The Charles Bridge is undoubtedly one of Prague's most visited tourist sights, with around 20 million visitors crossing it every year. Having survived the floods which swept the city in 2002, the magnificent Gothic structure is currently in need of restoration to ensure its safety and to preserve it for future generations. But such a project is not without controversy, potentially affecting visitors at the height of the tourist season.
Today we meet Jan Kaplicky, who is regarded by many as the greatest Czech architect of his generation. Readers in the UK will surely know his amazing Selfridges building in Birmingham. But although Jan Kaplicky has won world renown for the work of his London-based company Future Systems, he has found himself somewhat at odds with the establishment here in the Czech Republic. Mr Kaplicky was born in Prague in 1937, and when we met recently he first told me something about his family background.
If Prague's Veletrzni Palac or Trade Fair Palace didn't house the modern art collection of the National Gallery, most of us would probably not notice the large building that stands just a few metres away from the city's exhibition complex. But the Palace is one of Prague's earliest and largest buildings in the Functionalist style.
The development of the Czech capital has been the subject of continued debate for years, not least the future for Prague's Pankrac district. The area is famous for three skyscrapers - including the city's tallest, the so-called City Tower. At 109 metres, it's being redesigned by New York-based architect Richard Meier. Many would like to see the area unified with additional buildings. But, some professionals have complained additional skyscrapers would only compound the problem. And, they're not alone.
Over the past decade or so, visitors have been flocking to Prague in ever-increasing numbers. Many of them have been attracted by tales of the city's beautiful, well-preserved architecture, which embraces many different styles ranging from the imposing gothic grandeur of St Vitus' Cathedral to the baroque opulence of St. Nicholas' Church. This upsurge in tourism has resulted in a swathe of development projects across the Czech capital aimed at meeting the demands of visitors to the city. Critics say such initiatives pose a threat to the architectural
In the Arts we'll be looking at experimental vision in both music and architecture. First, we look at the Czech band known as SOIL, and second, we'll be looking at a new exhibition titled Futura Pragensis, where students of architecture foresee and propose how Prague might look in two hundred years.
Sixteen years ago this week 40 years of communism in Czechoslovakia dramatically came to an end, rapidly dismantled by massive public protests in the city streets. Almost overnight, the old structures collapsed and with it the symbols of a decayed system: countless red stars, party banners, statues of revolutionaries, and 'eternal' monuments to the country's communist presidents - were carted off to unknown 'graveyards' - usually the dustbin.
The Czech Republic is a country with a fascinating industrial heritage all too often overshadowed by the Renaissance or the Baroque. Anyone who has ever travelled through Prague's formerly working-class districts of Karlin and Holesovice, for example, or has cycled in the north or east of the country, will have taken note of beautiful but crumbling 19th century factories, forgotten textile plants and old mills, falling apart girder by girder, brick by brick.
On Tuesday, New York's prestigious Metropolitan Museum of Art opened a new exhibition called Prague, the Crown of Bohemia 1347-1437. After Charles IV was crowned king of Bohemia in 1347, he strived to turn Prague into a cultural rival of Paris and Rome. Hundreds of artists came to the city and other towns in Bohemia during the reign of the last rulers of the Luxembourg dynasty in Central Europe - Charles IV and his two sons Wenceslas IV and Sigismund. The exhibition at the Met features over 200 examples of their work.
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