For a minimalist arts centre in Prague, local firm Hut Arkitektury suspends a wood-slat addition that nods to aircrafts from the past.
On the west side of the DOX Centre for Contemporary Art, a multi-purpose arts hub in Prague’s trendy Holešovice district, a bullet-shaped colossus peeks out above the rooftop of the all-white volume. Made from wood and steel, the zeppelin-inspired addition, called Gulliver, appears to have drifted down from the sky onto the roof, where it is now permanently suspended above a central courtyard.
DOX is a former machine-making factory, and it was the building’s minimalist architecture that first stirred the imagination of founder and director Leoš Válka, who hatched the idea of adding a “parasitic” structure that would contrast with the austere concrete-and-glass aesthetic. His vision was brought to life by Hut Arkitektury, a local firm led by Martin Rajniš (who is known for his woodstack structures) and David Kubík. “The initial idea was rather abstract,“ says Kubík. “Then came a key meeting when Leoš said: ‘Let’s make a zeppelin’. He asked us to make some simple sketches – as if a young kid were sketching a model.”
Used as a venue for research presentations, public discussions and literary events, the 42-by-10-metre structure extends from one roofline to another, creating the illusion that it’s drifting over the courtyard. Its intricate skeleton, topped by a transparent ETFE shell, is held in place by a system of cables, bolts and beams. Inside both the bow and stern, a twelve-spoke latticework of steel ropes reinforces the larch wood construction.
Ascending from the roof, a metal staircase leads to the interior hall, where the larch flooring rises and falls to form a series of steps that also serve as seating. Blurring the line between indoors and out, the slatted walls filter light into the space, offering an intersected view of the city and giving the ship a distinct character by day and by night. “The spaces between the timber slats create a sense of rhythm,” Válka says. “There is a real poetic lightness inside.”