Rogue R2D2 appears in Prague

An air vent to a Cold War bomb shelter has been converted by street artists

Famed Star Wars robot R2D2 has made a surprise appearance in a park in Prague. A so-far anonymous street artist, or likely a small group, converted one of two air vents for a Cold War-era nuclear fallout shelter into a large replica of the science fiction legend, looking as if he was half buried in the ground.

The street art, reminiscent of something Banksy might do, is on an obscure overgrown path used mostly by local dog walkers as it leads to the edge of a steep cliff in a park called Folimanka. Most of the park runs under the Nusle Bridge.

The artwork was quite an undertaking, as two large concrete pieces representing R2D2's legs were added on the sides, and other concrete details were added. The entire domed vent was painted blue and white with other color touches to resemble the robot.

Apparently, it had been in place several days before it caught the attention of local media on Oct. 20. The dome was not painted, save for random graffiti, on Oct. 14, when the associated bomb shelter beneath was open to the public for free tours. Possibly, this is when the street artists became aware of the structure.

There is no word yet as to whether the city will maintain the rogue R2D2 art or restore the vent back to its original shape. In the past, graffiti has not been removed.

A paper sign in Czech on a lamppost urges people not to damage the artwork, but it is not an official city sign.

Street art is not new to Prague, and one of the more famous pieces was the Pink Tank by artist David Černý. He painted a Soviet tank pink and placed a giant pink middle finger on top of it in 1991. The tank was in a public square as a monument to the Soviets for liberating Prague at the end of World War II.

More recently the provocative art group Ztohoven replaced the president's flag at Prague Castle with giant red underwear. This group also hacked into a TV broadcast to show an atom bomb explosion and has staged other art events. Some of their street art actions have led to the artists into legal trouble.

The bomb shelter under Prague 2's Folimanka park is the largest underground construction in that district. Its interior of 1,332 square meters can hold up to 1,260 persons. The shelter is fully functional with lighting and heating. While its entry place is fairly obvious, its existence was officially a state secret for many years after the Velvet Revolution. Since the middle of 2017 is has been open once a month for free tours.

The underground tunnels still have cases of gas masks and other supplies that thankfully were never needed. Showers, toilets, common spaces, bunk beds and everything else for an underground city are spread out in the 23 spaces that are now opened. Further tunnels remain closed for safety reasons.

Electrical generators, water pumps, filtration systems, a first aid center, a communications center and two morgues were all set up in case the Cold War got hot. All the doors are sturdy metal so different areas can be isolated.

The air vents, including the one that now looks like R2D2, leads to an air filtration system to remove radioactive dust.

The creation of the rogue R2D2 so far seems unrelated to the impending release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi in December. The eighth episode in the Star Wars saga, not counting spinoffs, stars Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver and Daisy Ridley.

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