Prof. Ing. arch. Vladimír Šlapeta DrSc.

* 1947

  • "So, it was a special conception of economy and purity of style, which Loos also combined with some classical principles. He often used symmetrical compositions. But somewhere he broke that symmetry. So, some of those facades of his look like a human face, which is seemingly symmetrical, but not quite symmetrical because one eye is blinking. Well, he's got one eye blinking on his facade. There's a well-known story that when Loos' house in Střešovice, the Müller villa, was being built a little later than twenty-five, at the end of the twenties, Loos came to the construction site and got terribly angry because the street facade had been bricked up to the corner on the left side. But he wanted to make a step aside there. To make the street frontage symmetrical. And this step meant actually a kind of fugue, from which the western facade starts towards the Ruzyně airport or the military hospital. If we look at the facade, it is exactly the face that has one more window on one side, so the facade is symmetrical, but the one window breaks the symmetrical facade. And this gives it a great liveliness."

  • "My father was not acquainted with him, but he was at his famous lecture, which took place in Brno at the beginning of February 1925. Because in the winter of 1924 to 1925, the Klub architektů in Prague and Brno organized a series of lectures where world-class architects came. And the last speaker was Adolf Loos. So, he experienced that lecture, which certainly left a great impression, because Loos spoke not only about architecture, but also about lifestyle, about equipment, furniture, about fashion. So, it was actually a comprehensive lecture about a new man who is no longer associated with that Makart’s decorative Vienna, but who actually promotes the American way of life in the furnishings, in the closets, in the walls - and in the use of beautiful materials, because Loos, like our grandmother, said: 'You can't buy the cheapest. You have to buy the more expensive thing because it will last longer.'"

  • "When I got an invitation to America in 1987 - the director of the Cooper-Hewitt Museum from New York, Lisa Taylor, came here, and there was a dinner with the American ambassador, where there was also Jiří Mucha, Jiří Kotalík, Milena Lamarová, a very interesting and diverse company. I was then given the task of showing Mrs. Lisa Taylor around the architecture of Prague and she said that I would be invited to the United States. And when the invitation came, the party organization forbade it. But the State Department wanted to be represented at some seminar in Washington, at the Smithsonian - the Cooper-Hewitt Museum was part of the Smithsonian Institution - so it went back to the museum again. So, they invited me to a party meeting and said I wasn't involved enough, and then they said: 'Well, maybe you could go, but you'd have to go first to a voluntary jo at construction, to reconstruct our depository somewhere near Milotice in southern Bohemia.' Well, I thought about it, and I went to the construction work. Nobody asked if I would have enough time and enough energy to write a lecture that could possibly be or could bear the competence of the Smithsonian Institution. They didn't even tell the partisans what the Smithsonian Institution was, that it was the most influential set of museums in Washington, with that one exception - the Cooper-Hewitt Museum is in New York on Fifth Avenue."

  • "I think at that time they even dared to ask me if I would like to join the party, which I considered an insult, I didn't answer that at all. And then they didn't even ask me to sign the Anticharter. So, I was glad that I avoided this, because many people who signed the Anticharter ended up being traumatised for life, I saw this around me and you can hear it even today in those memories. Just as some people today see it as a mistake that they joined the Party: recently a famous surgeon spoke on television and actually admitted that he joined the Party at that time, probably because they allowed him to stay longer in America. So, those were the reasons why people made the decision, because these were the chances of a lifetime. So, the hesitation of those people was difficult."

  • "In fact, it caused the collapse of the functioning structure of the construction industry, private, with the personal responsibility of both the implementing component and the designing component, those architects who actually had the status of a free profession, or were fully responsible themselves. And this is very important! They lost this by being incorporated into the Stavoprojekt, which had a monopoly and a politically appointed director who decided who would get which contract. So, actually the architect loses that autonomy. This was then seen after the revolution, how the younger generation, who started practically around the year ninety or between eighty-five and ninety and were not yet so connected with the new monopoly system, how much more quickly they adapted to the new conditions and took over the responsibility. So that's why architects, let's say Josef Pleskot's generation, or in Brno Pelčák, Hruša, Burian, Křivinka, more quickly joined the new trend, which actually started to return architecture to where it belongs - as a free profession, which is very important for the whole existence of the nation, because it is a mirror of its physical existence."

  • "After the visit of the Soviet architects in the 1949 there was a big exhibition of Soviet architecture in Prague and it began permanently. At the same time, it was a signal that Czechoslovak architects were not allowed to go to the congress of CIAM, the Corbusier group. In the year 1947 there was still a large delegation with Fuchs, Hruška, Krejcar in Bridgewater, England, and in the 1949 Czechoslovak architects were no longer allowed to go. I found in the museum in Holland a letter from František Kalivoda from Brno, saying that the homeland was sick. In a way he wanted to apologize and at the same time to express that the country was really sick after the 'Victorious' February, so they would not come. And then the congress in Bergamo - it was held in Bergamo, 1949, in Italy - and then the theses and aims of the congress occurred to Kroh, which were in the spirit of Corbusier's modernism. And that was the beginning of the indoctrination into socialist realism."

  • Full recordings
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    Praha, 02.03.2020

    duration: 01:49:02
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
  • 2

    Praha, 25.05.2020

    duration: 01:57:14
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
  • 3

    Praha, 01.06.2020

    duration: 01:54:32
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
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Architecture is a mirror of a nation’s physical existence

Vladimír Šlapeta on the Vltava River, "Stalin" in the background, 1961
Vladimír Šlapeta on the Vltava River, "Stalin" in the background, 1961
photo: Archiv pamětníka

Born on 5 May 1947 in Olomouc, his father was the prominent architect Lubomír Šlapeta. Lubomír was influenced by a lecture given by Adolf Loos in Brno in 1925, and his son later became interested in Loos architecture as well. Vladimír Šlapeta, an architectural historian and teacher, graduated from the Faculty of Civil Engineering at the Czech Technical University in Prague. He graduated in 1972 and lived through the promising period of the Prague Spring, the occupation and the subsequent student strikes. From 1973 he was the head of the architectural collections at the National Technical Museum in Prague, and he focused on the history of interwar architecture. Since the 1960s, thanks to his acquaintance with Milada Müller, he repeatedly visited the Prague Müller Villa by the architect Adolf Loos and in 1984 he also prepared the Loos exhibition in Louny. The State Security was interested in him, but he refused the offer to cooperate. From 1991 to 1997 and again from 2003 to 2006, he was Dean of the Faculty of Architecture at the CTU, from which position he promoted the transformation of the Faculty according to Western European models. In the meantime, he was vice-rector of the university. After 2006 he was also the Dean of the Faculty of Architecture of Brno University of Technology.