17-08-2008

Today’s Mailbox is devoted to your opinions on the proposed new building of the Czech National Library. We quote from emails sent in by: Colin Rose, Christine Takaguchi-Coates, David Eldridge and Charles Konecny.

Hello and welcome to Mailbox. Today’s edition will be devoted to your opinions on the proposed new building of the Czech National Library designed by the Czech-born British architect Jan Kaplický. Since Jan Kaplický’s design was chosen in an international competition in March 2007, the plan to build the “Octopus” or “Blob” as the futuristic design has been dubbed, has been the subject of much controversy and heated debate.

A few weeks ago, Culture Minister Václav Jehlička told reporters that it was clear to everybody that the “Octopus” would never be built on Letná Plain. Meanwhile, the architect Jan Kaplický and National Library’s director Vlastimil Ježek are not giving up.

Here are some of your views sent in over the last few months.

Colin Rose from England called his long contribution ‘Kaplický against nonentities’:

“Wales made a fool of itself with the fiasco over the Cardiff Bay Opera House, cancelling a stunning design by Hadid in favour of a third-rate design that now already looks tired. Scotland got in a tangle with its parliament building but at least carried on and is becoming proud of what it has. Then we all know about the Sydney Opera House, after much spleen by various local politicians the outside got built and became an icon but the interior was left to a cheap ‘politician’s choice’ local architect, at enormous cost that is now being replaced by something in approximation to the original scheme.

“Something similar is happening in Praha. ‘Letná Plain’ is thrown around as a phrase but without mention of the mess it actually is, the football stadium is hardly a jewel in the Prague crown! As ever rising costs are given as an excuse, without of course mentioning that most of that is due to the dithering and changes of mind by politicians. What is so depressing is that this was far and away the best scheme, most of the other entrants to the competition produced some depressing designs that would certainly condemn that corner of Letná Plain to remaining a no-go area. Here is a chance for a new tourist attraction and a fine original building. Prague's recent building history is depressing: The worst kind of developers stuff befitting a provincial town with no pride has been given the green light in Václavské náměstí and Na Příkopě. The roofscapes of Malá Strana are permanently destroyed by allowing any old thing to be built atop wonderful old buildings. Kaplický has more wit, intelligence, flair, skill and pride in Prague than the combined effluvium of the third rate politicians that is alas now the lot of the Czech Republic.

“Prague is great because until 1948 it gave decent architects the chance to work without too much hindrance and provided itself with an endless display of 10 centuries’ worth of fine buildings. It is now going down the pan as people without any visual skill are allowed to dictate the built environment.”

Christine Takaguchi-Coates from Japan has a different view:

“Actually, I wrote to you in October last year, giving you my opinion on this, and I still feel the same! Prague is famous as a showcase for many different architectural styles, and in this sense, I suppose one could say that the Blob could have a place there. However, I strongly feel that it just does not fit in with the beauty of the historic and traditional architecture. It would be an eyesore, totally out of place! However, I am sure there are other places where it would look very nice (next to a zoo, perhaps?). Or you could offer to build it on the lawn of the White House as a gesture of good will towards America! You know, you put a radar in our back yard, and we'll put a BLOB in yours! I was surprised in October to read that as many as 60% of people in Prague were in favour of the Blob being built! I wonder what the percentage would be today?”

I tried to find a more recent poll, but all there is is the one you mention.

David Eldridge from England wrote this in his email:

“I won’t comment on the suitability of the 'Blob' for Letná Plain commented on in Mailbox beyond my view that buildings should be in harmony with their environment. I do not know Jan Kaplický's work in the United Kindgom, nor can I make any comment on the technical suitability of the proposed building for its purpose. Maybe it will be another ‘Dancing Building’, both out-of-place in its environment and a technically inappropriate construction.”

And finally, Charles Konecny from Ohio wrote:

“Although I did write my opinion of the ‘Blob’ several months ago, my vote does not change..... ‘No’ to the ‘Blob’.”

So in our little poll, it is thumbs down for the “Octopus”. Thank you very much for sending in your views. Of course, Radio Prague will keep you informed about further developments regarding the Czech National Library.

As a matter of fact, Letná Plain in Prague was for many years the place where the mass gatherings of the Sokol sports movement took place, Sokol being the topic of our competition question this month.

 

This month we are looking for the names of the founding fathers of the patriotic Sokol sports movement which played a vital role in the early lives of many a Czech athlete.

Please, send us the answer by the end of August to english@radio.cz or Radio Prague, 12099 Prague. We are also interested to read about your personal experience with Sokol or whether there is a Sokol branch active in your area. Do you own a Sokol uniform? Have you ever taken part in a “sokolský slet” – the mass gathering of Sokol members from around the country and the world? Do let us know. We will be looking forward to your answers. Until next week, good-bye.

17-08-2008