The New National Library Project

The national library is currently in Clemetninum. This site lends it a special feel, with its baroque/classicist architecture and large old- fashioned study rooms. The problem is the amount of the books stored there is so exceedingly high that they simply have to be moved into new premises. That is how the whole thing started. The competition ended with a controversial decision to choose Jan Kaplicky, who may well be the most famous Czech architect abroad at this moment, but who also represents a very original and often provocative architectonic style. His big success being the Selfridges building on the former Bull Ring in Birmingham, his projects are often inspired by organic shapes (fly’s eye in the mentioned case), he tends to use curves instead of straight lines and sharp colors.

His first Prague project is indeed an interesting piece of work, or, a piece of paper, for the moment. Some kind of a stiff, straight- lined post- functionalist monster would probably be more suitable, since functionalism is old enough to let us get used to it and seems effectively dead. Kaplicky´s green monster seems very alive, its shape, by the way inspired by a strange sugar dose he once glanced on in Berlin, gives it a creepy character, it seems it wants to walk away from Letná and attack the city center. Personally I think this is quite a funny aspect of it and I have no problem with the “weirdness” itself. I prefer this solution over some cubic glass house, which may fit its surroundings, but they may be quite tiresome.

I surely would be very much against placing of such a thing inside the historical parts of my hometown. But I believe the project suits the under- used park of Letná quite well. It is more difficult to say that about the city center, from which we will observe the new building- mainly its “eye” emerging from beyond the trees of Letná. Does it have to be that extravagant, the indigo sight of a green octopus keeping an eye on the national heritage? It doesn’t, but I don’t see a reason why it shouldn’t. It is a bit over-the-top and it may be better placed elsewhere, that is for others to decide. But frankly, what kind of a new dominant should be ther? We could hardly try to resurrect the past styles and the cold modernism is already out of date, and unsuitable for the position. As an experiment in post-modern extravagance, a test of how the old Prague will handle it, it seems adequate comes at a right moment.

Sep 6, 17:03 (Filed under: Other )

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