December 13, 2016

Happiness is reading inside of an airship sitting atop a contemporary art museum in Prague


Courtesy of DOX Centre for Contemporary Art

Courtesy of DOX Centre for Contemporary Art

Last night, in the Czech Republic, writers Patrik Ouředník (author of Europeana) and Azar Nafisi (author of Reading Lolita in Tehran) boarded an airship lodged between two buildings of Prague’s DOX Centre for Contemporary Art. They found an audience there, in that airship — and then they read to this audience.

Now, we here at Melville House know a thing or two about airships, but I don’t think any one of us can claim to have ever boarded one, much less read or witnessed a reading in one. But that’s exactly what happened last night in Prague.

The reading served as the first “air cruise” of the Gulliver Airship, a “unique monumental architectural intervention, inspired by the elegant shapes of early twentieth-century airships, [that] has grown on the rooftop of DOX.” The airship, forty-two meters long, ten meters wide, and made of wood and steel, is to be a permanent space for literature, “the great domain of imagination.” Per DOX:

The shape of the zeppelin is symbolic. The early zeppelins represented the optimistic ideals of a new era of unprecedented technological advancements. With their remarkable monumentality and hypnotic dignity that would continue to fascinate generations to come long after they had vanished from the skies, they have always embodied the eternal human desire to fly, and have represented a certain utopian ideal.

The airship is to bear the name of one of the most famous characters in utopian literature. Gulliver will serve as a space for reading and public discussions of literature—fiction, poetry and critical writing—related to the themes of DOX’s exhibitions, which typically offer a critical view of particular aspects of the contemporary human situation.

Courtesy of DOX Centre for Contemporary Art

Courtesy of DOX Centre for Contemporary Art

The airship is the brain baby of Leoš Válka, DOX’s director, and architect Martin Rajniš, who won the Global Prize for Sustainable Architecture in 2014. Together, they’ve realized “a dream of 12-year-old boys” and reminded us that things can be done differently — something worth remembering always, but especially now.

Find more information about the Gulliver Airship right here. Head to Lonely Planet for some more stellar photos.



Chad Felix is the Director of Library and Academic Marketing at Melville House, and a former bookseller.