Architectural-Artistic Competition for the Design of the Monument to Jan Palach

On 9 October 2015, the National Museum announced a competition for the design of architectural and artistic solutions of the Monument to Jan Palach in Všetaty. The Monument shall be created in the original Palachs’ family house and shall also include a new exhibition dedicated to this important figure in our history, his life and sacrifice and the broader historical context of the time and his act. Currently, the National Museum is looking for a creative personality to transform the original house into a symbolic place commemorating the sacrifice of Jan Palach, remodel the adjacent landscape into a contemplative space as well as design a new exhibition pavilion and spatial as well as artistic solution for the new exhibition.

By 2018 an artistically valuable object with a museum exhibition will be created in Všetaty to commemorate Jan Palach’s protest of 16 January 1969 in the domestic as well as international context. The announced competition calls for developing a design of architectural and artistic solution of the Monument to Jan Palach as a specific while also symbolic space. “Last year Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic instructed the National Museum to build a Monument to Jan Palach in Všetaty. After the preparatory stages, we have now announced the competition by means of which we seek a strong creative personality who will respectfully and sensitively approach such an important topic which is the extraordinary human sacrifice of Jan Palach,” says Michal Lukeš, General Director of the National Museum. The overall solution of the Monument should be based on its division into three main areas of meaning – symbolic, contemplative and educational.

House as a Symbol of Jan Palach’s Sacrifice

The family house where Jan Palach spent most of his life, is located in the township of Všetaty, near Mělník. It was built by Palach’s father in the 1930s, but its interior layout changed after 1969. The house has been uninhabited for a long time and is in very poor technical and structural condition. It has an adjacent rather small plot of land with a neglected garden and dilapidated workshops and garages. Original house furnishing is either completely missing or damaged, and no objects from the time when Palach lived in there have been preserved. Palach’s room was located on the first floor. On 16 January 1969 he left from here to the Všetaty railway station, therefrom by train to Prague where he burned himself in front of the National Museum to protest against the continued occupation and against further concessions to invaders.

The abandoned house is now waiting for its artistic transformation into the new building, a symbol of Jan Palach’s sacrifice, commemorating this important historic event, strongly affecting the visitor, while encouraging him or her to think about the issues associated with the themes of sacrifice, freedom, and human rights. It will, however, not be a classical memorial site, based on the original contemporary furnishings, but a completely new architectural and artistic building with a strong emotional charge. Within the Monument, the plaque unveiled in 1993 bearing the inscription: “Jan Palach, 1948–1969, lived here, and from here he left to die for the freedom of the Czech nation” (orig. inscription in Czech) will be preserved.

Garden as a Meditation Space

The land adjacent to the house and to the stream called Tišický potok will then be used as a space for visitors’ meditation and personal coming to terms with the absolute extent of human sacrifice of Jan Palach. The entrance yard with the fence and the tall tree, that are indisputably authentic witness of life and the fateful decision of Jan Palach, will be preserved, while the outbuildings, garages, possibly also the workshop extension to the house will be removed. The concept of the garden and its appearance, however, will result from the individual approach to the topic chosen by the author.

Pavilion for the New Exhibition

Likewise, the new exhibition pavilion to be built in the garden and accommodate a small permanent exhibition including assembly area, social and technical facilities for visitors and employees of the Monument, is waiting for its design.

Museum exhibition will be divided into three thematic areas, namely: I. International and Domestic Context of the Time, II. The Act and Response (funeral and quiet piety, regime response, Jan Zajíc and other followers) and III. The Second Life of Jan Palach (grave, memories, international acclaim, Palach’s week 1989 and the post-November tradition of remembrance). The exhibition will employ brief texts, photos, and multimedia technology and for greater emotional impact also work with sound and light as artistic means will be involved. The exhibition design should match the simple architecture of the new building which will interlink the surrounding landscape and the adjacent stream with the interior through glass surfaces.

A Strong Creative Personality is Wanted

The National Museum has announced the competition for a comprehensive solution to the Monument area and the land on which it is located. The competition is announced as an architectural design single-round public competition. Taking into account the significance of this architectural competition, Michal Lukeš, General Director of the National Museum, has appointed a seven-member jury and an equal number of alternates, composed of prominent personalities active in the field of 20th-century history, architecture, and fine arts.

The architectural design competition is announced pursuant to Act No. 137/2006 Coll., on Public Procurement, and in compliance with competition regulations of the Czech Chamber of Architects. The competition is announced and will be carried out in Czech. To facilitate access for foreign participants, the competition terms and conditions are also published in English.

Competition documents are drafted in electronic form and the final version is published on the contracting entity’s profile (http://www.egordion.cz/nabidkaGORDION/profilNM).

The date for submission of competing designs was determined symbolically to 15 January 2016. The National Museum expects the announcement of competition results by mid-February 2016. The architectural competition will then be concluded by a public exhibition of the designs, probably in spring 2016.


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