top-line: the slow grandeur of a tombstone. see through time.
maybe you’re used to the slow, lumpen masonry of anglican churches. and that is very cool. that is fine. and when the smell of camphor and old wood hits your mouth , that also seems cool. and flint. and the velvet of very old, worn-down moss. again, very cool. i am not judging.
and, yet; it seems there are a great many ways to make a really actually very sick looking place of worship.
the The Church of the Most Sacred Heart of Our Lord - or - is one such place. and maybe the architecture we like is the architecture that, over time, we develop an attachment to just because we see it all the time. over a course of months, i’d walk past the sacred heart . i’d buy a sickly-tasting iced coffee, maybe in a plastic cup, or an actual coffee (because prague was fat with third wave style coffee in 2014 and 2015), and have a cigarette (camel, or whatever) in the park. i’d sort of squint up at the church and think, ok, maybe i should go in there one day. and i never did, exactly. i loitered in the doorway, incapable - not unwilling, but maybe that too is true - to step beyond.
appears like a strawberry (seed-studded, sweet looking), and also like a tomb. or a vessel. an oil tanker.
in 1932 (or was it 1929?), Slovenian architect josip plečnik constructed this ‘stone freighter’ in a small area of parkland (honestly, it’s really small) outside of the jiriho z podebrad metro station (arguably one of the coolest stations in prague, imo). its design was inspired by christian basilicas and egyptian temples, making it a kind of revivalism, but also far outreaching the limitations of pure imitation.
why did i never walk inside? properly inside. i don’t know. and the inside loosens the jaw, widens the eyes. it is suddenly possible to look at everything simultaneously.
some buildings just are, and you hesitate to gird them with too much unnecessary explanation. in 1929-32, the cubist movement had already washed over prague. it left some elements (the house of the black madonna, Etc). i will return to those at some later date. functional, these things. the functionalism of the werkbund was growing apace, prior to the heavy glasses of international modernism being pulled down - over the eyes of prague.
once upon a time this place was royal vineyards. this catholic church was built amidst controversy, in so far as the catholics were anxious to impress upon the city their place in the community despite awkward agitations against them. Vinohrady, the area, was upmarket. jan kotera and karel and josef capek hung out here, at salons. this is important because they played a major role in prague’s architectural history. and they will appear again, here.
and so, for everything that is modern about the sacred heart , its volume - a tomb vessel, an oiltanker of monolithic proportions - was both progressive and rooted in jubilant, boisterous classical references.
that its clock tower features a glass of clock - one that can be seen through - might say something about the ability to see through time. that god would see through time. that time was nothing. that belief allows you to see through time.
and so much as it’s a really physical object, a really heavy big old piece of material intervention into the territory of early 20th century Prague, the architecture also nods to itself never being here at all - and to a place where nothing is physical.