Czech architect threatens to file lawsuit over blob

Kateřina Eliášová
29. 2. 2008 8:30
Decision on Kaplický´s National Library put off again
The picture of Kaplický´s "blob" is probably the most used picture these days
The picture of Kaplický´s "blob" is probably the most used picture these days | Foto: Ludvík Hradilek

Prague - Nearly  one year ago London-based, Czech-born architect Jan Kaplický won the international architectural competition with his design of the National Library to be built in Letná.

Now, a year later, a decision on the library popularly known as the "blob" or the "octopus" was delayed again by the Ministry of Culture on Wednesday.

The reason for that this time is the First Deputy Minister of Culture František Mikeš who filed a complaint with the anti-monopoly office. It was prompted by the lack of unity and by the different opinions reached by the legal experts.

"If we are to spend several billion of public money to build a national library, based on the results of a public competition for its design, there must be no doubt that could jeopardize this kind of multi-billion investment," the complaint says. 

According to Hospodářské noviny today, Kaplický said he would file a lawsuit if a final decision is not made within a month.

Legal experts disagree

Misconducts, breaking regulations, threats and risks. That's how the ten legal experts on a special board, selected by Czech National Library and Prague Municipal Council, qualify the international architectural competition for the new building of the National Library.

Their conclusions were implied in the documents which were presented on Wednesday to the Ministry of Culture.

The legal team has been working for over three months. It was trying to answer the questions about whether the competition, won by Kaplický's controversial "octopus" was regular, and whether there were any possible risks involved in its building.

The team's final report says that "there were several cases of misconduct, some non-standard operations and/or breaches of legal regulations, especially where the organisation of the competition and jury's decision was concerned."

Some of the legal experts are positive on these points.

So what's the truth?

The report also states that "the cases of misconduct could create legal risks for the National Library of the Czech Republic, or/and for the State that contributes funds to its running." This opinion is apparently shared by all those involved.

Nevertheless, Aktuálně.cz has at its disposal the complete minutes from the legal team's meetings. These show that the final report is not entirely consistent with all the issues the lawyers were discussing during the three months.

"The only result of our work was, we did not agree on anything," a team member wishing to remain anonymous told Aktuálně.cz. Under an agreement between the Prague Municipal Council and the National Library the panel members were banned from commenting on the "blob problem" in public.

Two camps with opposite opinions

The group divided into two irreconcilable camps. Both maintain they are right: one claims the competition was irregular and there is a danger of lawsuits from those who did not win. The other claims the opposite.

Shoudl the decision not be made within a month, I will file a complaint against Prague, says Kaplický
Shoudl the decision not be made within a month, I will file a complaint against Prague, says Kaplický | Foto: Aktuálně.cz

The leading Czech legal experts involved handed the result of their deliberation to the main "National Library" team. The conclusions of the expert group, as processed by a Prague Municipal Authority lawyer, don't entirely match the topics discussed by the experts.

For instance, answering the question "What legal risks would arise to the participating subjects by applying the right for compensation in case the competition was faulted?" the report as amended says:

"All the members of the group agree on there being... legal risks involved for the National Library connected to the competition. Where they don't agree is in evaluating the seriousness of such risks. At least five of them perceive these risks as unjustifiable or very grave."

But the minutes of the meeting quote the legal experts as saying an answer to such a question would be pure speculation and the risks according to some of them cannot be defined accurately.

The lawyers close to the Prague Municipal Council, on the other hand, state such risks clearly do exist. Of the legal experts, only one confirmed that opinion.


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