Film captures thwarted plans for futuristic Jan Kaplický building in Prague

Проект нового здания Национальной библиотеки

The documentary Oko nad Prahou (The Eye Above Prague), which premiered in the city on Wednesday night, is about Jan Kaplický winning the contract to build a new National Library building in the Czech Republic’s first ever international architecture tender. However, his futuristic design – nicknamed the Blob – soon met opposition from the president and others and the plan was abandoned. Tragically, the Czech-born architect died last year on the day his wife gave birth to their first child. I spoke to Kaplický’s widow Eliška Kaplický Fuchsová, who produced the film, and asked her what she felt the fate of the Blob told us about the Czech Republic today.

Eliška Kaplický (left), director of the film Olga Špátová, photo: CTK
“It’s a realistic…story of where we are in 2010 with our politics…I’m really looking forward to seeing the reactions in London where the film is going to be screened on July 2 during the London Festival of Architecture. Because I think architects very often have these fights, fighting for their buildings and for their visions and ideas.

“But this case is something different. My husband often said this fight is about democracy, about books and the nation.”

In the film I think it’s fair to say that the “villains” are the mayor of Prague, Pavel Bém, and the president, Václav Klaus. Are you personally angry about the position they took on the Blob?

“Angry? Not any more. I don’t think I would live my life peacefully with my daughter…It’s sad that we don’t have the building and we don’t have Jan any more.”

You produced and co-wrote the film, so obviously you saw different parts of the film at different stages. Has it been hard for you personally to work on it?

“It was very hard. So I asked for support from professionals – from producers, directors, editors – who might help to give us something more than just emotions. And I must say that they helped us a lot. For me it would be impossible to finish the film without them.”

How is it when you watch the film today – or have you seen it since it’s been completed?

“I watched it at different stages, when the film had 100 minutes, 90 minutes, 80 minutes – now it has 78. After it was done I didn’t see it. I saw it only once, at the gala premiere at the opening of Febiofest. I was truly very happy about the standing ovations and that people really liked the film.

“For me that was the end. I don’t think that I will watch the film any more, probably only with a few people.”