After 25 years in the making, the Jan Palach Memorial on the Alšovo Riverbank in Prague will open to the public on January 16 3 p.m. during an unveiling ceremony hosted by the City of Prague, the City of Prague Gallery, and the Faculty of Arts at Charles University in Prague.
Created by American architect John Hejduk, memorial tribute to the 1969 self-immolation of the Czech dissident Jan Palach, whose death in protest of the Soviet invasion of 1968 served as a galvanizing force against the communist government in Czechoslovakia and throughout the Warsaw Pact.
The memorial is a permanent installation of two structures originally built at Georgia Tech as a teaching project by Hejduk in 1990. Titled House of the Suicide and House of the Mother of the Suicide, each steel and wood structure measures 9′ x 9′ x 24′, and comprises 49, steel “spikes,” the longest of which is more than 12′. A second edition of the buildings was temporarily installed in the Royal Garden at Prague Castle in 1991 in commemoration of the newly formed democracy in Czechoslovakia under the sponsorship of President Václav Havel, and the original buildings were also featured as part of an exhibition on Hejduk at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 2002.
Hejduk’s original structures are now constructed for the final time as a permanent monument installed on Jan Palach Square (formerly Red Army Square) as part of a national recognition of political and social solidarity for the country’s democracy. A plaque at the base of the monument displays David Shapiro’s poem, “The Funeral of Jan Palach.”
The opening ceremony will include presentations by representatives of the City of Prague, the U.S. Ambassador to the Czech Republic, His Excellency Andrew H. Shapiro, the poet David Shapiro; Professor James Williamson of Cornell University, who collaborated with Hejduk to create the original House of the Suicide and House of the Mother of the Suicide; and Hejduk’s daughter, Renata Hejduk.
Based on press release by Cornell University, College of Architecture, Art and Planing