demolished in 1892). The area of the second bastion of the baroque fortification and of the adjacent foreland of the Újezdská Gate was turned into a square with barracks (built in 1886–1892). In 1886, the northern border of Smíchov was re-drawn, and the northernmost part of Smíchov became the site for the most ostentatious several story buildings, built by well-known builders on the riverbanks south of the Vítězná Street after 1874.
The beginning of the building boom in Smíchov falls between 1868 and 1873. The changes undertaken in this period decided about the location of the new center of Smíchov, which was placed in the vicinity of the new Catholic Church and the town hall. The regulatory plan of Smíchov from1838 considers two variants for the placement of the new building of the church: the first called for a replacement of the original small church in the expanded Arbesovo Square. The second variant put the church on the above-mentioned newly planned Square (Ringplatz) near Plzeňská Street. Before any new construction was undertaken in this space, Ringhoffer’s factory was established nearby and later expanded in this direction. Another potentially serious candidate for the location of the new church discussed in 1874 was Smíchov’s market, located on the Husova Street (present day Drtinova Street), which was in the original regulation planned as a central, north-to-south road replacing main road; however, the realization of this idea was made impossible by the expansion of the Ringhoffer’s factory. We have a dated proposal (from 1876) for locating the church in the vicinity of the partly demolished Portheimka by architect Josef Schulz, who was also the author of the oldest proposals for the Smíchov church from the beginning of the 1870s. Since the mid-1870s, the church was definitely planned for this location, for the square later called Square 14. října opposite the Smíchov’s town hall. From several proposals, the pseudo-renaissance proposal authored by Antonín Viktor Barvitius was selected (the church was constructed between 1881 and 1885).
The oldest blocks of flats built on a previously undeveloped area (greenfields) that is to say not as additions to older buildings, were built after 1860s in Holečkova, Kroftova, Drtinova and Zubatého Streets. Until the 1890s, there were no significant building projects on the lands near the river Vltava, which had been reserved for industry. The terrain, which sloped down from the main street to the Vltava River, also impeded the construction of blocks of flats; potential buildings sites thus found themselves in the floodplains. The planned roads – later streets – were, therefore, built on the high embankment. Big floods damaged Smíchov especially in 1845, 1862, 1872 and 1890; in addition to the Vltava River, Smíchov was also often threatened by the Motolský Stream, which was, similarly to the Radlický Stream, turned into canals (definitively in 1910). The construction of an embankment, which took place in stages from the north to the south after the 1870s, was supposed to prevent flooding. Janáčkovo Embankment (then called Ferdinandovo Embankment) then continued as Hořejší Embankment. Intercepting harbor for rafts was built further up the stream, south of the railway bridge. The building of the harbor of the emperor František Josef was done by Lanna between 1899–1903. By removing the soil from the riverbank on the Smíchov side, they created an artificial, 1.4km long island called Císařská louka. In the present day, the island as well as Smíchov’s harbor are used for recreation.
The economic crisis of the 1870s, which accelerated the demise of both of the charterhouses, served as an impulse to change the form of development in Smíchov. The end of production and their physical demise, which took place sometime around 1900, made these areas also available for residential development. (In 1872, the Porges’s and Przibram’s weaving and calico printing operations joined into one corporation, called Prag-Smichower Kattun Manufactur.) In the case of Ringhoffer’s factory, the crisis had the opposite effect. The factories focused on production and did not realize any plans for transmigration outside of Smíchov. The western edge of central Smíchov, which the urban designers dedicated to residential development, thus thanks to the wagon factory became the second industrial core of the town. The brewery corporation, later called Staropramen, also developed successfully; with its building expansion, it affected the street plan in the area between the train station and the Vltava River, south of the Vltavská Street. The silhouette, characteristic for any European industrial town of the 19th century, which was dominated by numerous smokestacks towering over massive factory buildings and densely adjoined blocks of residential buildings, was completed in the early 1870s by smaller buildings of the marvelous workers’ colony on Mrázovka Hill. The collection that was later expanded was, however, demolished in the early 1980s.
At the turn of the 19th century, Smíchov was the fifth most populous Czech town (after Prague, Plzeň, Žižkov and Vinohrady), formally, however, it remained a mere Prague suburb. This was changed by an imperial edict from February 22 1903, which elevated Smíchov to the status of an independent town (in 1904, Smíchov received its official town emblem, which it had used up until that point only unofficially). The modern character of the city was completed in 1897 by electric light from its own power station; the turn of the century also saw the appearance of the first electric trams in the streets. Thanks to its participation in a joint project for construction of water works in Kárané, which was a joint project of Prague, Smíchov, Královské Vinohrady, Žižkov and Karlín between 1906 and 1913, Smíchov finally gained its own source of high-quality drinking water.
Central Smíchov became denser with the construction of blocks of Art Nouveau buildings that had been limited by older regulatory plans. The beginning of the 20th century brought a significant novelty to the urban development of the town: the garden towns. Those were realized on the hillsides of Smíchov. The former vineyard estates were included into the structure of the town.
The World War I proved to be a difficult test, especially, for the inhabitants of the town. Everything was subordinated to the war economy; there were shortages of food and coal. Education in schools was limited. Some parts of school buildings were changed into military hospitals. Strikes and demonstrations became more common, and sometime turned into riots. On October 14th 1918, Bohemia witnessed a successful general strike against the exportation of grain from the Czech lands. The Czech independence was proclaimed in the National House in Smíchov as well as in a number of other places, more radical speakers attempted to declare a Soviet republic. The national Czechoslovak council declared on October 14th to the allied states through Edvard Beneš the establishment of a temporary Czechoslovak government. After the foundation of the republic, Smíchov’s Kostelní Square was renamed to the Square 14. října (Square of October 14th).
The negotiations about joining Smíchov to Prague had been conducted since the 1890s. The negotiations were unsuccessful probably because of economic interests, especially different house and residential tax in Prague and in the suburbs. The so-called Greater Prague, which covered the area of 17,164 ha and which comprised Smíchov as well, was declared by law No. 144/1920 Sb. (effective after January 1st 1922). The borders of the political district Smíchov were adjusted in relation with that. In 1923, the area of the city Prague was divided into 19 districts. Smíchov was put under Prague XVI. The political district Smíchov was abolished on June 1st 1927, but the merging of districts Smíchov and Karlín gave rise to the new district Prague-venkov with the site in Prague.
The number of inhabitants continued to increase: it was 51,791 (1910), 56,249 (1921), 61,854 (1930). Smíchov exploited the new status of the most important part of the district and, as usual, its location, now practically in the very center of the metropolis. The location of administrative offices with Prague or national sphere of influence further stimulated the development of the district. A number of public buildings (building of the Ministry of Public Works, the temporary location for the Ministry of Public Health, the former convent of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus became the seat of the Ministry of Post and Telegraph; schools, insurance houses, a complex of Women Homes (homes for single working women) and convalescent hospital located in garden town.) The cultural and social life between the wars in Smíchov, which in many ways continued the communal traditions of the second half of the 19th century, was quite rich.
Smíchov kept its industrial character throughout the interwar period as well as a reputation of a restless town with an important tradition of workers’ movement. The Communist Party of Czechoslovakia appealed to this tradition and exploited it. The merging congress of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia took place in 1921 in the National House in Smíchov, as did many other communist congresses and conferences. Ringhoffer’s Enginneering (since 1911 a part of the concern Ringhoffer’s Works Inc.). The factory expanded in the pre-war period, of the new factories, the production in Kopřivnice was the most important. The concern changed its name to Ringhoffer-Tatra and remained among the most important industrial works as did brewery Staropramen.
Religious buildings of reformed churches became an inseparable part of the town in the interwar Czechoslovakia. Church of the brethren had been located in Smíchov since 1902 (now in Vrázova Street, and as a new building was included into the surrounding block of flats). In 1928, the church of Czech evangelical brethren began the construction of an evangelical house of J. A. Komenského in the street called Na Santošce. The Czechoslovak (Hussite) Church was founded in January of 1920 in the National House in Smíchov, but it did not manage to build its own house until after 1934 in the vicinity of the abovementioned church of Czech evangelical brethren in Na Santošce Street (the original proposal was for the very center of Smíchov - Arbesovo Square). The functionalist reconstruction of the synagogue in Smíchov in Plzeňská Street (completed in 1931) is an important sacred building of the First Republic period. The plans were authored by Leopold Ehrmann, the author of Franz Kafka’s tombstone, who had also prepared plans for the reconstruction of the memorial hall in the Jewish cemetery Na Malvazinkách.
The key event for the urban development of Smíchov was the declaration of a public competition for proposals for reconstruction and development of Smíchov, Košíře, Radlice and Motol proclaimed by the State regulatory committee in July of 1922. All of the proposals would change the wider Smíchov into a garden town, which also resulted from the parameters for the proposals: “it must be observed that individual buildings be located in gardens, if possible large gardens, so that after the development of the entire area green would dominate.” (“[...] budiž hleděno k tomu, aby jednotlivé stavby byly umístěny v zahradách, pokud možno velkých, aby i po provedeném zastavění celého území převládla zeleň.“) Lower residential buildings were supposed to be located in gardens, but also public buildings. In central Smíchov, only small correctives to the developed areas or possibly additions to undeveloped areas were allowed. With respect to the cleanliness of the air, Ringhoffer’s factory was to be abolished as well as any industry that “bothered with smoke” (“kouřem obtěžujícího“). The old Košíře was destined for extinction practically already in the proposal regulations, and was indeed significantly renovated during the First Republic or later. The results of the competition subsequently influenced the work of urban planners of the State regulatory committee, which published the proposal of the regulatory plan for Prague in 1929. Only a fragment of these plans, including the building of the town hall and the re-evaluation of the entire central Square 14. října, had been realized. The construction of the embankment continued and another bridge connecting Smíchov with the right bank of Prague, Jiráskův Bridge, was gradually opened between 1931 and 1933; the rest of the garden structures belonging to the Buquoy Garden fell victim to this construction.
Residential development changed after the World War I. The state supported the construction of smaller flats, which increased the construction of blocks of flats, especially in the garden locations of Smíchov. The above-mentioned colony in Mrázovka offered a relatively dignified living for the lower social classes. Other workers’ colonies in Jinonice, Motol, and Košíře or in the vicinity of the Smíchov’s cemetery in Malvazinky, however, were examples of the worst kind of workers’ accommodation. The block of flats, especially in the lower elevations of the cadaster, in the 1930s built in the functionalist style, were examples of higher quality living.
Smíchov was damaged at the very end of the World War II by bombardment in February 1945. Palackého Bridge and the area of Malvazinky were damaged while factories as well as the train station in Smíchov survived unscathed.
The lives of the inhabitants of Smíchov were affected by two administrative reforms after the World War II. Government directive from 1947 preserved the extent of Prague district XVI; it also made it the district for state administration and changed the name of the district to Praha XVI – Smíchov. The district was abolished on April 1st 1949, when Prague was as a result of a state directive by a new state reform divided into 19 town districts, numbered with Arab numerals, whose borders did not correspond to the borders of the former districts. Parts of Smíchov, Radlice and Hlubočepy were then made into a new district called Prague 16, the rest of Smíchov was included into district Prague 4. Since April 11th 1960, the law divided Prague into ten districts, with Smíchov, Radlice, Hlubočepy and Malá Chuchle belonging to district Prague 5. The legislation about the capital city Prague, valid after November 24, 1990, and the Statute of the capital city Prague valid after July 1st 2001 included Smíchov in municipal part of Prague 5. Zborovská Street No. 81, in Smíchov, was the site (in the building of the interwar Land office) of the Land national council, which between 1949–1960 replaced the Regional national councils in Prague and after that Středočeský (pertaining to Central Bohemia) regional national council. Since 2000, it is the office of the Středočeský district.
The number of inhabitants of Smíchov decreased by a half in the last 60 years. In 1950, Smíchov had about 62,000, in 2012 the Smíchov cadaster numbered only a little over 33,000 inhabitants. Since the end of the 1960s, inner Prague started to depopulate in favor of the new housing developments built, especially in the 1980s, on the edge of the cadaster Prague (which was significantly expanded in 1974) in relation to, or rather in spite of the village development of former villages. In the south-western part of the metropolis, it was Barrandov, Řepy and, especially, Jihozápadní Město. Smíchov became the catchment area, in the same way that it earlier served as a catchment area for Jinonice, Košíře or Zlíchov; it also became an important transfer point in the urban transportation at the edge of the center of the metropolis. New capacitive road bridge (first called Bridge of Antonín Zápotocký, now Barrandovský) that was opened in 1988 enabled a quick connection from this transfer junction to other extensive housing developments on the right bank of Vltava River.
The urban plan for this period is very well documented with directive land-use and regulatory plans and a number of urban and architectural studies kept in the Archive of the Prague’s City Development Authority or in the private archives of their authors. A similar land-use plan from the mid-1950s assumed that Smíchov would be reconstructed into a modern town. A significant portion of the western edge of Smíchov was supposed to be renovated and blocks of buildings (probably of a typified character) were to be added. Large open symmetrical internal-blocks were emphasized and the hilly terrain of Smíchov was used for the location of public buildings as dominants often in axes of public squares and public spaces. The proposed change assumed the removal of ČKD Tatra Smíchov, followed by a demolition of buildings; the the newly available space would be used for the construction of buildings primarily of a public character. These, however, were never realized with the exception of a few solitaire buildings and Smíchov, with its unchanged look, confirmed the cliché of a traditionally stubborn working class district encapsulative of the fading industrial revolution of the 19th century.
The authors of the proposals from the 1960s had more radical ideas about the way in which Smíchov could be rebuilt. The solution to the traffic situation proved crucial. The proposal for the directive plan of the capital city Prague from 1964 proposed a north-south axis crossing Smíchov along the embankment and ending into Malostranský Tunnel in Malá Strana. For Smíchov, this would mean two larger stack interchanges. The revision of the directive plan from 1969 abandoned the conception of a road to Malá Strana and using the Malostranský tunnel, which was then definitely replaced by a tunnel under the Strahov Hill. At that time, the proposal for a bridge, later built as Barrandovský Bridge, which after the abandonment of the conception of the highway took over the role of the main road from east-west in the southern part of Prague. The proposed projects assumed areal demolitions. The directive land use plan from December 1971 brought, in comparison with the revision from1969, a change in the outfall of the Strahovský Tunnel, whose proposed path was later realized. The directive land use plan from 1975 did not bring any significant changes, the most important one was the final decision to locate the center (as well as the subway station) in the block of streets Bozděchova, Nádražní, Plzeňská and Stroupežnického.
In Smíchov, the building activity in the post-war years decreased. The plot division mandated by the regulatory plans of the interwar Czechoslovakia was put into practice only with small changes. Larger construction touched especially the garden parts of Smíchov, where new villas were built. These areas continued to be a favorite address for social and political elites in Prague. Central Smíchov itself, which was completed urbanistically in the course of the First Republic, underwent only small changes. The emergency workers’ colonies disappeared by the first half of 1960s.
Three transport infrastructures were crucial and largely determined the development in Smíchov before 1990: the subway (with stations Anděl /Moskevská/ and Smíchovské nádraží opened in 1985 and the final station of line B before 1988), 2) the Strahovský Tunnel (with another tunnel Mrázovka which continued it between 1999–2004), and 3) the extension of the street V Botanice to the Kartouzská Street, which directed automobile traffic away from the historical crossroads U Anděla. It became the most important intersection of tram lines in Smíchov. All of these constructions were made possible by an extensive demolition of several blocks of flats in the central part of Smíchov.
Land use plans were usually preceded by a study, some of which are crucial for the understanding of the changes in Smíchov in the second half of the 20th century. Ivo Oberstein, the author of the project of Jihozápadní Město and the later director of the Office of the Main Architect of Prague, participated in a number of these, until the 1990s. However, decisions about the urban conceptions of Smíchov were made by the studio of Karel Prager. This architect designed to utilize Smíchov “primarily as a well-equipped center of the southwestern sector of the city (“především jako komplexně vybavené centrum jihozápadního sektoru“). However, of the radical visions by the architect (which assumed large scale renovations) only a few were realized, among them the building of the State Czechoslovak Bank with a block of flats and the subway station Moskevská (Anděl), which was built as a ground floor of a hotel building several story high. The massive concrete construction, however, did not last long; it was torn down in light of the construction of Zlatý Anděl by the architect Jean Nouvel.
After November 1989, the municipal government changed in Smíchov as well as in the entire city of Prague. The change of the space used by the secondary sector into a space designated for tertiary sphere necessarily brought about a change in the social composition of inhabitants. That began, in fact, with the restitutions and privatization of blocks of flats after 1989, which then ceased to serve the function of housing socially weaker populations. The result of Smíchov’s change are two, mutually contrasted, worlds. It is possible to find here, in addition to uniform modern development, busy shopping centers, but also a number of well-preserved corners that evoke the atmosphere of the 19th century.
Tank No. 23, a memorial to Soviet tankists, commemorating the liberation of Czechoslovakia in 1945, was supposed to be the symbol of post-war Smíchov. The memorial, opened in July 1946 on the present day Kinský Square, was heavily used by the communist propaganda. After lengthy discussions it was removed in 1991.
The last quarter of the 20th century brought a large attenuation of the industrial production in the entire Smíchov cadaster. The Staropramen Brewery is one large enterprise form the industrial era of the end of the 19th century, which operates in Smíchov to the present day. The flooding of August 2002 did not leave any significant damage in its wake, but it did, unfortunately, destroy a large part of the building archive of Prague 5 with valuable documents on the history of Smíchov.
Ringhoffer’s Engineering, nationalized after the war as Vagonka Tatra Smíchov (and later ČKD Tatra), ceased production in the early 1990s and was demolished in 1998 including the incoming rail tracks in Stroupežnický Street. Its demolition was crucial to the building boom in central Smíchov at the turn of the 20th century, when the efforts to designate it for historic preservation and the proposals to rebuild the abandoned industrial complex for a new use failed. Instead, the site was transformed into a shopping and entertainment center. However, it was the office complex Zlatý Anděl designed by Jean Nouvel and located in the vicinity – on the busy intersection of Nádražní and Plzeňská Streets near the subway station Anděl – became the new symbol of Smíchov. This building put Smíchov – as one of the few districts in the Czech metropolis—on the conceptual world map of sites with modern global architecture of the turn of the 20th century. The office building Zlatý Anděl furthermore demonstrates the changed dominant function of Smíchov and the adjacent public space of the historical intersection serves, in effect, the function of a center in many dimensions of the urban life.
The area for future development in Smíchov is the space of the former train station of the Buštěhradská Line near Radlická Street and the southern part of Smíchov near Nádražní Street, which reaches all the way to Smíchov’s harbor. What is necessary for the progressive development of this part of town is the fact that all future construction be based on high-quality urban studies and architectural competitions, which would privilege the historical development of Smíchov as a necessary criterion for the selection of the optimum level of development.
Eva Chodějovská a kol.
Zkrácená verze úvodní studie otištěné v Historickém atlase měst ČR – sv. 24: Praha-Smíchov, Praha 2013.