Another way of architecture: lessons lost on Ireland

Another way of architecture: lessons lost on Ireland Interior of the church of the Czechoslovak Evangelical Protestant community in Pečky

Czech Architectural Cubism by Zdenék Lukeš and Ester Havlová (Jaroslav Fregner Gallery, Prague, €10.00; on sale at IAA)


The Irish Architectural Archive is currently running an exhibition, “Czech Architectural Cubism”, which should not be missed by anyone interested about how architecture, including indeed church architecture, might have developed in Ireland in the 1920s.

Czechs had a fresh vision of how things might be built in one of the new nations created in the aftermath of the Great War, a little country seeking to create or regain its own unique Czech identity after long Austrian and German domination, a quest symbolised by the Czech language; a country which was again to suffer in the following decades from German invasion, and post-war Russian domination. Now under very different circumstances, the country’s artists and scholars are re-exploring what was done, and what might have been done.

A great variety of buildings are included in the exhibition, but it is most interesting to see the private houses as well as the co-operative flats for workers.

There are some images of religious building: the Bethlehem Chapel in Prague, the church of the Czechoslovak Evangelical Protestant church in Pečky, and the synagogue in Milevsako.

In these one can see a new country trying to echo the past in radically new solutions inspired. as the title of the show suggests, by the international Cubist movement in art. It manages to be both traditional, innovative, and humane all at the same time.

It is all very different from the tired Edwardian and ineffective art deco of Irish architecture in the period, or the Miesian brutalism and its echoes that we have to live with these days. But also, this is not quite what one expected Kafka’s country to look like!

A catalogue is available but its images cannot compete with those in the show, whose larger size reveals details lost to the eye on the printed page of the remarkably sensitive photographs of Ester Havlová.  The text (translated from the Czech) is by the distinguished architect Zdenék Lukeš, an artist of the post WWII generation.


The exhibition ‘Czech Architectural Cubism’ runs until 14th October 2017 (from Tuesday to Friday 10.00 am–5.00 pm) in the Irish Architectural Archive, 45 Merrion Square, Dublin 2.