Prague “blob” doomed?

Posted on the "Pro Knihovnu" Facebook group 

Prague is well known for its Gothic churches and Baroque palaces, not its modern architecture. In order to counterbalance this, an international contest to design an ultra-modern library was held. The winner? A funky-looking yellow and purple blob, planned to nestle between Prague Castle and the Old Town. Not everyone was thrilled and the project now faces an uncertain future.

Commonly known as the "blob" or the "octopus", the futuristic project was meant to become the new National Library. Officially named The Eye Above Prague, the eight-story building was designed to house 10 million volumes and included an automated system that would allow users to retrieve a book in only five minutes. A café was planned for the top floor, facing an enormous window - or eye - overlooking the city.

The building, designed by Jan Kaplický and Future Systems, gained the support of prominent Czechs like former president Václav Havel and of many ordinary citizens. But both the city administration and the national government, led by President Václav Klaus, spearheaded a campaign against the project, concerned that it would ruin Prague's skyline. One well-known critic went as far as saying "Prague is not Disneyland!" When the project's architect died last January, the new library's fate seemed all but sealed.

There is still movement in support of the library, with a petition in favour of it gathering 12,000 signatures and a Facebook group counting 27,200 members, but hopes of reviving the project look bleak. In the meantime, the "blob" has become a favourite symbol for Czechs and a part of their national culture, without it even having been built.

Model, Jan Kaplický exhibition at Design Museum, London. Posted by Iqbal Aalam on Flickr

                              Cartoon by Vhrsti

Contributors

“The discussion always focused on the building’s location and its general design, but never on its functionality”

Tereza Czesany Dvořáková is a film studies teacher at Charles University in Prague. At her wedding last year, the cake took the form of the ‘blob'.

Kaplický's library was an incredible project, but I don't believe it will see the light of day. The design was met with contempt by the Conservative Party, which has almost absolute control over political matters in Prague. President Klaus was also very vocal in his opposition to the project. The controversy however has been more a question of personal taste than a matter of cultural policy.

There is practically no modern architecture in downtown Prague and the National Library would have given the city a remarkable example. But with the conservatives in power, support for progressive art has been meagre.

The discussion always focused on the building's location and its general design, but sadly never on its functionality. Nobody speaks about how well conceived it is to suit the needs of the library, with its enormous housing capacity and its very modern system to search for books.

It has however become an icon, and you can see the ‘blob' on magnets and other objects. My wedding cake last year was the shape of the library. It was a surprise from my mother, who had asked a friend to bake it. It was a very special cake."

"Blob" wedding cake. Posted by Tereza Czesany Dvořáková on the "Pro Knihovnu" Facebook group.

Drawings parodying the opposition's arguments against the project. Posted by Klára Svobodová on Flickr 

"Blob" sticker on pub window in Brno. Posted by Michal Kašpárek on Flickr

Picasso and the "blob", "Misunderstood", painting by Radek Štencl. Posted on the "Pro Knihovnu" Facebook group 

Pro ‘blob' poster. Posted by Jan Štádler on Flickr

Pro ‘blob' demonstration on Prague's Main Square. Posted by Jan Štádler on Flickr

Frank Gehry's ‘Dancing House', downtown Prague's only other major modern building. Posted by Graeme Delargy on Flickr

Comments

...incredible good project...

Jan Kaplickys library is a project you probably don´t fall in love on first sight but the more you know it the more you love it. In a competition with 355 entries it fulfilled all given task best. One of the jurors was specially concentrating on its relation to the protected area and it must be said that when one studies the project carefully it is very sensible towards its surrounding. It is on the Letna plateau, which is a large green plain, where the communistic regime held his military parades and in November 1989 huge demonstrations against the regime were organized. The building has the right scale to be seen from the center, but not to dominate the historic skyline and it respectfully fits into the urban fabric and is closely connected to the park - by the way across street you have football stadiums which are going to be build even bigger soon...
One of the inspiration are circus tents that often are on this plan and there fore the structure becomes quite understandable. Its color is derived from the gold that is quite present in the city and you also might know that Prague is called "the city of thousand towers"..
The politics who obviated this project did not respect any given rule in democracy ignoring the will of the national library and the majority of the people. Their campaign is purely based on lies but as they were repeated all the time people started to believe ist
Not building this project is an incredible loss to architecture, cultural life, to Prague and above all it proves the poor state of czech democracy

here you can finde a documentation (8MB)
http://www.pasek.at/medien/national_library_cz_future_systems.pdf

radio documentation on Jan Kaplicky:
http://www.apalaver.com/blog_apalaver/2010/01/homage_to_jan_kaplicky/

by the way:
the facebook group has 27.200 participants!
http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=45563793678&ref=ts

Re: ...incredible good project...

Dear David,
Thank you very much for your insightful comment on the National Library project. Thanks for the correction as well... We were in fact talking about the "Pro Knihovnu" Facebook group, as we hadn't seen the one you were referring to! We have made the correction already.

The Blob

Frank Gehry's building does a great job of integrating elements from the existing vernacular with a new spin on them. The Blob is a completely foreign object, in color, form and context. Any moron could come up with that design because it has no limit to what it could be. A good Architect makes some effort to take into consideration the existing surroundings, as Frank Gehry did. Even the people who support the blob design support it because it is a slap in the face to the existing vernacular not because it belongs there on that site. That building could be thrown anywhere in the world and have the same impact.

Joke?!

This would make a good April Fools Day item! As surely this building isn't a serious option? At least the Dancing House building is quirky and not totally out of place but this blob/octopus thing, I am lost for words!

I think the octopus doesn't

I think the octopus doesn't fit between the classical buildings in the surroundings, it would be a cool building but placed somewhere else.

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