This Tuesday sees the opening of a new exhibition at Prague’s Jaroslav Fragner gallery featuring the work of renowned Czech architect Martin Rajniš. He is one of the co-authors of the famous Máj building, now Tesco, on Prague’s Narodní Street as well as the architect who designed a famous wood and glass post office, on the Czech Republic’s Sněžka Mountain. Increasingly, the architect has focused on the incorporation of natural materials. The aim of exhibition, in many ways, is to show visitors they don’t have to accept the status quo.
In the first half of the 20th century the Česká národní budova (Bohemian National Hall) was THE Czech social centre in New York, before later sinking into disrepair. Now the building on the Upper East Side of Manhattan is receiving a major facelift, and should again be the pride of Czech New York when it reopens its doors later this year. In this edition of Panorama, we’ll be hearing about the past – and future – of the Česká národní budova.
In Mailbox today: the planned controversial National Library building; the rising status of Czech cuisine; the “dancing king” of Cambodia; May competition question – correction; a listener’s complaint about alleged discrimination in Radio Prague’s monthly quizzes. Listeners quoted: Lipa from Prague, Tony Prescott, Erin Slattery, Ian Morrison.
Last year a design for the new national library by architect Jan Kaplický promised to bring an unprecedented architectural edge to the centre of Prague. But almost from day one, the project has been dogged by controversy. After initial support from the city’s mayor, the gelatinous-like structure nicknamed the Blob or the Octopus, to be situated on Prague’s Letná Plain, drew increasing criticism, including sharp words by Václav Klaus. The project was also challenged by architects who argued the project failed to respect prerequisites of the original
Our guest for One on One this week is Jakub Cigler, one half of the duo behind Cigler-Marani – an award-winning firm of architects whose elegant designs have helped them become one of the leaders in their field in this country. Cigler-Marani have been in the news of late because their design has been chosen by the city of Prague to revamp the Czech capital’s somewhat jaded main thoroughfare Wenceslas Square.
After many years of discussion and planning, extensive renovation work on New York’s Česká Národní Budova (Bohemian National Hall) is finally close to completion. Later this year, the imposing five-storey building on Manhattan’s Upper East Side will open its doors – and become home to many of the most important Czech institutions in the city. Ian Willoughby has been to see the Bohemian National Hall – I spoke to him on the line from New York and asked him first to tell us something about the history of the building.
It’s nearly midday and Prague’s Old Town Square is heaving with people taking photos of the astrological clock, tour groups which you can probably hear behind me, and pizzerias and Czech pubs selling lunchtime fare. But in the midst of all of this hubbub, there is one thing missing, and I’m joined here by Eva Skalická of Prague Town Council, who is here to tell me exactly what that thing is.
Just a few minutes’ walk from Prague Castle, the monumental Černín Palace stands out in Hradčany’s Loreto Square. Built in the 17th and 18th centuries as the residence of the Černín aristocratic family, the Baroque palace now houses the Foreign Ministry of the Czech Republic. But the history of the largest of Prague’s Baroque palaces has seen more than politics – it has witnessed ambition, corruption and even a mystery death.
This week marks exactly 100 years since the death of Josef Hlávka, an architect, builder and the biggest Czech philanthropists of all time. This year, it has been 104 years since Hlávka established a foundation in support of education, science and art. When he died, he bequeathed all his property to the foundation. It was probably the only case in Czech history that someone left his entire fortune to charity. Yet, nowadays, many people don’t even know who Josef Hlávka was.
Pavel Hnilička is a Prague-based architect and town planner who has authored one of the first books about urban sprawl in the Czech Republic called Sídelní kaše, roughly translatable as Urban or Residential Soup. Prague and other cities and towns in the country have seen unprecedented development in recent years, which the author says is largely indistinguishable from homogenous sprawl witnessed elsewhere in Europe or even North America, albeit on a far smaller scale. I met with the architect at his office in a leafy part of Prague recently to
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