words Johanna Agerman
From the outside, Steven Holl’s new home for the Franz Kafka Society looks like any other on the narrow streets of Prague’s former Jewish Quarter, but once you step over the threshold a whole new world opens up. Through the clever reworking of the ground floor and basement, this one-storey house – only 172sq m in total – now has room for exhibitions, lectures, concerts, office space and also accommodates Franz Kafka’s private library.
Books are central to the design of the interior, as all the partitioning over the two floors is created by a Kafkaesque meander of bookshelves. In the office space, the shelves are white, while the public areas are filled with black ones. Public and private are united by a 360º rotating door made out of the shelves, black on one side and white on the other. To make the most of the dark nooks and crannies of the building’s basement, new windows and skylights have carefully been inserted into the facade to flood the space with daylight. The rooms are visually connected through openings in the walls and inspection holes, creating connections between otherwise enclosed spaces – like Kafka’s texts creating links between our inner and outer worlds.
Steven Holl collaborated on the project with young Czech architect Marcela Steinbachová, who has her own Prague-based practice, Skupina, and previously designed the Franz Kafka bookstore and reference library.