Otakar Binar

* 1931  †︎ 2024

  • "And somewhen around midnight, the phone rang. Mrs Seifert picked up the phone. What's happening? And she said there were foreign armies here. So we ran out of the gallery around Adria and watched how the tanks passed through Moskevská. I know that Jirka Seifert, the boy has breathed his last too, had a sturdy figure. There were vegetables, and by the vegetables, there was a bench. He pushed the bench into the road, but it only crunched, of course. It was only afterwards that we realised the danger we had exposed ourselves to. It was dark, but we didn't know there were dead people in the square already. I don't know if the nurse from the hospital was the first–they shot her as she walked to the hospital near the theatre. And then there was the boy who threw the scaffolding planks.”

  • “The first opening day was for employees. The Minister of Communications was there–I can't remember the name. Hubáček and I agreed, we went up the stairs, but we sat there. There was a kind of wavy mirror, and we sat by it inconspicuously. First, the Director of Civil Engineering gave a speech. Then he handed over diplomas to the workers. The truth is that the conditions there were clearly not simple. In autumn, it already gets cold there, it's freezing, and the wind is blowing. Especially the drivers did not have it easy because today the road to Ještěd is widened, but originally it was very narrow. When it snowed, it was not easy to get up there. The minister thanked everyone. We noticed that the director pointed at Hubáček, who sat there, to the minister. But the word Hubáček was never even mentioned. As if the architect Hubáček, the author of the building, was not there. When a decent moment came, we left the building.”

  • "When Hubáček assigned me the task, I had a problem; not only did I have no experience, but I assumed that the interior should preserve some kind of spirit of the object, that there should be unity. The building has somewhat of a wit. The object has unordinary technology. Aluminium and steel were used, which was not very common. For example, I tried to exclude wood, but that didn't quite work. So if there is wood, the surface is black. And white goes well with black. So there are a lot of combinations of black and white. The building has a wit. I managed to come up with a letter H system. The entire hotel room is equipped with them. It's two H’s, a frame is inserted between them, and it makes up a bed. Glass is placed on an H, and it becomes a table.”

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Liberec, 17.03.2022

    duration: 02:03:30
  • 2

    Liberec, 14.05.2022

    duration: 02:02:17
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

They were afraid that the Russians would shoot Ještěd to pieces. Then he breathed new life into the Czech building of the century.

The witness is painting Ještěd, around 1949
The witness is painting Ještěd, around 1949
photo: witness archive

Otakar Binar was born on June 17, 1931 in Jaroměř to Otakar Binar and Regina, née Reslerová, as their second child. His father worked as an engine driver. In 1931, the Binars moved from Liberec to Jaroměř, shortly afterwards to Kuklen near Hradec Králové. Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk patted Binar Junior on the head in Lány. He decided to be an architect when he was just a child. At the end of the war, the family moved back to the north of Bohemia bellow Ještěd. Binar graduated from the State Industrial School in Liberec. He toyed with the idea of ​​becoming a painter, finally deciding on architecture, which he studied at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design (UMPRUM) in Prague from 1952–1958. After school, he joined Stavoprojekt in Liberec in the studio of Karel Hubáček, who became his lifelong colleague. He was a member of the world-famous architectural studio SIAL and the author of the interior of the Hotel Ještěd, which later became the Czech building of the 20th century. He spent the night from August 20 to 21 with Václav Havel and Jan Tříska in Liberec. In 2022 he lived there. Otakar Binar died on May 20, 2024.