Kaplický's 'Blob' still not dead

The futuristic building is again being considered for Prague's Letná park

The Blob is back. The Culture Committee of Prague City Hall is again looking at building the controversial modern library that was proposed by Jan Kaplický. This time the focus will be on using it as a multifunctional space with a gallery and theater, in addition to a library.

City Councilor Jan Wolf (KDU-ČSL), responsible for culture, said the committee is making a feasibility study that should be completed by September.

The building was proposed as new home for the National Library, after winning a competition in 2006–07. The design, though, was instantly condemned by the public and politicians alike. In the popular press it was called the Blob or the Octopus. Then-president Václav Klaus and Prague's then-mayor Pavel Bém (ODS) both strongly opposed the plan.

Due to both the public outcry and some legal problems with the contest, the project was never built. It was supposed to have been finished by 2012.

“We would like to reopen a discussion about returning the library based on the Jan Kaplický design to the site for which it was originally designed, Letná,” Wolf (KDU-ČSL) told daily Mladá fronta Dnes (MfD).

This study should redefine the form of the project and determine its cost. Changes will have to be extensive, as the original design did not count on spaces for either a gallery or theater.

“Although the National Library has not shown interest in the building in the past, we expect 75 percent of the space to be used by the library. The rest of the site would be dedicated to the gallery and the theater,” Wolf explained.

He added that Divadlo Minor, which produces plays for children, could use the theater.

The original architect, Jan Kaplický, died in 2009 shortly after the library project was definitely put on hold.

“Architect Jakub Cigler is already working on the interior. We assume that thanks to new technologies the price would be lower than originally estimated Kč 2 billion,” Wolf told MfD.

Cigler's firm is responsible for the redesign of Wenceslas Square that is currently being implemented.

The proposal to re-examine the design is backed by Eliška Kaplický Fuchsová, the widow of the architect. She is also the chairwoman of the Culture Committee.

She attempted to revive the project in the summer of 2017, as she owns the rights to the design and a new National Library building still has not been built.

Losing 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 was 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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