• The Ethical Mirror: Architecture, Dissidence, and the Radical Imagination
    Renata Hejduk, Steven Hillyer, Kim Shkapich, and Jim Williamson
    The Cooper Union and Czech Technical University, 2023
    Renata Hejduk, Steven Hillyer, Kim Shkapich & Jim Williamson

Jan Palach Memorial under construction on the grounds of Prague Castle, 1991. Courtesy The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture Archive, The Cooper Union. Photo: Jaroslav Zastoupil

This volume of essays, interviews, and images narrates the fascinating 50-year story of how architecture, poetry, and politics aligned around the birth of a new democracy. Following the suppression of the Prague Spring in 1968, a Czech student, Jan Palach, dies by self-immolation in Prague’s Wenceslas Square. His act, a response to the Russian occupation, inspires the 1969 poem The Funeral of Jan Palach by the American student-radical poet David Shapiro. In 1986, responding to the poem and in honor of Palach’s sacrifice, the architect John Hejduk imagines and draws The House of the Suicide and The House of the Mother of the Suicide. In 1990, Vaclav Havel, the first president of post-communist Czechoslovakia invites Hejduk to exhibit his work and erect the Houses in Prague. This book is a transformative narrative and significant public history reflecting on the nature of political action, sacred space, and ultimately the meaning of freedom and the role of architecture.

Renata Hejduk is an associate professor at Arizona State University. She teaches architectural history and theory in The Design School. She is a faculty affiliate of The Barrett Honors College, the School of Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies, The Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, and the Center for Biomimicry. Her research is focused on European and American avant-garde art, architecture, and urbanism and thought from around 1960 to the present, the intellectual history of post-war America and Europe, and Reggio Emilia Education. In addition to journal articles, she coedited (with Jim Williamson) The Religious Imagination in Modern and Contemporary Architecture: A Reader (Routledge, 2011). Previous to her academic career she was the assistant curator of European and contemporary art at the Yale University Art Gallery, and the curatorial associate in the Department of Photographs at Harvard’s Fogg Art Museum.

Steven Hillyer has curated, designed, and installed numerous exhibitions presenting the work of—and often working directly with—such distinguished architects as Raimund Abraham, John Hejduk, Bernhard Hoesli, Louis I. Kahn, Daniel Libeskind, Franco Purini, Carlo Scarpa, Massimo Scolari, Michael Webb, and Lebbeus Woods; and artists Anthony Candido, Mary Kelly, Costantino Nivola, and Robert Slutzky in keeping with a longstanding tradition of mounting exhibitions and publishing work that informs the pedagogy of The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture of The Cooper Union. Additionally, Hillyer is involved in the fabrication of the numerous publications produced by the school’s Architecture Archive. Hillyer is project director of the Architecture Archive’s Student Work Collection online database and the Voices from the Great Hall Digital Access project, an online database of historical recordings and related ephemera of lectures and events that have taken place in the institution’s venerable Great Hall over its 160-year history.

Kim Shkapich was educated as a filmmaker, designer, and artist. She practices as both a graphic designer and editor. She was the graphic designer and director of exhibitions and lectures at Harvard University's Graduate School of Design, the head of the Architectural Archive and architectural exhibitions at The Cooper Union, and a long time collaborator and book designer/editor for the architect John Hejduk. She has won numerous awards and grants for her books, exhibitions, and research including the PS1/MoMA Young Architects Award for her project with Obra Architects, she was part of numerous Graham Foundation grants, she was nominated for the Chrysler Award for Innovation in Design, and several International Architecture Book Award from the American Institute of Architects and many other design awards. Her exhibition designs have graced San Francisco Musuem of Modern Art, the Candadian Centre of Architecture, The Cooper Union, The Prague Castle, among other venues and include Neutra's Windshield House, and the exhibition Autoemotive. She has edited and designed over fifteen books and exhibition catalogues. In addition to her work as a designer, she is the founder of the locavore food brand Lola’s Local Food Lab out of Wellfleet, Massachusetts.

Jim Williamson is a professor of architecture at Texas Tech University (TTU) where he served as dean from 2016–21. He holds a bachelor’s of architecture from TTU, a master’s of architecture from Cranbrook Academy of Art and pursued graduate studies in history and theory at the Architectural Association. Williamson taught at Cornell from 2001–16 where he directed the undergraduate and graduate programs and coordinated the freshman design sequence. He has taught design and theory at numerous institutions including Harvard University, The Cooper Union, Columbia University, Rhode Island School of Design, Rice the University of Texas at Austin, and Georgia Institute of Technology. Williamson coedited The Religious Imagination in Modern Contemporary Architecture: A Reader (Routledge, 2011) with Renata Hejduk. His work is published in Surrealism and Architecture (Routledge, 2004) and numerous journals including: Taiwan Architect, Architectural Design, Japan Architect, Kongsan (Space), and the Journal of Architectural Education.