The communist period, however, severed this line of architectural continuity and architecture is still working to make up for lost ground today. Nowadays it is rather individual architectural works that tend to draw admiration.
The modern-day period of Czech architecture encompasses even structures that were built before 1989. While there are only a handful of exceptional works that we can speak of from that time, it is those exceptions, which emerged even despite the dictatorship, that are the centre of attention today, as many are fighting to secure them the status of protected heritage. Among them are ‘Brussels-style’, high-tech, and postmodernist structures. After the regime collapsed, architects were largely drawn to postmodernism, banned under the previous regime. In the 1990s Czechoslovakia attracted many investors from abroad. The Dancing House by Frank Gehry and Vlado Milunič on the river embankment in Prague became an icon of the post-revolution period, and Jean Nouvelle designed the administrative centre Zlatý Anděl. By contrast, Brno sought to pick up on the golden interwar years, with a celebration of functionalism or minimalism. Prominent Czech architectural historian Rostislav Švácha used the phrase ‘Czech austerity’ in the title of his book on the architecture of the 1989-2004 period. The term established itself. He wrote that work in those years was ponderous, cautious, and devoid of visual delight, smooth, clean, pragmatic, and for a purpose.
Architectural exhibitions are organised at Jaroslav Fragner Gallery and occasionally the National Gallery. The magazine ERA21 and web portal archiweb.cz serve as important sources of information on architecture. In recent years, the international ReSITE conference has evolved into a major event. VI PER Gallery focuses on architecture in the broadest sense, together with its relations and points of intersection with contemporary art, urbanism, design, and media, as well as the political, legal, social, economic and ecological contexts which help to shape architecture and the built environment. The exhibition’s topics explore social issues in a broader sense and their relationship with architecture and art. Our objective is to highlight the great potential that architecture and art have within society and to generate topics that represent new connections and impulses. VI PER Gallery thus provides space for interdisciplinary research and discussion. Part of the gallery space is a bookstore focused on architecture. CAMP, the Center for Architecture and Metropolitan Planning, has set a goal to improve public discussion about the development of Prague. It is striving to become an essential source of clear and accessible information about the present and future of the capital city and functions as an open platform, a “basecamp” for anyone interested in the collective planning and development of Prague.
The Czech Chamber of Architects
The Czech Chamber of Architects was established by law and has existed since 1992. There are about 4,000 registered architects in the Czech Republic. Studies in architecture are offered at schools in Prague, Liberec, and in Brno. Many students go abroad for practice. Only the luckiest and most persistent graduates make it. The supply exceeds the demand. State socialism worked according to templates and under a ‘do-it-yourself’ motto, and as a result, Czechs have lost the habit of commissioning work from architects. Equally, the state has given up on representing itself through public construction works. The situation is however improving and architects are slowly starting to regain their position. Once a year the Architecture Grand Prix is handed out, and the Yearbook of Czech Architecture is published.
The biggest task facing the architectural community at present is to push for public contracts and the need for architectural contests. In the Czech Republic since 1989 the architectural profession has been striving to regain political status and recognition among the general public. Once this barrier is broken, it will have much to offer.