Ing., Arch. Josef Pleskot

* 1952

  • "This is always a bitter result of a social change. I think it has always been the case in history that one generation initiated the changes, prepared them and achieved a certain satisfaction, not only for themselves, but in our case also for our parents, maybe even for our grandparents. But I have to say that it was not for all of our parents and grandparents, because there were many who didn't even realize that they were living in a non-functional society. The society that went in a wrong direction, clearly negative one. So then these people gradually woke up and started to exercise their visions, their demands, and of course, I can actually understand to a certain extent, but only until that point I still feel balanced. And that balance lies, or would lie, in the fact that the society comes to some consensus where it is still possible to pull together. That not one of those elements of society will feel somehow left out or somehow wronged. But gradually, actually, it's all prevailed in the other direction again, or maybe not yet, it's still good. And there's still hope, I would say, there's still hope. But it seems to me that a certain negative energy is beginning to prevail and I'm really afraid of it. And, of course, all the crises that are happening throughout Western civilization and throughout the world, whether it's financial crisis, energy crisis, health crisis and so on, are also contributing to that. All of this serves to relativize the achievement of the possibility to decide democratically, to think democratically, to admit democratically that not just one opinion, or just my own opinion, is the right one and the only one, and so on and so forth. The bottom line is that it seems to me that we have not made enough use of those thirty years to achieve that certainty."

  • "I came to the place where the clash took place, and there was nothing left, just people crying in despair, sometimes even covered in blood... I remember those faces... then I met them on the metro when I was going home... desperate people, but there was nothing happening on Národní třída. There was nothing in that place anymore. Just a few barricades and some objects thrown around, I don't remember exactly. But I do remember one moment that stuck in my mind, and it stuck in my mind for life, as an experience from that demonstration. Or there were actually two moments. One, I didn't feel quite the same at Albertov as I did among my people. I had expected a slightly friendlier atmosphere in the crowd there, but I registered a lot of strange people around me, and then I realized that maybe they weren't quite the people who had come there for the same reasons that I had come there with my colleagues. They were different people, and it just seemed to me that they were puppets to monitor us and control the situation. And then the second experience was right there on Národní třída, when we were standing there next to each other in tight formation, I saw someone moving on a top balcony of an apartment among the Národní třída. There was a woman and she threw a bucket of water into the crowd below her. And I realized then that maybe there was a change coming, maybe it was looking better, but there would still be many among us who would be throwing buckets of water into the, let's say, incipient... into those fire sparks."

  • "When I think about these things in hindsight and freely, I think there were good architects and bad architects. And there were a lot of good architects. They just worked at the wrong time, but they still managed to build things that even the younger generation today stands in awe of. Like the Federal Assembly building by Karel Prager, like the recently demolished Transgas building - and all of these were built in the time of great un-freedom. I always say, or I often say, those architects created in the time of un-freedom, but studied in the time of freedom. And in our generation, or in my generation, it was the opposite. We studied in the time of un-freedom and we are creating in the time of freedom. Who is better off? Well, that's a difficult question. It's just that those architects, Karel Hubáček, Karel Prager, many other great architects, Jan Šrámek, Šrámková, Bočan, Masák... I don't know, I don't want to name all of them now, because I don't want to forget anyone that would be unfair. But they actually managed to create great things in those times, and maybe we don't create such great things. Now in the time of freedom."

  • Full recordings
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    Praha, 03.11.2021

    duration: 01:35:54
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
  • 2

    Praha, 06.12.2021

    duration: 47:16
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
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Until freedom is lost again

Josef Pleskot in a graduation photo (1972)
Josef Pleskot in a graduation photo (1972)
photo: archiv pamětníka

Josef Pleskot was born on 3 December 1952 in Písek. He spent his childhood and adolescence in the nearby village of Čížová, in his grandparents’ house. He entered a grammar school in Písek in September 1968, shortly after the invasion of the Warsaw Pact troops, which he experienced bitterly and with youthful enthusiasm joined the protests against the occupation. After graduating from the grammar school, he briefly studied civil engineering and then was accepted to study architecture at the Czech Technical University in Prague. Already during his studies he began to associate with personalities close to dissent, especially from the circle of philosopher Jan Patočka. His initial impulse was the desire to acquire knowledge beyond what the school offered, but at the same time he also felt the need to express his disagreement with the conditions in the unfree Czechoslovakia. He graduated in 1979 and remained at the faculty for another three years when he was offered an assistant professorship. However, his scientific career was conditional on joining the Communist Party, which he refused and left the faculty. He worked at the Regional Project Institute in Prague until 1991. From his first year of studies he received offers for projects that were outside the then concept of mass construction, and although he felt relatively satisfied professionally, he could not help but perceive the negative developments in society and the manipulations of the communist leadership. He signed petitions and participated in anti-regime demonstrations, including the most important one in November 1989. Just after the fall of communism in Czechoslovakia, he became actively involved in the events of the next few months. He was one of the founders of the Civic Forum of Architects and one of the candidates for Minister of Construction in the first democratic government. However, he refused to enter high politics and decided to devote himself fully to his work as an architect. In 1990, he founded his own architectural studio and he created a number of highly appreciated architectural projects. Among other things, he participated in the architectural transformation of Prague Castle at the time when Václav Havel was president. Josef Pleskot is one of the most outstanding and appreciated personalities of contemporary architecture. In 2021 he lived alternately in Prague and Čížová.