(Or human society and the world we are living in)

If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is: Infinite. William Blake

“I am the door. By me, if any man enter in, he shall be saved.” J 10, 7-9

It was clear from the very beginning that my project would symbolize ties of two nations, the Czechs and the Dutch. The client and a co-owner of the house Mr.Boudewijn Jansen happens to be a Dutchman. The house No. 17 in Mostecka Street in Lesser Town in Prague – where the gate is installed – was built in Baroque style, while its foundations as well as most of its central build-up area are largely Romanesque. The idea to design my project on personalities of two learned men - J.A. Comenius and Erasmus of Rotterdam – crossed my mind almost immediately. As it is generally known, it was in Holland that Comenius spent last years of his life, passed away there and is buried in Naarden.
Erasmus has always been read and translated in the Czech Lands and his Praise of Folly ranks among those precious books that never collect dust, so to speak. Frontispiece of Comenius’ Didactics served as visual guide for the front of the gate; I created a paraphrase, as it were, while Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass influenced, to a certain extent, my literary and initiation inspiration for the back side of the door. While working on my firsts sketches I realized that “on the other side” everything would be the same and totally different at the same time, as expressed in Alices’s words.

Jan Amos and Erasmus

The two never met and actually couldn’t have; Comenius was born 56 years after Erasmus’ death. What do these two have in common then? Being prominent scholars of their time whose legacy is generally recognized up to the present day, they were both committed to reforming society. Both practicing theologians, (Erasmus being Augustinian monk from 1485 and priest from 1492, while Comenius became pastor in 1616 and bishop of Unitas Fratrum in 1648) they were involved in their religious duties and diplomatic activities and created enormous literary work as well. Their writing has been translated into many European languages evoking admiration and disputes. All their lives Both Erasmus and Comenius strived to reform society and church; improve moral and intellectual qualities of man based on humanistic principles. Authorities of the then world highly competed for the respect of both scholars, they were recognized as “princes of humanism”, as men extremely learned and outspoken. 1492, the beginning of modern age, did not really bring about the reformation of church but divided Europe into Catholics and Protestants and instead of peaceful negotiations Europe was engaged in war conflicts that definitely divided Europe into antagonistic alliances. Both scholars experienced gloomy events of their time and lived to see a bitter end.

The Dialogue of Two Philosophers
(Frontal part of the door – artistic design)

The door is made of two leaves; Comenius is displayed on the left, eastern part, Erasmus on the western one. The world they share -the room- is joined together by closing and split by opening the door. Two scholars are sitting at the table with a globe (symbol of the world), an open book and envelope on it. Jan Amos Comenius and Erasmus of Rotterdam. The first is holding a quill in his right hand and is writing while his left hand is inviting the visitor inside. The latter is pointing to the envelope with the index of his left hand – the envelope may serve as a mail-box or a message box that can be opened.; his right hand is engaged in an oratory gesture. The two men are sitting in the room reminding us of a study. Behind them there is a door in Baroque Balustrade Comenius is inviting the visitor into.
On the faced wall are symbols of earth, art and science in two tiers; the lower one presents attributes of sculpture and painting, above them, in a sequence, there are symbols of poetry, science, theater ( divided into two masks, comic and tragic, thus framing our world - Theatrum Mundi). The central part depicts the symbols of the world, i.e. earth, water, air and fire. Behind the mask of laughter is a symbol of architecture and music. There is a coffered ceiling above the images with drawn-back curtains in the forefront. Above the door in the glassed-in arch, firmament is placed with the images of the sun, moon and nine stars. Now let’s have a look what’s going on at the feet of discussing scholars in the first plan. In the left corner of the floor among the books there is a cat lying in wait for a mouse which is hiding at the opposite leaf of the door by the left Erasmus’ foot. Unfolded parchment placed in the right bottom corner reads the name of the author and the date: 2007-2008.

Through the Looking Glass
(Back side of the door- artistic design)

The back side of the door actually presents the same room but its interior décor is contemporary, furnished in a modern way. Compared to over-decorative Baroque details, this space looks “pragmatic”, individual items are simple. The scale and lay-out are the same, some objects are even displayed on the same spots as on the front side. The table is simple, geometric, with no table-cloth. There are two deserted chairs at the table - the gentlemen “have left”. Erasmus’ chair, on the left, is an office chair, while that of Comenius is an ordinary one. The two sides switched, in other words, the viewer is “behind the mirror”. The chairs are pushed away a bit thus emphasizing the emptiness of the room. The objects on the table are deserted: on the Erasmus’ side a mailbag instead of a mail box (it’s functional, “go-through”), on the opposite side instead of the open book there is a mobile phone the display of which shows my phone number. And a bunch of keys next to it. The door behind the table is simple, as well as its handle and the door frame. The ring-bells next to the door show the names of kids of respective families. Each child is standing in front of the door leading to the outside world, a real life… Above imaginary head of E.R. is a motif of Rotterdam Bridge, (symbol of modern Dutch architecture), its counterpart being a modern Prague motif – so called the Dancing House (symbol of contemporary Czech architecture) which is the residence of the Czech-Dutch Society.
The ceiling is coffered, made of wood while its opposite side is fully made of bronze. In glassed-in lunette, which closes in the upper part of the door, the back of firmament is placed. Through translucent glass the rhythm of day and night comes naturally from this side while from the front days and nights are generated artificially by switching on and off electrical light inside the house. In the right corner on the floor – where the alert cat was sitting – there is nothing left but fossils. Across from it there is a laptop computer (instead of parchment) with electronic mouse that replaced the one long time dead. It’s only natural the mouse is hooked to the computer by a cable (its tail). Display of the open laptop reads my e-mail address: The whole double-faced relief is full of hidden symbols, little puzzles, conundrums, numerical codes and allegories. I will reveal just one of many; others are upon to a viewer to solve. The notebook in the left bottom corner of the inside relief is provided with 57 keys (in 2007, the year I worked on it, I was 57 years old).

Technical data.

Clearance of the door passage (arched at the top) is cca 3350x1500 mm.Two-leaf door, frame made of oak wood is covered on the front with compact coat of bronze elaborated by above-described techniques. The back (inside) is covered with bronze sheets in some places only. Bronze rolled sheet manufactured in Metal Works Rokycany Ltd. Out of available assortment I chose well -malleable material CuSn6 of 2,3,4,5, mm in thickness. Bronze is treated by classical smith technique using all available traditional and modern methods. The parts of relief are attached by riveting, welding, with bronze wire or brass bolts. Relief fixed to bottom wood corpus with bolts and screws in such a way so that joints wouldn’t interfere with the whole concept of the project striving for spiritual, not just technical representation of the content. Bronze parts of the left front part of the door weigh 48,7 kg, back part: 15,9 kg. Total weight 64,6 kg. Bronze on right front part- 49 kg, back part: 17 kg. Total weight 66 kg. Lunette fixed to semi-circle oak door-frame with brass bolts (they can be easily removed). Weight 14,9 kg. Total weight of all bronze parts is 145,5 kg. All screws and nuts used in the door are made of brass and are mostly manually finished.