Project: Vlado Milunića and Franka Gehry, Prague, Czech Republic (Photo: Gosia Głowacka, August 2013)
The Dancing House (Czech: Tančící dům), or Fred and Ginger, is the nickname given to the Nationale-Nederlanden building on the Rašínovo nábřeží (Rašín Embankment) in Prague, Czech Republic. It was designed by the Croatian-Czech architect Vlado Milunić in cooperation with Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry on a vacant riverfront plot. The building was designed in 1992 and completed in 1996.
The very non-traditional design was controversial at the time because the house stands out among the Baroque, Gothic and Art Nouveau buildings for which Prague is famous, and in the opinion of some it does not accord well with these architectural styles. The then Czech president, Václav Havel, who lived for decades next to the site, had avidly supported this project, hoping that the building would become a center of cultural activity.
Gehry originally named the house Fred and Ginger (after the famous dancers Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers – the house resembles a pair of dancers) but this nickname is now rarely used; moreover, Gehry himself was later “afraid to import American Hollywood kitsch to Prague”, and thus discarded his own idea.
The Dutch insurance company Nationale-Nederlanden (since 1991 ING Bank) agreed to sponsor the building of a house on site. The “super bank” chose Milunić as the lead designer and asked him to partner with another world-renowned architect to approach the process. The French architect Jean Nouvel turned down the idea because of the small square footage, but the well-known Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry accepted the invitation. Because of the bank’s excellent financial state at the time, it was able to offer almost unlimited funding for the project. From their first meeting in 1992 in Geneva, Gehry and Milunić began to elaborate Milunić’s original idea of a building consisting of two parts, static and dynamic (“yin and yang”), which were to symbolize the transition of Czechoslovakia from a communist regime to a parliamentary democracy.