Wednesday, 21 July 2010

World-class Concert Hall for Ceske Budejovice

It looks as though Ceske Budejovice is going to get a world-class concert hall. The hall, nicknamed the manta ray (reynok in Czech) because of its shape, was designed by the Czech architect Jan Kaplicky, who died in January. Kaplicky, who had lived in London for forty years, will be known to British readers for his media centre at Lords Cricket Ground and for the curvaceous Selfridges building in Birmingham. However in his home country Kaplicky had been less honoured. His remarkable plans for an octopus-shaped National Library, to be built in Prague, won an international architectural competition, but foundered on the prejudice of Czech politicians and, one suspects, the envy of other architects.

It is perhaps an indication of Ceske Budejovice's aspirations and forward-looking nature that the architect Prague rejected Budejovice welcomed. It is also an indication of the city's aspirations to be a major cultural centre. The Manta Ray will be the home of the South Bohemian Philharmonic Orchestra, which currently has to make do with a converted church as its home. The Ray actually will be called the Antonin Dvorak Centre, but I prefer the Ray and so no doubt will my fellow South Bohemians. There will be two concert halls - one with 1000 seats and another with 400. A major feature of the design is the inclusion (unique as far as I know in concert halls) of a large window at the rear of the hall looking out onto the park in which the Ray will be built.

Ceske Budejovice deserves the Ray. Jan Kaplicky deserves at last, albeit too late, to receive proper recognition in his homeland. And I can't wait to step inside this weird and wonderful building and better still to sit in one of its auditoria and listen to a concert.

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