Kaplicky's blob saga: Competition goes to court

Kateřina Eliášová
26. 8. 2010 16:01
Competition's third place-finisher sued National Library and international jury
Detail knihovny.
Detail knihovny. | Foto: Future Systems

Prague - The case of the international architectural competition for a design of the new Czech National Library building in Prague's Letná plain, won in 2007 by the London-based Future Systems architectural practice founded by the late Jan Kaplický, is going to court.

Kaplický's futuristic design, dubbed "octopus" or "blob", quickly created a huge political controversy and was never realized.

Read more: Culture versus politics. War rages over Prague blob
Read more: To blob or not to blob. Minister and architect divided

HŠH architekti, a Czech architectural practice that finished on the third place in the competition, sued the National Library in 2007, and the trial is due to start in September. The studio wants a  compensation it for its losses.

The studio is convinced that both the National Library and the international jury violated the rules of the competition.

The library has refused all allegations, and even the International Union of Architects has looked into the case, finding no flaws.

See the best designs of the new Czech National Library

However, the Czech Anti-Monopoly Office investigated the case as well, and informally recommended that the library annul the competition, which the they refused to do.

"The purpose of our lawsuit is to have some kind of ruling from some official authority on whether the competition was flawed or not," said Tomáš Hradečný from HŠH.

Hradečný above all stressed the fact that the competition rules demanded the national conservation fund to be placed above the ground. Kaplický designed the fund to be placed under the ground, and his design made it to the second round and eventually won the competition nonetheless.

HŠH was awarded EUR 70 thousand for its third place, British Carmody Groarke received EUR 120 thousand for its second prize, and Kaplický's winning design won EUR 160 thousand.  

In case the court rules the competition was flawed, HŠH is going to ask for EUR 50 thousand, which is the difference between the third and the second place.

However, HŠH argues that the purpose of their lawsuit is above all to make authorities rule whether the competition was fair or not.

Three years of disputes

The disagreement is already three years old. Kaplický's project was scrapped in 2008 when Prague's town hall refused to provide the plot in Letná plain where the "blob" was supposed to be built. In addition, the government of Mirek Topolánek was willing to provide only CZK 2 bil (EUR 80 mil) tot he project, which was only a half of the estimated cost.

In January 2009, Kaplický died, aged 71.

Before the legislative election in May 2010, the Social Democratic Party brought the issue up once again, promising they would realize Kaplický's project were they elected. But although they won the election, they are in the opposition.

Read more: Czech Socialist leader resigns after winning election


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