Franz Kafka Society Center / Steven Holl Architects, Marcela Steinbachová (Skupina)


Architect: Steven Holl Architects, Marcela Steinbachová (Skupina)
Location: Prague,
Program: Cultural center with exhibition, lecture and concert space, as well as offices and a library
Client: Franz Kafka Society Center
Project year: 2007-2008
Photographs: Andrea Lhotakova

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The basement of the small one-story building, formerly used for laundry and storage, now houses a space for exhibitions, lectures, and concerts, as well as it accommodates Franz Kafka’s private library. On the first level of the building the Franz Kafka Society has located its offices. The previously dark and dismal spaces of the building are now washed in daylight coming through newly inserted windows and skylights that provide unexpected views to the towers of the Maisel Synagogue. Marcela Steinbachová (Skupina) and Architects have deliberately situated these windows off axis to the interiors. Inside the building new visual connections through openings and inspection holes give its small spaces depth and create visual connections.


All new partitioning in the building, even when carving out spaces for restrooms and a kitchenette, is created exclusively by book shelves. In one half of the building these bookshelves appear in white (offices) and the other half is filled with black bookshelves (entry hall). Coming from the central corridor one only sees black bookshelves and when coming from the offices one encounters white bookshelves. A 360-degree rotating door between the corridor and the director’s offices, black on one side and white on the other, reverses white to black.



The flat roof of the courtyard building will be covered with cement tiles displaying the plan of the former Jewish Quarter before its demolition in 1896. This open-air rooftop space will be used for concerts and exhibitions during summer. The courtyard and the courtyard building are accessed through the Franz Kafka bookstore and reference library both interiors designed by Marcela Steinbachová (Skupina)

Cite: "Franz Kafka Society Center / Steven Holl Architects, Marcela Steinbachová (Skupina)" 17 Aug 2009. ArchDaily. Accessed 26 May 2015. <>

    I am not sure about this interior. I have mixed feeling. I can see how it refers to Kafka, but possibly your approach was too simplistic. First of all, to keep style and age this place is referring to, timber finishes and shelf could be more era related. Its too much like Ikea today, sorry to say that. Possibly more noble touches could help to lift the rank of this place. Secondly I would probably explore more existing curves, openings and ceiling arches. And generally the interiors looks somehow empty. I like space with single table, chair and book shelves, but others are not that great. Please dont be offended, it just my humble, subjective opinion. Regards, Lumiges

  • One

    Good taste, and very comfortable to be there knowing that it is a kafka’s society. I am curious if the presence of the door is made known in public or kept secret. BTW I was not too sure if Kafka was inspired by Ninja… ;-)

  • StructureHub Blog

    I’m happy to see such a big architect tackling a relatively small, private, commission. I’m also happy to see Steven Holl design something like this – something that does not make the designer’s identity obvious.

  • Aleksandar

    Wow, they needed a sketch to show that one side of shelf is white and the other is black…

  • Another

    Does anyone know the what material these are made of?

    • fokt

      I think white and black.

  • rv

    to correct the data: architect is Marcela Steinbachova, S. Holl is only the author of the turning library… see at the bottom.