Works in Progress - Autumn 2009

An American in Prague

By Jessica Wilde | June 27, 2013

 

A team of Czech architects and sculptors is reconstructing a 1928 monument to Woodrow Wilson that was destroyed in 1941 by the Nazi invaders. Complete with an 11-foot-tall bronze statue of the 28th U.S. president, the monument is scheduled to rise again in 2012 in a park in front of Hlavní Nádraží, Prague’s 1909 Art Nouveau train station.

Wilson’s standing likeness is to be sculpted as true to the original as possible. To form the head and shoulders, the team is employing a fragment of the full-size plaster model that sculptor Albín Polášek created in the late 1920s; the remainder of the plaster model— Wilson’s arms outstretched as though giving a blessing, an American flag draped over his shoulders—was destroyed in 1977 and will be re-created by hand, based on photos of the original. The rebuilt monument will bear the same Wilson quote as the original: “The world must be made safe for democracy.” Wilson’s support of Czechoslovak independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918 won him what is apparently the lasting esteem of the Czech people.

The Wilson project is backed by the advocacy organization American Friends of the Czech Republic and its founder, Robert Doubek. Of Czech descent, Doubek was inspired to recreate the monument in Prague after the organization completed a monument in 2002 to Tomáš Masaryk, the founder of Czechoslovakia (1918), in Washington, D.C.

Doubek, who as the project director of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund in the early 1980s steadily guided to completion Maya Lin’s controversial memorial design on the National Mall, believes that the recreated Wilson monument in Prague will take on new meaning, considering the 41 years of Communism that followed the first 20 years of Czech independence. “There is the idea of a phoenix rising from the ashes,” he says, “that there can be a rebirth of freedom, democracy, and prosperity after a very stifling period of authoritarian government.”

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