Classes at FAMU film school and the Social Sciences Faculty of Charles University resumed on Monday a week after a massive explosion rocked an adjacent building in Prague’s Divadlení Street. A suspected gas explosion saw one floor collapse at the site, and glass and debris thrown into the street. Windows in all of the surrounding buildings were also shattered by the shockwave that left more than 40 people injured – one of them seriously. Police, fire fighters and rescue workers had to block off the area as a result and the building had to be reinforced by a construction and engineering crew to prevent it from collapse.
Prague’s skyline gave the capital one of its nicknames: the city of a hundred spires. But in actual fact around a thousand spires, belfries and towers of various styles and ages now grace the city centre. Some of them are popular tourist attractions offering great views of the city, others only recently revealed their mysteries. One served as an observation post for the secret police; another hosted a morbid display of a dozen severed heads.
In this week’s Arts my guest is New York-based landscape architect Martin Barry who last year launched a new festival and conference in Prague called reSITE, focussing on urbanism and rethinking the public space. To this aim, he and organisers involved everyone from internationally recognised designers and urban planners, to students of arts and architecture, and last, but not least, politicians.
Construction work at the AZ Tower in Brno – at 111 metres the tallest building in the Czech Republic – is complete; officials said that workers were now only finishing up the interiors. The AZ Tower, designed by architects Gustav Křivinka and Aleš Burian, edges the City Tower at Prague’s Pankrác by two metres. The building is slated to house offices, apartments, restaurants and shops and other services, including an auto salon and fitness club. The new building was designed to make use of Green technology in order to leave a smaller ecological footprint.
Eva Jiřičná has been awarded the 2013 Jane Drew Prize for her outstanding contribution to the status of women in architecture. The jury described the Prague-born architect as incredibly influential and extraordinary, saying she had reinvented the idea of retail in the UK with her 1988 store for the fashion label Joseph. The architect, who is 74, set up Eva Jiřičná Architects in 1982; her clients have included such names as London’s Selfridges and The Royal Academy of Arts.
The station Opava-východ in the north east of the country won this year’s poll for the Czech Republic’s most beautiful train station. The recently renovated structure was built in 1851 in the style of late classicism. The top prizes for the most fairytale-like train station were awarded to the train stations of Nemilkov, in western Bohemia, and Mnichovice, outside Prague. Around 8,500 people took part in the poll.
November 22 is the 100th anniversary of the opening of one of Prague’s best-known buildings, the Municipal House (Obecní dům). A popular landmark today, its combination of the French Baroque style with Art Nouveau decoration split opinion among architects and the city’s residents at the time of its opening in 1912. The Municipal House was originally conceived as a cultural centre and it remains one, hosting concerts at its grand Smetana Hall and occasional exhibitions. It is also home to a Viennese style café and a French restaurant.
It’s a far cry from the country’s traditional tourist sites. The imposing Vítkovice ironworks, dubbed the steel heart of the country, served the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the First Republic, the Wehrmacht and later communist Czechoslovakia. In 1998 part of this huge industrial complex with its blast furnaces and coke oven batteries was closed down and rather than getting dismantled it was declared a national cultural monument that is gradually being transformed into an interactive museum and a multipurpose cultural facility.
With its sloping cobbled streets, beautiful baroque churches and an abundance of historical architecture, Olomouc is easily one of the most appealing cities in the Czech Republic outside of Prague. Typically, this bustling university town in North Moravia owes much of its architectural splendour to its long and somewhat chequered past. Some claim that this ancient city dates back as far as Roman times, when it was reputed to have been founded by Julius Caesar himself.
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