Vaclav Havel in his interview for Lidove Noviny Explains, why he intervened the debate, which concerns the whole Czech Republic today: the matter of “The Octopus” or “Blob”; the building of the new National Library.
The following text is a selective transcription of Vaclav Havel’s essay on this theme, given for Lidove Noviny.
I was Happy, that Prague, the city obviously so poor in interesting modern buildings (as it is behind almost all the metropolis I saw in past few years, from Bangkok, through Moscow to Leblanc) will finally get a highly interesting house continuing in the tradition of Organic architecture and reaching beyond our age by the type of its function. I was happy, that Prague panorama will get something else, and more spiritual, than just randomly placed skyscrapers.
I had the feeling that the eye of the library, blinking over the green of the park, looking to Hradcany, could stand like an embodiment of the past centuries. I was happy that the suburban taste Prague leadership, stigmatized by lobbyist concerns, could finally reach to something that could positively make a point in the history of the city.
I was happy prematurely. Averageness and banality triumph again, in the same way as triumphed in the cubics of office mass without an idea, that disfeatured Karlovo Namesti (without making any furor).
Kaplicky’s idea is irritates lots of people by the impression of certain randomness or inappropriateness of its placement. Like if this very original or certainly noticeable building could surpass its gray and basically hardly defined neighborhood. Yes, it is so. But neither the architect nor his plan are to blame. To blame is the Prague itself – even when it proclaims the opposite – it has no conception of Letna. It has no idea, what tis space in the center of Prague is, it is not able to entitle its identity, it is not able to give it any meaningful frame, to say what it is and what will be going on there. This is the reason, that whatever appears up there, good or wrong, is outside the context.
Letna shouldn’t be a place of one architect, to stand as a project of pride like Braziliana. Letna should be a space of freedom. But before, it is at least approximately necessary to know, which rules freedom has. Without any rules, freedom changes into neglection. Because Letna has no comprehensible rules of game, it is in danger it becomes an opportunity for quick money; what we can look forward to? For example enormous aquarium for sharks and huge new stadium, when both are supposed to be some kind of a decoration for the gigantic crossroad, that should give a death strike to the Prague Castle by cutting it from Dejvice (a city part) and destroy Jeleni street, the interesting challenge to make an European boulevard of it. It is already in progress and I am afraid, it will be a construction comparable only to the notorious separation of the National Museum from the Vaclavske Namesti by the highway.
The city musts have an opinion about this space, after, and only after, it is possible to say what is a nonsense and what belongs to the place or not. How it is possible to say the Library doesn’t belong there. What if it could become a key to inspiration for the whole Letna?
One picant detail: at the time when stadiums are build in city suburbs, the new stadium must be in Prague center, but the library can’t be in the center as it is probably supposed to be build somewhere in fields. And I don’t mention the Station Strahov, the biggest stadium in Europe, which is probably left to fall, because it is easier to build on a green field.
Letna is an example of how does it end, when we left everything on the ‘invisible hand’. It is possible live up to very visible nonsenses. It seems to me, that the ODS representatives (if it is possible to ask them for it) should understand.
What do you think about it? You can add your comment at the end of this article.