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.
In a country full of medieval castles and Renaissance palaces it is sometimes easy to overlook the Czech Republic's rich industrial heritage: abandoned 19th century breweries, forgotten mines, and massive steel or textile factories now left to rust and crumble brick by brick. But, the last five years have seen a major turn-around: investors in the Czech Republic have at last been attracted into buying industrial space and turning factories into fashionable galleries, studios, or living space. This week, the 3rd "Vestiges of Industry" biennale maps
Yugoslav-born Vlado Milunic is one of the most respected architects based in the Czech Republic, whose work includes a well-known and remarkably quirky and playful housing estate in Petriny, a Prague district, and the world-class Dancing House on the banks of the Vltava River, which he collaborated on with renowned architect Frank Gehry. In our interview Vlado Milunic talks about his views on architecture and the Dancing House, as well as the mystique the city of Prague has held for him ever since he first arrived at the age of just sixteen.
Jiri Skopek is a Czech-born architect who left the country of his birth with his when he was just 19. Studying in London Jiri soon became involved in projects that included building a recording studio for the legendary The Who, and in the 1970s designing the first solar house in Britain's Milton Keynes. In later years he worked on the Arabian Peninsula, and - in the eve of the 90s - drew up the master plan for one of the most recognisable sites in Toronto.
Czech architecture has a long and rich tradition, but in the last few years, it has also come in for a lot of criticism, as faceless shopping centres mushroom around the country. In order to improve the quality of contemporary Czech architectural design, the Czech Society of Architects organizes an annual competition. On Wednesday the international jury of the Grand Prix announced the winner.
Architect Jan Hird Pokorny is a legend of the Czech émigré community in New York City, where he has been living and working since 1940. A former professor of architecture and preservation studies at Columbia University, he was instrumental in saving countless historic buildings in his adoptive homeland from destruction: among them, the Bohemia National Hall, once the centre of New York's thriving, Czech émigré community. This Tuesday, Prof. Pokorny--at 90 years old still considered a modern architect--was awarded the honorary title of doctor honoris
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