In the last couple of years, the destruction and deteriorating state of post-war brutalist architecture in Prague has been a debated and polarizing issue. To understand the complexe issue, Kafkadesk visited the exhibition ‘NO DEMOLITIONS! Forms of Brutalism in Prague,’ displayed in the Trade Fair Palace of the National Gallery Prague.
We spoke to the curator of the architecture collection in Prague, Helena Doudová, who specializes in post-1945 architecture and its media overlap.
As the name of the exhibition suggests, brutalist buildings in Prague are in danger of being destroyed. How did this context translate into the rationale behind the exhibition?
One of the main reasons behind the exhibition was that the city of Prague is losing a layer of its cultural and architectural history. Buildings are either being demolished, like the Transgas building and Hotel Praha, or earmarked for demolition, like the building of the Prague Telephone Exchange.
Prague is also losing a layer of its cultural memory, because a number of these buildings, like department stores and cultural centers, were popular with the public before 1989. In spite of the often-negative experience with the regime before 1989, they remember how they visited these cultural centers or went to the cinema. I would say that people’s memories are ambiguous.
Due to the 1989 transformation, the state often does not have enough finances to maintain these buildings. As a result, they tend to be abandoned, in a bad state or deteriorating. I think that there should be more attention from the Ministry of Culture in cooperation with the National Heritage Institute to say that these buildings, which were at the time actually very expensive, are valuable. And that we want that the memory, architecture, and history are maintained. Our exhibition is focusing only on Prague, but there are cases throughout the entire country. We are not saying that all of these buildings have to be kept, but the main examples should be preserved.