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Britain's Future Systems wins design competition for building Czech National Library

PRAGUE, Czech Republic: A project by Britain's design studio Future Systems won an international design competition for the new building of the Czech Republic's National Library in Prague, the library's head said Friday.

The winning design was selected from a total of 355 proposals by an international jury that included renowned Iraqi-born architect Zaha Hadid and was headed by Czech-born architect Eva Jiricna, who is based in Britain.

The library, which occupies a Baroque complex in Prague's Old Town, decided to expand after running out of space for development, director Vlastimil Jezek said.

The new building is expected to cost about 2 billion koruna (€71 million; US$93 million) and could be opened to the public in early 2011, Jezek said.

"It's an unbelievable honor to achieve that here," said Jan Kaplicky, London-based architect of Czech origin who co-directs Future Systems.

Kaplicky is famed for his design of the futuristic Selfridges building in Birmingham and the media center at Lord's cricket ground in London. This would be his first building in his homeland.

The project looks like an artificial hill surrounded by trees in Prague's Letna park, where the new building is to be located, with a huge eye-like window near the top overseeing the capital's landmarks, including the Prague Castle.

The building has "a semi-organic, but most of all, a functional shape," Kaplicky told reporters. "It's a pyramidal building," he said, adding that it would be covered with small, triangular tiles in the color of champagne, Kaplicky said.

Any of some 10 million volumes of books that will be stored in the larger underground part of the facility should be available within 3-5 minutes of asking from a librarian, he said.

"A modern storage system is the basis of everything," Kaplicky said.

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