The Muller House At Last

Sunday 16th August 2020

Val and I attempted the Muller House in Prague in November 2017, when we were out for Part 2 of Anthony Mottram’s 60th party. It’s by Adolf Loos, you know. Important. They said Come back in three weeks. Tours only, limited numbers, all booked. The Tugendat House in Brno, by Mies van der Rohe, was even worse. Queue for three months. Harry Rollo and Mercury Mr Kitten, visiting Prague as Celebrity Performing Visitors, subject to a Treatment in the hotel suite which was suddenly removed by an attendant luckily before they’d started eating it, found even the VIP route to the Muller House stoney and upward. I said, You must get Dvorak, Smetana and Janacek to intervene on your behalf. But in the end it took Beethoven, Mozart and the Second Viennese School as well to get the place prised open for an after-hours visit.

This time one space was free for the English-speaking tour which was just me and an oddly configured Dutch family – a mummy and daddy, the daddy very garlic-y, a teenage son and either the son’s boyfriend or an ethnically diverse adoptee into the family, or even the son’s penfriend or a mate from school. The son looked a bit old for the latter options though.

This Muller House might be described as an aspiring stockbroker suburban villa, except that its architect is of world renown and Muller was an important building contractor. He got Loos late, in 1930, towards the end of his allotted time. He’d shattered Vienna with the House without Eyebrows 40 years before. There the upper storeys are bare of ornament, a bold arrangement of square windows on a plain white background but the double-height ground floor is deliciously swathed in sumptuous marble. At the Muller House the front door might feature in any modest residence of that period but the elaborate marble recess, all of a piece with the bench by the door, in which it is set is an unexpected monumental element. Within is a narrow passage, like the entrance to a tomb, but gorgeously lined with sky-blue tiles, leading to a small hall where startling contrasting colours are deployed on the walls. Wonderful craft and finish – light-switches, door handles. No detail left unturned. But where are you? Perhaps a refreshing, pared-down good merchant’s house in a small town or village even, traditional windows opening outwards? Or not. We’re led through a tiny passage into the astonishing drawing room, with a great door onto the garden which might make a more important entrance than the actual one. Really it is a quasi-modernist realisation of  the grand entrance hall of an 18th century palace, lined with marble but the rhythms from cubes and prisms in marble, double-height and the full width of the house. The back-wall is mysteriously pierced and there is a mezzanine, low-ceiled, with cottage-y windows which is the dining area. So it’s open-plan. But expectations are constantly confounded. The stairs are mere utility, not sweeping for an entrance, the levels confused so you never could say which floor you are on. Colour is not pursued as a theme throughout the house. The entrance hall is a false start. Really the house grows more wooden. A study is a wood-lined box, sunk down, no outlook, the dressing rooms like cabins on a ship, moulded of cupboards, shelves and ledges. Harry Rollo said Loos is such a  genius for veering both ways, radical, modern, clean lines, whiletraditional, rococo and marbled, both at once. Many a marriage must have been saved by him.

The awful thing is the story of Mrs Muller, widowed in 1950 and left alone in the house (her daughter had gone to Canada) to face the Communist era until her death in 1968. No money, her house taken by the State mostly for offices, herself confined to some rooms at the back. She was intermittently allowed to enter, accompanied by officials, a room where her treasures were kept to select something for sale so she could keep going. Mercifully the regime recognised the importance of the building to some extent but it wasn’t until after Communism that it was painstakingly restored. Vaclav Havel himself opened it, in 2000, arriving by car. There was a reception with waiters in white jackets and the usual canapés and champagne.

The Muller House Prague: Drawing Room with Opening for Mezzanine Dining Room

The Muller House Prague: Drawing Room with Opening for Mezzanine Dining Room

The Muller House Prague: Planes and Piercings

The Muller House Prague: Planes and Piercings

The Muller House Prague: Planes and Piercings at the Side

The Muller House Prague: Planes and Piercings at the Side

The Muller House Prague: Roof Terrace with Vaclav Havel Attended Opening Reception

The Muller House Prague: Roof Terrace where Vaclav Havel Attended Opening Reception

The View from the Terrace to Prague Castle: Muller House Prague

The View from the Terrace to Prague Castle: Muller House Prague

Posted Sunday, August 16, 2020 under Adrian Edge day by day.

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