Archifest 2004: Have you noticed the shadows lately?

Church on Jiriho z Podebrad Square

Along with taking in the sunshine of Prague in the summertime, this week is an excellent opportunity to find out more about architecture. The first ever Archifest is taking place featuring the three cities of Prague, Brno and Litomysl. In a programme entitled "architecture: a public matter", Archifest offers numerous opportunities to hear architects themselves talking on-site about their own buildings and buildings they love.

The night in architecture,  Ecotechnical museum,  photo: CTK
On Tuesday night in Prague, close to 200 visitors were loaded on buses and taken on a guided tour to experience what was called "A Night in Architecture." I caught up with one of the committee members Dalibor Vesely a Czech architect, art historian and professor at the University of Cambridge. He spoke to me about how the event may surprise many people.

"As it happens architecture is primarily situational and spatial art. Space is very much defined by light and light belongs to shadow. One has to remember than in order for architects to emphasize this particular contrast would present even their drawings on black paper with white ink rather than the other way around, which creates kind of indirectly a very important contrast to what people are used to. Therefore if you present the architecture in the night, it's just presenting it as if it were on black paper. The buildings are in a certain sense inverted, they are like inside out. What is black is white what is white is black".

So it will certainly create intrique for the visitors..."

Church on Jiriho z Podebrad Square
"...and indirectly, without them being aware of it, it also brings them into a deep dimension of architecture being suddenly aware as of the real power of architecture which has to do with the depth, spatiality, and even the kind of mystery of space that comes out more in the shadow than it does in light."

The night in architecture began at 8 in the evening and 10 spots were visited in Prague ranging from the much endeared buildings of old Prague, to more modern industrial structures. Participants had to come well rested for the tour lasted all night, with sunrise from the clock tower of Josip Plecnik's extraordinary 1920s church on Jiriho z Podebrad Square. The church's bricks protrude in a symmetrical sequence from the façade. It's a perfect example of how architecture reveals the shift of light.

If you would like more information on Archifest you can visit their website in both English and Czech at