Czech émigré architects from around the world exhibited in Prague


This week hundreds of Czech émigrés from all corners of the globe have gathered in Prague for the "Week of Czechs Abroad". They will be discussing everything from the role of Czech exiles in the film industry to the very concrete problems faced by those struggling to win back their lost Czech citizenship. The week opened with an exhibition at Prague's Jaroslav Fragner Gallery of designs by fifteen Czech émigré architects. Some, like Eva Jiricna, with her stylish hi-tech designs in London, or Martin Roubik, with his recent award-winning competition design for the Grand Egyptian Museum in Cairo, have won world renown. Jan Pokorny is a living legend of the Czech émigré community in New York, where he has been living and working since 1940. A sprightly 89-year-old, he told David Vaughan about his own contribution to the exhibition - a concert hall he designed for Lehman College in Albany, New York.

"When you build an auditorium, you always shake in your boots until the very end, because you never know what the acoustics will be. Well, I can tell you, when there was the official opening of that building I sat on the balcony next to a legislator from Albany, and I was very silent - he noticed I was nervous. When the orchestra started, and there were three beats, he turned to me and he said: "You can relax". So I did relax."

Lehman College by Jan Pokorny
There are other Czech architects who are exhibiting here in this exhibition from all over the world. Are there common threads that link you, do you think?

"Only the fact that we were educated in this country. I think we all got a fantastically good education. I owe everything I am to a very first rate basic education. That education was so thorough that it lasted me my whole career, based on that good start."

The curator of the exhibition, Petr Kratochvil, when he opened the exhibition, spoke about certain problems in the relationship between Czechs and their expatriates. Do you feel that as well?

"No I don't. I was surprised he said that. He must have had some experience with it. I never had any problems in relation to Czech architects in the Czech Republic and myself. But of course I must admit that I didn't have many contacts - there was not enough contact between the Czech architects here and there, and there should be more. This exhibit might help that. We should be more in touch."