Blob getting new feasibility study

The proposed modern building has been stalled since 2007

The Prague City Council approved making a feasibility study on the construction of Jan Kaplický's Blob building in Letná. The study will examine all aspects of construction and is due by the end of April 2019. The decision to make a study does not mean that it will be built.

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.

The National Library is no longer interested in the building, and its proposed purpose has been changed. The building is now officially called the multifunctional center Oko nad Prahou (Eye over Prague).

The design met with harsh criticism from the public in 2007, and was called the Blob or the Octopus in the media. In the end, neither it nor any of the other designs for a new library was built.

Mayor Adriana Krnáčová (ANO) submitted the proposal to make the study, which was not on the agenda. “We have approved a study to see if the project is still feasible or not, and the new City Council will eventually decide how to deal with it,” Krnáčová said. Prague recently had municipal elections and a new government is expected to form soon.

The proposal for a study was supposed to have been approved last week but was delayed. It was proposed this week at the request of the Pirates, Praha Sobě and the United Force for Prague (TOP 09, STAN and KDU-ČSL), the parties currently trying to form a municipal government.

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

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

City Hall passed on the idea of constructing the Blob in June. It had been proposed at that time by Eliška Kaplický Fuchsová, the widow of the architect. She is also the chairwoman of the city’s Culture Committee.

In 2007, then-president Václav Klaus and Prague’s then-mayor Pavel Bém (ODS) opposed construction. Some Prague politicians looked for other sites including at Stodůlky, Strahov or Pankrác.

Architect Jan Kaplický died in 2009 shortly after the library project was definitely put on hold.

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.

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.

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