Final coffin nail for the Blob?

The new City Hall administration is likely to stop a feasibility study

The Blob, a modern building proposed for plain at Letná park, has faced what might be its final setback.

The new administration in Prague City Hall will not continue exploring the possibility of building the structure designed by the studio of famed architect Jan Kaplický.

The past City Hall leadership, led by then-mayor Adriana Krnáčová (ANO), reopened the idea of building the Blob late last year by endorsing a new feasibility study.

The structure was originally designed as a library, but if it was built now it would serve a different purpose, as the National Library (NK) is no longer interested in the structure.

The idea of building the structure anyway was long promoted by the architect’s widow, Eliška Kaplický Fuchsová. (ANO). She was also the chairwoman of the city’s Culture Committee in the previous administration.

Kaplický's design in 2007 won a competition for a new building for the National Library (NK), though the competition later ended in a lawsuit as the design did not meet the specifications of the contest.

Architect Kaplický died in 2009, shortly after the original building design was rejected, following a large public outcry.

Redesigning the building without Kaplický would raise questions about its authorship and architectural authenticity.

“From our point of view, it is unrealistic for the Kaplický Library to stand in its current state … after the death of its author and after such a long time since the competition was announced,” City Councilor Hana Třeštíková (Praha Sobě), responsible for culture, said.

Třeštíková said the current City Hall administration will likely cancel the new study, which has not started yet. “We have time to consult our colleagues and cancel the study,” she said.

The feasibility study would include whether or not the building should be a joint venture with a private investor, or solely built by the city. Environmental impact would be assessed and a timetable for construction set out.

The study would also determine the new function of the building, the costs of construction and operation, the impact on tourism and the impact on Prague’s UNESCO World Heritage status.

The official name of the building is Eye Above Prague (Oko nad Prahou), but it has popularly been called the Blob or the Octopus due to its sprawling shape.

After Jan Kaplický won the NK architectural contest in 2007, then-president Václav Klaus and Prague’s then-mayor Pavel Bém (ODS) opposed its construction at Letná. Some Prague politicians looked for other sites including at Stodůlky, Strahov or Pankrác, but nothing suitable was found.

Some architects in the original contest claimed that the design did not meet the stated criteria. The Court of Appeals decided in 2015 that the winning proposal should have been excluded for failure to comply with the competition conditions, and the Supreme Court upheld the decision, ruling that Kč 3 million should be paid to the losing architects to make up for the differences in prize money once the winner was excluded.

The Blob has made several appearances. A small version of its facade has been incorporated into a bus stop in Brno, and a video-mapping of its shape was projected onto a tent in 2015 during the Letní Letná theater festival in Prague's Letná park, not far from the originally planned building site.

The model was shown in 2016 at the Dancing House as part of a retrospective of work by Jan Kaplický.

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