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Priceless treasures are lost forever as floods hit Prague

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The devastating floods which have ravaged central Europe have claimed a victim from the architectural world - thousands of priceless drawings, models and photographs of important 19th- and 20th-century Czech architects from the Cubist and Functionalist schools.

The city of Prague's entire collection of 'unique' works for the National Technical Museum of Prague was stored in the basement of the House of Invalids, a Baroque building in the eastern part of the city, when the floods struck.

Following the worst rainfall in memory, the level of the Vltava River rose from 75cm to 8m, causing it to burst its banks. The museum's basement was deluged by the resulting floods, with glass cases smashed and the collection left covered in mud.

Now local experts and émigré architects in this country fear that much of the material from the Czech Republic's most famous architects will be lost forever. Zdenek Lukes, who has been in charge of the collection of more than a million plans, sketches, original photographs, personal diaries, letters and plaster models of important buildings, told the AJ that there was no comparable collection owned by the state. Famous architects in the collection include Jan Kote ra, Joz e Plec nik, Pavel Janák, Josef Gocár and Josef Chochol.

'It's a terrible situation, ' Lukes said. 'Everything is covered with mud - the whole archive was under water and only offices from the first floor of the building survived.'

Jan Kaplicky of Future Systems, who was born in Prague, said there had been an appeal on the radio for freezing equipment in a bid to rescue the documents, since freezing then defrosting before restoration represents the best chance.

'It's tragic, absolutely tragic, ' he said. Kaplicky was behind a 1986 show at the AA in London using some of the 'absolutely unique'material.

And YRM architect Ivan Margolius, also Prague-born, described the scene as 'total bedlam', and said: 'The biggest loss is the archive concerning Cubist architecture in Bohemia (1909-1920), a unique artistic movement which only occurred there.'

Elsewhere in the city, the Semper opera house has been another of the afflicted buildings. Reconstructed after the war, the building was engulfed by the rapidly rising levels of the Vltava.

lThe Prague office of Lewis + Hickey, which is situated in the Old Town, has reopened after the area was saved by hastily installed aluminium water barriers erected at the lowest points of the right embankment. The practice said it was 'well placed' to offer its experience to extensive repair, refurbishment and engineering projects likely to come as a result of the floods, which have also devestated Austria, Germany and Hungary.

To view images of the damage visit our website at ajplus. co. uk Donations to the museum's flood relief efforts can be made to National Technical Museum # 34337111/0100, Komercní banka a. s, Kostelní 44, Prague 7. E-mail inquiries to povodne@ntm. cz

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