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Some call it a blob, some an octopus and some a fantasy castle: This is Jan Kaplicky's controversial design for Prague's new national library. Although Kaplicky won the state competition in October last year, a political maelstrom has arisen over the past few months.
Since Prague's mayor, Pavel Bém, aligned himself against the building in October, President Vaclav Klaus has sworn to do everything in his power to prevent the design from being built. In turn, prime minister Mirek Topolanek has come out in support of the building, as well as opposition leader Jirí Paroubek, who even announced that Kaplicky would become his cultural advisor should his party win the next election.
Public support for the building allegedly sits at 70% and a pop concert, cake designs, bumper stickers and a 12 000-signature international petition have been sparked. However, while big names such as Vaclav Havel, Dominque Perrault, Zaha Hadid and Richard Rogers lead the petition, Kaplicky was particularly enthralled by the support of 160 Cape Town librarians. "They say they are jealous that Prague will have the world's most modern library," exclaimed Kaplicky.
This is no overstatement by Kaplicky. Besides the trademark bubble aesthetic of Future Systems (the practise led by Kaplicky and Amanda Levete), the structure will house more than 10 million Czech books dating back to 1801. The books will be kept underground in a massive vault serviced by robots. Guided by microchips, the robots will reportedly be able to locate and deliver any book within five minutes.