Giant airship installed over Prague's DOX Centre

Wooden zeppelin named Gulliver is a place for art and literature discussion

A monumental architectural structure, inspired by early 20th century airships, has been built on the rooftop of the DOX Centre for Contemporary Art. The 42 meter-long 10-meter-wide steel-and-wood structure will become a new permanent feature and will officially open Dec. 10–11, 2016. The airship bears the name Gulliver, a famous character in utopian literature.

The airship will be christened Dec. 10 by internationally acclaimed authors and artists. Azar Nafisi, professor of literature and aesthetics at Johns Hopkins University in Washington, DC, is the author of Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books. Patrik Ouředník is a Czech author living in France since 1984 whose works have received acclaim abroad. His book Europeana: A Brief History of the Twentieth Century was published in 32 languages. Petr Sís, is a Czech-born New York–based artist, illustrator and writer of children's books. Bill Shipsey is founder of Art for Amnesty, which is Amnesty International's global artist engagement program.

An exhibition in the DOX Centre’s tower will explore the concept behind the creation of the airship, and its design and construction.

During the opening night, a Tapestry for Václav Havel will be presented. It has been created due to an initiative by Bill Shipsey according to a design by Petr Sís for the new Václav Havel Building at the European Parliament in Strasbourg. On Dec. 11 the airship will host readings and discussions with Azar Nafisi and Patrik Ouředník.

The DOX Centre for Contemporary Art opened in 2008 due to a private initiative by its current director, Leoš Válka, and his partners. DOX is a space for research, presentation, and debate on social issues. The renovation of a former factory into a multifunctional space was nominated for the Mies van der Rohe Award.

The airship is an extension of Válka’s idea that in today’s fast-paced, globalized world “things can be done differently.”

“The idea to invade the DOX Centre’s starkly modern austere concrete-and-glass architecture with a ‘parasitic’ structure has been on my mind for several years. I first dreamed of an absurdly fascinating organic shape that would contrast with the DOX Centre’s existing architecture,” Válka said in a press release.

In 2013 he invited architect Martin Rajniš to help him realize “a dream of 12-year-old boys.” For more than two years a team has been working on the design of the structure.

The zeppelin shape represents the optimistic ideals of an era of unprecedented technological advancements, and it embodies the eternal human desire to fly and represents a certain utopian ideal.

Gulliver will serve as a space for reading and public discussions of fiction, poetry and critical writing related to the themes of DOX’s exhibitions.

Leoš Válka left Czechoslovakia in 1981 and settled in Australia, where he started several companies specializing in construction, interior design, and development. In 1996 he moved back to Prague. With his business partner Robert Aafjes, he initiated and with the financial assistance of additional partners built the DOX Centre for Contemporary Art in Prague’s Holešovice district. In 2011, based on a nomination by Václav Havel, he received an award from the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic for long-term merit in the area of fine art.

Martin Rajniš has left his mark in architecture around the world through projects connected by the idea of long-term sustainability, ecology, and the concept of architecture as a tool for community and social development. His work is based on the philosophy of “natural architecture.” He is the founder and head of the Martin Rajniš Architecture Guild. In 2014 he was awarded the Global Prize for Sustainable Architecture. He lives and works in Prague. His early work included Máj department store, now Tesco, at Prague's Národní třída.

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