A rather unusual architectural project is about to go up in Brno, the second-largest city in the Czech Republic – or it will, when we can all go outside again – and it struck me as something that I could tell you about both because it’s interesting, but also as a jumping-off point to share some resources I’ve come across over the last week, thanks to being on so many museum and gallery mailing lists.
If you remember your high school biology classes, you’ll recall that Father Gregor Mendel (1822-1884), the abbot of St. Thomas’ Abbey in Brno, is often referred to as the Father of Modern Genetics. You might even have had to replicate some of his experiments with cross-breeding pea plants. Father Mendel did much of his work in a Victorian-era greenhouse on the Abbey grounds, but the structure was destroyed in a storm a few years after he completed his experiments.
Now, the Prague-based architectural design firm of CHYBIK + KRISTOF has come up with a new version of that long-vanished greenhouse, which will be built to commemorate Father Mendel’s 200th birthday in 2022. The new space will rest on the foundations of the old, but not try to mimic it exactly. (Since the original greenhouse was a rather utilitarian building anyway, this is just as well.) The plan is that when built, the glass structure will serve as a space for lectures, symposiums, concerts, and other events, and I must say it looks like it will be a great place to hear music on a fine summer evening.
Of course I’m not sure what Father Mendel would make of people drinking and listening to jazz in his greenhouse, but nevertheless, it will be nice to see that there is a space that can be used to touch upon some of the things which he brought to the furthering of human knowledge, done in a way that is contemporary yet respectful of his work in helping us to learn more about the world around us.
With that in mind, I thought it would be a good idea to share with my readers some resources that I’ve been made aware of this week, thanks to the efforts of several cultural organizations that are keeping in touch even while their physical premises are unavailable.
National Gallery of Art
For those of you who now find yourselves to be homeschoolers, the National Gallery of Art has some resources available which may help you with your current task. For the kids, there are activities, lesson plans, and videos designed for different age levels, while for the adults, there are online courses available that you can pursue at your own pace, to help you figure out how to approach teaching your wee ones about the arts. The latter in particular is something that many of you may find useful, because although the subject is art, the overall goal is in helping students to grasp the concept of critical thinking. I can’t speak to its efficacy, but if any of my readers do end up taking the course, I’d be curious to read your feedback in the comments.
The Frick Collection
Probably my favorite museum in Manhattan, The Frick Collection, is currently closed like just about everything else – although I recently read somewhere that their expansion and renovation plans have cleared the final approval hurdle, so interesting things are afoot on the UES. Meanwhile, the museum wanted to let the public know that many of their resources are available online, for free, 24 hours a day. Among these offerings are the collection catalogue itself, lectures and presentations on their YouTube channel, as well as this very welcome Virtual Tour section where you can visit past exhibitions, such as the excellent “Zurbarán’s Jacob and His Twelve Sons: Paintings from Auckland Castle” show that I reviewed for The Federalist a couple of years ago.
Biblioteca Nacional de España
And last but certainly not least, the cultural division of the Embassy of Spain here in DC wanted to let the public know that many of the resources of the superb National Library of Spain are available for free online, including many documents and learning guides in English. In particular, they recommend the English translations of two of the most important novels of the great 19th century Spanish author, Benito Pérez Galdós (1843-1920) as Spain marks the centenary of his death: Doña Perfecta (1876) and Marianela (1878). If you ever get the chance to visit Madrid, I highly recommend dropping by the Library, as in addition to being an enormous repository of knowledge, there are often fascinating exhibitions to see in its halls. Last time I visited there was an enormous show of the Library’s collections of works by the Italian fantasy architect Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720–1778), and another on the popular Spanish 20th century Classical composer Joaquín Rodrigo (1901-1999).