Eye Over Prague. via Future Systems

Return of the Blob: Prague’s unusual National Library project may not be dead after all

The rights to the design for Jan Kaplický’s ultramodern Eye Over Prague are now property of the Culture Ministry and National Library
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The infamous Blob building, proposed for Prague’s Letná Plain back in 2007 but never built, refuses to definitively go away.

The latest development is that Eliška Kaplický Fuchsová, the widow of architect Jan Kaplický, has signed a memorandum with National Library (NK) director Martin Kocanda and Culture Minister Antonín Staněk (ČSSD), giving the author’s rights and project documentation to the building to the state.

This would allow the National Library to build the structure in the future, but that eventuality is far from certain. First, a government resolution declaring the project dead would have to be revoked.

The conditions of the memorandum are that the Blob, known by its supporters as the Eye Over Prague, would be built on its original proposed place at Letná, and that architects from Kaplický’s firm Future Systems would supervise any future development.

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Before the project was canceled, other locations such as Pankrác, Stodůlky and Strahov were considered.

Eye Over Prague, seen from above. via Future Systems

Prague City Hall also currently has no interest in the Blob being made, and in January 2019 backed out of a new study on the feasibility of the project. The study had been commissioned by the previous city administration, in which Kaplický Fuchsová had served as a city councilor for the ANO party until October 2018.

The city would have to approve the use of the land, which is part of a city park. Current City Councilor Hana Třeštíková (Praha sobě), responsible for culture, said that nobody has approached the city about using the land.

The Blob was the winner of an architectural contest in 2007 to create an additional building for the National Library, which has been struggling with a lack of space. In the end, the National Library renovated and expanded its storage facilities in Hostivař and books are moved twice a day between there and the Klementinum, though this is expensive and also puts a lot of wear on the books.

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Kaplický’s winning design caused an outcry at the time from both the public and politicians.

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After Kaplický won the NK architectural contest in 2007, then-president Václav Klaus and Prague’s then-mayor Pavel Bém (ODS) opposed its construction, claiming it was out of character for the city.

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 CZK 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.

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Kaplický was born April 18, 1937, and grew up in Prague’s Ořechovka neighborhood. He studied at the College of Applied Arts and Architecture and Design (VŠUP) in Prague, but went to London in 1968 after the Soviet-led invasion crushed the Prague Spring. In 1979 Kaplický set up his own architectural think tank called Future Systems with David Nixon.

Kaplický died in 2009, still hoping that the Eye Over Prague would be built,

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

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