Thursday, 24 May 2007
The Sad Story of the Alchemist's House
If you walk down the Siroka - the market street in Cesky Krumlov in which you will find the Egon Schiele Art Centrum - you will see the Alchemist's House. This wonderful renaissance house is the most perfect example of burgher home in the town and indeed anywhere. Its association with the alchemist Anton Michael of Ebbersbach, a former resident, gives the house its local name and this in turn gave a group of local people the idea for a use for the building - the creation of an alchemy museum.
The museum would have covered the history of alchemy both in Krumlov and further afield, and it would have looked at alchemy's legacy - to science (the alchemists developed many of the early scientific methods) and to literature. It was a perfect idea for Cesky Krumlov, commercially attractive and appropriate. It also would have meant the restoration of the building - sensitive restoration because the people involved in developing the project cared and still do care about the building. The building was owned by the "Cesky Krumlov Development Fund". You can find out what it claims to be doing on the web - that it was protecting the heritage and developing the town for the benefit of local people and future generations. Let us decide from its behaviour over the Alchemist's House whether this is the case.
The proposers of the Alchemy Museum concept were encouraged to work up their business plans and to look for funding. If they did this, they were told, they would get the house. So they set about doing just that. Then they heard that the house had been sold behind their backs to a hotel developer. It is obvious that a hotel conversion of this building is inappropriate. As I indicated in my previous post hotels require changes to the internal fabric of the building incompatible with heritage conservation concerns. Criticism of the hotel proposals has come from national and regional conservation bodies. Does the Development Fund listen? Well it hasn't yet.
Anton Michael of Ebbersbach was an unethical charlatan, who had claimed to be able to grow gold coins by watering them. The Development Fund has found another way to grow gold!