Home Institution

University of Michigan - Ann Arbor

Publication Date

Spring 2008

Program Name

Czech Republic: Arts, Community, And Transition

Abstract

I first conceived of this project in pursuit of an abstract quality that seemed inherently difficult to grasp. Everywhere I encountered references to an admirable “character” and “spirit” at the old train station—a spirit that is soon to evaporate with the pending renovation and restoration. In observing the station and talking with architects I saw many paths I could take in my research. No matter which direction I headed, though, I wanted somehow to reveal this elusive character. The most straightforward way I saw to attempt this was through a photographic documentation of the current state of Hlavní Nádraží. It seemed for once that I was in the right place at the right time: ongoing construction changed the station almost daily in the weeks I had to put this together. I wanted to capture the atmosphere through an investigation of the links among past, present and future. The next step in considering how best to approach this was a methodic comparison of time periods, photographing details of Fanta’s art-nouveau building and placing them opposite similar features of the 1970s design. This part of the station was intentionally built underground with a cave-like structure so as not to disturb the original building above. The result is a harsh juxtaposition of architectures that today is further complicated by societal developments that have followed since the 1970s, and by the pending reconstruction of the station. So it became too complicated, too unnatural to contrast the two parts of the building so rigidly, as over the years they have seeped into one another and gradually incorporated influences from a modern age. Sausage and pastry kiosks have popped up in the formerly open underground hall and a second-hand clothing warehouse has found its way into deserted waiting rooms of Fanta’s building. The station is overflowing with signs pointing this way and that toward the metro, tickets, taxis and platforms, and half of them are wrong, or have been crossed out, or have deteriorated to a point at which they are unreadable altogether. The Fantova café struggles to maintain its business in a part of the station many people don’t realize is there. Amidst all of this, renovation has begun and the first island of shops has already appeared in the center of the main hall. If I have discovered anything about the character of Hlavní Nádraží it derives from connections between the past and present, and the contrast between what was intended by the original design and what has resulted given its changing use in society over time. However, the spirit is fleeting—the current project promises a harmony of past, present and future, but for now three different eras collide and intertwine until it is impossible to tell which part of the space belongs to which time.

Disciplines

History | History of Art, Architecture, and Archaeology

 

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