"The debate about architecture in Prague is sometimes more lively than abroad," says Miroslav Pazdera, the new curator of November Talks

The Faculty of Architecture of the CTU will once again welcome foreign personalities, the November Talks series is dedicated to education this year. For example, the Berlin-based collective Floating University will present its events in the urban wilderness near Tempelhof Airport. The selection of guests this year was for the first time in the charge of Miroslav Pazdera, who has been preparing the programme at the VI PER gallery in Karlín for a long time. We also asked him about the project of the 3rd Medical Faculty of Charles University, which Miroslav Pazdera was involved in designing. And we couldn't leave out the school studio, which he runs together with Ondřej Císler.
Miroslav Pazdera připravil letošní program November Talks na Fakultě architektury ČVUT.  | © Alex Chudá

This year, for the first time, you selected guests for the November Talks series at the Faculty of Architecture of the CTU. Is there a common theme to the lectures?

November Talks are very intense, one lecture every week. They are like a small festival, so it's great to have a unifying link. This year it's education and teaching architecture. I chose the speakers so that everyone would show a slightly different perspective.

One of the guests will be Floating University Berlin. What projects is s/he working on?

Floating University is an architectural collective of students and graduates of UdK Berlin who use the fire tank at the former Tempelhof airport. It is an urban wilderness full of flowers and animals hidden in the bushes. The Floating University team builds bridges and various objects there, for example out of scaffolding tubes, in which workshops and lectures take place.

At the beginning, no one knew whether the project would last one season or more, but today they have already been operating for more than five years. I was interested in how a collective of about thirty active people managed to build an independent and constantly changing cultural institution that is closely connected to UdK Berlin and the Raumlabor studio. The joint work is represented by the fact that four representatives are coming to Prague.

Floating University Berlin působí v městské divočině uprostřed hlavního města.  | © Floating University

Another speaker, Dubravka Sekulić, is known for her research on the impact of wild privatisation on spatial planning in Belgrade. But her talk at November Talks will focus on more recent work?

Dubravka is working with Charlotte Malterre-Barthes on the Curriculum Revolution project. They reflect on the same references and idols that have been presented to students for generations. I expect a critical look at what is actually taught in architecture schools and whether education is sufficiently responsive to the social context or current issues. For me, both of these represent important intersectional self-reflection emerging directly at the university, something that hardly happens here. We see similar activities more in art schools like the AVU in Prague. But that's a slightly different case.

November Talks will be opened by Pier Paolo Tamburelli. He has experience teaching architecture on both sides of the Atlantic.

Pier wrote a book called Grundkurs, aimed at first year students. It is the first quick and very intelligent insight into what topics architecture students should be studying. In addition to his own practice and teaching, currently at the Technical University of Vienna, he also writes extensively about architecture. He co-founded and directed the magazine San Rocco, which was at one time an important medium shaping one of Europe's architectural tendencies. I think in many ways it is still very relevant.

The last speakers Oliver Lütjens and Thomas Padmanabhan spend quite a lot of time together. Together they both design and teach at ETH Zurich?

At ETH, they currently run a guest studio. I think Oliver and Thomas will be the most representative of the view of how to teach in a studio. They have worked at various schools, including the Technical University of Munich, but always in a guest teacher format. This, by the way, is a concept that we are still looking for the ideal form for the FA CTU.

První letošní host November Talks, Pier Paolo Tamburelli, kombinuje výuku s praxí. Na fotografii pavilon pivovaru Poretti v Induno Olona. | ©

How is their teaching different?

They put much more emphasis on working with historical references. They draw on the Swiss school, where more design is done through the image or by translating the reference into a new project. It's a game with analogies, they can work unencumbered with architectural history and irony. Students must first understand the historical example well, be able to take it apart and then put it back together into something new.

At the same time, there is less work with computer visualisation in Switzerland and Germany. Collage, model, or photographs of models as visualization instead of renderings are used much more often. Working with more classical tools seems paradoxically fresh to me today. Sometimes we are too much with computers, we all rely on them and don't realize that we have other available and relevant options. But at the same time, our profession has also been changing quite fundamentally in recent years. These changes cannot be ignored and I see them as an opportunity. I look forward to seeing how Thomas and Oliver reflect these changes.

You regularly invite foreign guests to Prague. You collaborate with the VI PER gallery, which explores architecture from many different angles. A number of years ago, it even turned into a functioning Karlín pub to draw attention to the decline of mainstream services for the local community.

This is probably the most successful exhibition so far (laughs), at least in terms of how many people it attracted. However, that was when I was still abroad and I hadn't worked with VI PER yet. The pub in VI PER was made by Kateřina Vídenová and Adam Wlazel.

Are you trying for a unifying line in VI PER as well? What does the debate about architecture in Prague need?

The position of the VI PER Gallery is crucial within Prague and the wider region. The gallery is part of the European network LINA community. I think that Irena Lehkoživová and Bára Špičáková are doing a great job. Even in Berlin, where I lived for several years, the exhibitions and lectures were much more classical and I missed this format of exhibiting architecture. It's not so much the presentation of architectural realisations that plays a role here, but rather the research that is connected to houses and cities. Often political and sociological issues are addressed in VI PER, but at the same time they are very difficult to separate from architecture.

You also contributed to a book that dealt with logistics centres. I have warehousing facilities associated mainly with the outskirts of Prague. Why did you focus on the borderlands?

The exhibition Landscapes of Logistics and the subsequent publication Steel Cities are examples of the topics on which VI PER focuses. The warehouses that supply the city's supermarkets are logically located on the periphery around Prague. But other types of goods no longer have this direct link; the logistics system is global. We know much less about logistics centres in the border region. At the same time, because they are disconnected from the larger city, there are dormitories for workers. These are strange new industrial settlements in the landscape. At the same time, it cannot be said that we focus only on the borderlands in this book, but the truth is that the essence of the logistics apparatus emerges most in these areas.

It is much easier and cheaper to build a warehouse in the Czech Republic than in Germany, and we still have a third cheaper labour force. It is worth for investors to own warehouses on the border with Bavaria and a short commute to Munich and other industrial centres. From a global and economic point of view this is advantageous, from an ecological and social point of view considerably less so. We had a Primark warehouse in Bor near Tachov long before the first store in Bohemia. It is cheaper to bring Asian goods from the port of Rotterdam to Pilsen, repackage them here and bring them back to Germany.

But then the research on architecture and global connections also touched on modern slavery?

A third of the publication is devoted to the social impact both in the adjacent towns and the situation of the workers in the halls themselves. Because of low unemployment, HR agencies have brought people from the east, from Greece, Bulgaria and of course Ukraine. The system was circumvented in various ways, with people coming for as little as three months to avoid having to get a work visa. Their working conditions and conditions in the hostels are often very poor. The circulation of workers makes it impossible to organise, and unfortunately, in the Czech Republic, sectoral and non-profit organisations are still much weaker than in Austria, Poland or Germany.

In addition to your theoretical work, preparing lectures and teaching at the FA CTU, you work in the office of Ehl & Koumar. What joint projects do you enjoy?

We have been working together since 2021, when I returned from Berlin. That's actually quite a short time in terms of how long it takes to build a house. So there are no current realizations that concern me. Last year we spent quite a bit of time competing and we managed to succeed in the fourth competition. We are therefore preparing a project for the completion of the 3rd Medical Faculty of Charles University, which I am very happy about.

It is an extension of the Vinohrady campus with new classrooms, an auditorium and a library. It also includes a simulation centre that imitates a real hospital. Medical students try out individual medical cases, for example the arrival of an ambulance with a patient after an accident. They are given a stopwatch to do this, and they also train under stress to handle all the necessary actions. The technology is real, but instead of treating patients, they treat mannequins.

Vizualizace dostavby 3. lékařské fakulty UK. Soutěž vyhrálo studio Ehl & Koumar Architekti, na návrhu se podílel také Miroslav Pazdera. | © Vizualizace: Ehl & Koumar Architekti

At the FA CTU you run a studio together with Ondřej Císler, which is regularly at least shortlisted in the Olověný Dušan competition. What makes your work different from other studios?

It is difficult to respond to such a question. I don't think that Ondřej and I have any special method that would be significantly different from other studios at our school. We probably both draw a lot from our shared experience at AVU. I confess that I don't keep up much with what's going on in the other studios, except for a few that I like to follow. It sounds like a cliché, but I think it's important to create a collective of people who enjoy it. Which is very hard in the mode of semester assignments, every semester we have a whole new collective except for a few students. I mainly try not to repeat what I say and we move forward.

The longer I am at the school, the more interested I am in teaching methodology. I don't think you can actually teach for more than a few semesters without a strong method. However, the way our school is structured, it's very challenging and I basically subsidize all of my education with my free time.

You are trying to find new ways of presentation. Projects at FA are most often presented using elongated sails, in your case it is sometimes paintings in decorative frames, sometimes giant colourful models. How important is the final presentation to you?

I don't think we give presentation an absolute importance. Every assignment calls for a certain form of presentation. Rather, we are thinking about how to translate what we are working on into an adequate form, how to display and present it well. That's why sometimes we work mainly with a model and other times more with an image or visualization. We are not radical in this. However, to underestimate the presentation of a project that has been worked on hard all semester would be sad. We like exhibitions.

The interview was led by Pavel Fuchs.

Atelier Císler - Pazdera byl letos nominován na Olověného Dušana. Studenti navrhovali knihovnu do italského Milána. | ©

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