Prague mayor renews “Blob” debate

04-10-2011

The drawn-out debate over the construction of a futuristic building colloquially known as “the Blob” originally meant to house the Czech National Library in Prague has taken a new turn. Designed by the late Czech-born London-based architect Jan Kaplický, the huge green and purple structure divided public opinion when it won an international competition in 2007 and the project was finally scuppered. Now, more than four years after the original plan was put forward, Prague Mayor Bohuslav Svoboda has unexpectedly renewed the debate.

The design of the “Blob”The design of the “Blob” The media spoke of a new architectural landmark of the Czech capital when Jan Kaplický’s design was unanimously chosen by an international jury in March 2007. The avant-garde building of the Czech National Library overlooking the city was meant to welcome the first visitors in 2012. But in the meantime the plan was rejected by the Prague authorities and even President Václav Klaus voiced his objections to the design. After architect Jan Kaplický died in January 2009, thousands signed a petition to have his National Library building built.

When Civic Democrat Prague Mayor Bohuslav Svoboda ran for office a year ago, he promised to renew talks on the issue. Now he has brought up the subject again:

“We need to agree on whether we want it, whether we like it. If we, the citizens of Prague, decide that this type of art belongs here, then it will materialize.”

Mayor Svoboda says Kaplický’s design could be built on Prague’s Letná Plain, the original intended site. Instead of the National Library it would be financed by City Hall and private investors. And it would not house a library, but rather a concert hall or gallery.

Eva Jiřičná, a Czech-born architect based in London, chaired the international jury that chose the winning design in 2007. She says this approach won’t work.

“It’s like having a nice dog-kennel and putting in goldfish, a parrot and an elephant. This sort of attitude to architecture is impossible.”

Vlastimil Ježek was in charge of the National Library back in 2007 when the institution called a public tender for its new design:

“Proposals to bring the ‘Blob’ back to life come up from time to time and I am no longer able to make any sense of them.”

Mayor Svoboda is not the first politician who has attempted to revive the debate. More than two years ago, the opposition Social Democrats said they would consider building Kaplický’s “Blob” if they won the next general election.

“Blob” bus stop in Brno, photo: CT24“Blob” bus stop in Brno, photo: CT24 Mr Kaplický’s widow Eliška who holds the copyright to the design refuses to comment on the matter until a final decision by City Hall is announced. Yet, a final verdict cannot be expected any time soon as according to Mayor Svoboda the debate has only just begun. In the meantime, the only “Blob” the country has seen so far is a small scale model of the original design built by a young student in Brno to serve as a bus stop.

04-10-2011