Architect Vlado Milunić dies at 81; linked to the icon of Prague | KTA

PRAGUE (AP) — Vlado Milunić, a Czech architect of Croatian descent who co-designed Prague’s iconic Dancing House building with colleague Frank Gehry, has died at 81.

Czech public radio announced his death on Sunday and said it had been confirmed by his family. No details were given. He was battling an unspecified serious illness.

The Dancing House is an unusual building that resembles a pair of dancers; It is a rare example of high-level contemporary architecture in Prague, which is otherwise full of picturesque historic buildings, churches and monuments.

Due to its shape, the building is also known as Ginger and Fred after famous dancers Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. It is formed by two central towers; the one known as Ginger is made of glass and steel, while Fred has a concrete body and a metal head.

It is located on the bank of the Vltava River next to the building where the late President Vaclav Havel lived. It was built on land that previously housed a 19th century neo-Renaissance building that was destroyed in a World War II aerial bombardment.

Havel was reportedly the first to speak to Milunić about carrying out an architectural study for a possible arts center on the grounds. In 1992 the Dutch company Nationale Nederlanden acquired it, seeking to build an office building, and Milunić approached Gehry about participating. He accepted.

Their nine-story project was completed in 1996 and was named among “The Best Designs of 1996” by Time magazine.

The unusual architecture initially sparked some controversy, with critics saying it did not fit its historic surroundings. But those arguments gradually faded away, and the building became a must-see for tourists alongside historic Prague landmarks like Charles Bridge and Prague Castle.

Born March 3, 1941 in Zagreb, Milunić has lived in Prague with his family since the age of 16. He studied architecture at the Czech Technical University where he later became a lecturer. At the end of the 1960s, he spent three years in Paris on an internship.

Among his other projects, the architect is known for an apartment complex and several retirement homes in the Czech capital as well as a day care center for disabled children in the town of Ceske Budejovice.

Berta D. Wells