New exhibition turns spotlight on Prague’s modern architecture

22-07-2008

Prague is one of the best preserved cities in Europe, and it is not unusual to come across a striking variety of architectural styles – from Baroque to functionalism – in the space of a few minutes. But how has the Czech capital fared when it comes to contemporary architecture? It is the subject of a new exhibition entitled The New Face of Prague, which has just opened at the city’s Czech Centre.

The Dancing House by Frank Gehry and Vlado Milunic, located by the banks of the River Vltava, is perhaps the most striking, and most famous, modern building in the Czech capital. It features alongside another 50 projects – from the cool Hotel Josef to the new Slavia Prague football stadium – in a freshly opened exhibition entitled The New Face of Prague.

Dan Merta is the curator of the new show.

“We have nine categories. One is reconstruction and industry, one is offices, next is villas, next is culture. And one important and interesting part is vision, vision for the future.”

We’ll turn to the future in a moment. But looking back at the modern buildings that have gone up since the fall of communism, the exhibition’s organiser says standards in Prague are just as high – or low – as those elsewhere in the region.

“I think this is the level in Middle Europe, it’s typical of a post-communist city or metropolis. Ten percent is good or optimal. Thirty percent is standard and sixty percent is…not good.”

Architect Zdeněk Lukeš has written an essay for the catalogue that accompanies the show. How attractive does he find the The New Face of Prague?

“I think it’s attractive, thanks to some world renowned architects, who had a chance to work here in Prague, like Frank Gehry and his Dancing House, or the French architect Jean Nouvel, who was responsible for the Golden Angel building in Smíchov.

“That was a chance for our architects to meet with world renowned architects and their works, and to work on similar projects. And now we have many examples of good architecture here in Prague.”

According to the literature that goes with this exhibition Prague is one of the cities in Europe with the most room for development – how do you see Prague developing in the next few years?

“It’s very difficult to find an empty lot in the central part of the city. But around the centre there are many quarters from the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century and there are many possibilities there to build new houses and to replace the old architecture, which is mediocre.”

Are you confident that the Prague city authorities are capable of overseeing good development of the city in the future?

“Of course it’s not so easy to answer this question. I hope for this, but we must hope.”

We’ll see how things turn out. In the meantime, visitors can check out The New Face of Prague at the city’s Czech Centre until August 20. Next year the exhibition visits Berlin and a number of other European capitals.

22-07-2008