Mariánské Lázně (German: Marienbad) teems with an unforgettable atmosphere. The exceptional concord of natural resources and human efforts has made it a pearl among the West Bohemian spa towns. This is evidenced by its urban architecture carefully set in a wide valley surrounded by woody hills, its numerous mineral springs, spa parks, colonnades, as well as the historicist architecture of its spa houses.
The attractiveness of Mariánské Lázně is given by its genius loci – the spirit of the place – creating the atmosphere of its golden age when the spa town was built in response to the growing fashion of balneology, appearing quite spontaneously and naturally, and when staying at a spa was a matter of social prestige and necessity. From that period, the spa town has preserved its relatively intact centre distinguished by its unusual layout – where town parks were planned first and only later surrounded by spa buildings. The author of this extraordinary urban design is landscape architect Václav Skalník, one of the three figures that stood at the birth of Marienbad. The other town founders are Jan Josef Nehr, a doctor of medicine, and Karel Kašpar Prokop Reitenberger, the Abbot of the Teplá Monastery.
An interesting aspect is the architecture of the spa houses that captivate visitors by their variety of forms and their primarily eclectic style. Nonetheless, the first architectural style to leave a quite distinct trace in the face of the spa town was Classicism, which is evident, however, only on a few buildings in the town at present, e.g. the Municipal Museum. These buildings commonly have two floors and a saddle roof. A substantial representative of Classicism is the pavilion of Ferdinand Spring.
At the turn of the 19th and 20th century, reconstruction changes the Classicist town houses into stately palace-like hotels. New floors are added to create four-storey houses with typical mansard roofs, e.g. the Pacifik or the Kavkaz. The houses show off their dashing facade fronts bearing the characteristic signature of their architects who made the town history. The most significant architect was Josef Schaffer, a native who studied at the Vienna Academy. Inspired by Vienna, he enriched the spa town with Neo-Renaissance buildings. His architectural masterpieces include the monumental New Baths, the Casino Social House, the Palladio building, the Grammar School, and the Central Baths. His art was matched by Viennese architect Arnold Heymann who presented himself as the typical representative of eclecticism. He designed such hotels as the Pacifik, the Hvězda, the Kavkaz, and Bohemia Hotel, which may be denoted as a typical example of Marienbad "whipped-cream architecture". The third architect was Josef Forberich who designed the romantic Svoboda Hotel and the nearby Neo-Gothic Chapel of Love.
A quintessential element of Marienbad architecture are sacral structures characterised by diverse architectonic morphology. As the spa town endeavoured to satisfy every requirement of foreign visitors, even those professing different religions, we may find the Catholic Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, as well as the Orthodox Church of St. Vladimir, the Anglican Church and an evangelic church in Marienbad. Another interesting structure was the Jewish synagogue, which was burnt down during the Crystal Night in 1938. One of the most popular sights in Mariánské Lázně is Hlavní Kolonáda (Main Colonnade), which is a combination of cast-iron delivered by the Blansko Ironworks and glass ingeniously bringing light into its interiors. The colonnade was designed by Viennese architects Hans Miksch and Julian Niedzielski.
Art Nouveau is another style that left its clear traces in Marienbad with its floral décor and typical curves that are especially particular on the facade of the Copelia house in Anglická (English) Street. Other Art Nouveau buildings may be found in Třebízského (Třebízský) Street, e.g. the Apollo house and the opposite Municipal Theatre, which was rebuilt from a Classicist building, or the Pyramida house in Ruská (Russian) Street. The spa town of Mariánské Lázně became the subject of monument conservationist efforts and in 1992, the spa town was declared an urban monument zone, which currently comprises of 43 listed buildings.
Ing. Pavel GRACA