Prague, Sept 27 (CTK) – The piazzetta or a little square in front of the National Theatre (ND) in Prague will be named after the late president and playwright Vaclav Havel, the City Council decided on Tuesday, backing the ND director Jan Burian’s proposal.
“I believe that this space excellently embodies and represents what Havel strived for, i.e. the meeting of people, a discussion, free thinking and humanity,” Prague Mayor Adriana Krnacova (ANO) said in a press release.
Havel (1936-2011), would have turned 80 on October 5.
A leading dissident before 1989, he became the first post-communist president of Czechoslovakia (1989-1992) and the first president of the independent Czech Republic (1993-2003).
The piazzetta was built after the design of Czech architect Karel Prager within the construction of the ND’s New Scene in the early 1980s. It separates the modern building from the theatre’s 19th-century historical building.
Critics say the piazzetta is too small a space to be named after Havel.
“It is no square but a small place between buildings that is maximally suitable for boys to play games,” former foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg told server Lidovky.cz.
On the other hand, the piazzetta’s advocates include Havel’s widow Dagmar Havlova, his former spokesman Ladislav Spacek and Vaclav Havel Library director Michael Zantovsky.
“I think it is a good idea and a dignified place that symbolises the ties between Vaclav Havel and theatre and the history of the Czech nation,” Zantovsky has told CTK.
On the occasion of Havel’s 80th birth anniversary, a big granite heart by sculptor Kurt Gebauer will be installed at the piazzetta for people to write messages inside.
A rally in commemoration of Havel will be held in Prague’s central Wenceslas Square on his birthday, October 5.
In addition, the Charter 77 Foundation has launched a fund-raising campaign in order to cast a new bell, named Vaclav, for the St Havel (St Gall) Church in the historical centre of Prague.
The bell, which is now being cast in Austria, will be installed in the church’s southern tower from where its predecessor was removed during WWII. It will share the place with “Mary,” a bell that dates back to 1455 and is the oldest in Prague.
For this purpose, the organisers plan to stage an auction of 30 little bells that have belonged to various personalities linked to Havel, such as his [then] wife Dagmar, brother Ivan, art collector Meda Mladkova, artists Marta Kubisova, Zdenek Sverak and Jiri Bartoska, and even people in distant countries such as former U.S. secretary state Madeleine Albright who gave her little bell to former Burmese dissident Aung San Suu Kyi.
No Prague street has been named after Havel for the time being, only the Prague international airport bears his name.
Elsewhere in the Czech Republic, a number of schools, a theatre, a park and other sites have been named after Havel.
Foreign sites named after him include a square in Haifa, Israel, a street in Gdansk, a street and a park in Opole, both Poland, and one of the EP buildings in Strasbourg.
A Vaclav Havel Library was opened in Paris in 2013.
Almost 20 Vaclav Havel benches have been installed in the Czech Republic and abroad so far.