Cooper Union Exhibition Highlights Architect John Hejduk

The Jan Palach Memorial. Photo courtesy of The Cooper Union

A set of 24-foot structures made of timber and metal has been installed in the plaza of The Cooper Union in New York. Entitled the “Jan Palach Memorial,” the installation was designed by John Hejduk—an architect of Czech origin who was the founding dean of the school’s Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture from 1975 to 2000. The memorial was designed in honor of the Czech dissident Jan Palach who protested the Soviet invasion of 1968 and served as a galvanizing force against Czechoslovakia’s communist government.

The Jan Palach Memorial. Photo courtesy of The Cooper Union

The spiky structures, which will be on view through June 11, are presented in conjunction with an exhibition of photographs by Hélène Binet of Hejduk’s permanent and temporary-built works.

Hélène Binet – John Hejduk Works exhibition. Photo courtesy of The Cooper Union

Moreover, the installation is an iteration of Hejduk’s original memorial to Jan Palach, which was first constructed at Atlanta’s Georgia Institute of Technology in 1990, and was also built as a temporary installation on the grounds of Prague Castle in 1991. Comprised of two structures—the House of the Suicide and the House of the Mother of the Suicide—the installation was reassembled from the original materials fabricated by Georgia Tech students in 1990.

The Jan Palach Memorial. Photo courtesy of The Cooper Union

“I think we learned about the intimacy and collaborative nature of a human scale building effort,” says Steven Hillyer, Cooper Union’s Architecture Archive Director. “We didn’t have machinery other than small scale power tools, and there were no lifts or powered hoists to move elements into place. It was human interaction and communication at its best. Everyone found their role and worked together to achieve whatever was next.”

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