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
It is exactly a year since the Czech-born London-based architect Jan Kaplický won an international competition for a new National Library building on Prague’s Letná Plain, not far from Prague Castle. Twelve months later, it still isn’t clear whether the futuristic gold-and-purple building, nicknamed “the Blob”, will ever be built in the Czech capital. The controversial design has stirred a heated debate among architects and politicians; among its biggest opponents are Prague Mayor Pavel Bém and the country’s president, Václav Klaus.
Czech-born London-based architect Jan Kaplický, the author of the winning design for a new National Library building in Prague, has given city officials one month to come to a decision on whether the new building can be constructed in Prague. Mr Kaplický said that if Prague City Hall fails to reach a solution, he will quit the project for good. Jan Kaplický’s winning design, popularly known as the Blob and the Octopus, had met with little appreciation from some Prague officials – including the mayor, Pavel Bém. They claimed it would disturb the city’s skyline. There has also been a petition of architects, monument preservationists and art historians in support of the project.
Prague’s Old Town Square is a location so full of historical sights that one almost doesn’t know where to look first. But at the moment, one of the landmarks, a monumental sculptural group on the north side of the square, is hidden from sight. The bronze memorial to the Czech church reformer Jan Hus is under scaffolding and covered by a tarpaulin because it is undergoing much needed renovation. The sculpture, unveiled in 1915, is the best-known work by the Czech sculptor Ladislav Saloun.
The Bush administration’s plans to build a radar base in the Czech Republic as part of the U.S. missile defence shield have stirred passions both at home and abroad. One of those who feel strongly about the idea is the Californian artist Kevin Kihn, who contacted Radio Prague with a rather unusual proposal. Instead of a radar facility, he suggested, why not build a Peace Dome in its place? We spoke to Kevin at his home in the town of Alameda, in the San Francisco Bay.
Prague’s National Theatre is one of the most important cultural institutions in the Czech Republic. Located by the River Vltava at the end of Narodni trida, the 19th century Neo-Renaissance building, with its distinctive gilded cupola, is also one of the city’s most recognisable landmarks. But today it is landmark in need of a facelift. Some work has already begun on the roof, while the main reconstruction work on its facades will get underway in around a year and a half’s time.
Letna Plain is one of the last open spaces in central Prague. Overlooking the Vltava River and located only some 1500 metres from Prague Castle, it was a strategic location in mediaeval times for troops laying siege to the seat of Bohemian monarchs. Historians assume that this was the reason why Letna remained an open space; it was only connected with Mala Strana and the Castle in 1831, and first buildings were erected at the end of the 19th century. Letna has always been a venue for protests, demonstrations, and popular gatherings. The Communists
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