In 2007, world-renowned Czech futuristic architect Jan Kaplický and his UK based internationally acclaimed consultancy, Future Systems won the international design competition for the Czech National Library, named “Eye over Prague“. Resembling an Octopus with a huge eye overseeing the capital’s landmarks, including Prague Castle, the project was originally targeted for completion in 2011. It was claimed that the building would probably be the most futuristic building in Europe.
The project was meant to have a depository underground which can hold up to 10 million books (for next 50 years), 200 study places on 9 floors and a system for the expedition of any book from the depository within 3 minutes. Estimating a cost of 1.8 billion CZK (60 million €), the award sparked several controversies surrounding price, design, locality, needs, preservation issues, suitability, etc. from people all over (including the local administration, local Mayor, Czech President, …) – [Dispute about “Octopus” the New National Library by Kaplicky]
Jan Kaplický and Future Systems have created many award winning famous works including the iconic Selfridges building in Birmingham; the Stonehenge tourist center; the floating bridge linking West India Quay and Canary Wharf in London; Lord’s Cricket Ground; etc. The “Octopus” would have been Jan Kaplický’s first building in his homeland but the project was eventually cancelled in 2008. In Jan 2009, Jan Kaplický collapsed to his death (at age 71) on the street in Czech hours after his wife gave birth to a daughter, making the “Octopus” the last piece of his remarkable work.
In dedication to Jan Kaplickýa, here’s a short documentary film “Eye Above Prague” which tells the story of Kaplický’s last grand design as well as the process and struggles of architects to have their visionary and bold designs approved and built. In Jan Kaplický’s own words, “This is a battle for culture, for the book, for modern architecture, and for Europe. … There are far greater values at stake here.“: