Redevelopment of the park, refurbishment of the Main Station concourse and a new tram line. This is what the reconstruction of the gateway to Prague will look like. The Main Station and the adjacent park, Vrchlického sady, are a sorry sight and not exactly welcoming these days. That’s about to change, with Prague’s “Sherwood” set for a makeover. The architect will be selected through a procedure of tenders with competitive dialogue. In September, an expert jury selected five of the 26 Czech and foreign architectural studios that entered the competition to advance to the next round.
Wenceslas Square, Florenc, Masaryk Station and now the Main Station. The centre of Prague is steadily being transformed and rejuvenated. This competitive dialogue – a procedure that the city has been using in recent years as it looks to revive complex sites with a multitude of diverse interests – is a joint activity of Prague City Hall, the Railway Administration, the Prague Public Transit Company (DPP) and the Prague Institute of Planning and Development (IPR). The project, given the catchy name Nový Hlavák, is to include the rehabilitation of the Vrchlického sady park, a new tram line to Muzeum and Žižkov, and the refurbishment of the Main Station’s concourse. The redevelopment is expected to make this problematic area safer and more appealing.
On 13 and 14 September, an expert committee selected the five best teams from the 26 Czech and foreign entries to proceed to the next stage of the competitive dialogue. “It is rare to judge such a cross-disciplinary commission in a single competition and look for teams that will create a workable urban space, redefine a significant but challenging park, incorporate a new solution, and wrap it all up with an urban design that is respectful of context, continuity, and community. Nor is it common for teams of international starchitects and young local studios to compete side by side,” explained Jaroslav Wertig, chairman of the expert committee.
Who made it to the final?
The West 8 landscaping studio was established in Rotterdam in 1987 by Dutch architect Adriaan Geuze. Today, it boasts an international team of more than 70 architects based in three offices: Rotterdam, Brussels, and Philadelphia. Working with other studios, they designed the new Madrid Río linear park – created by covering several busy thoroughfares – along the Manzanares River in Madrid. They are behind the transformation of London’s Jubilee Gardens near Waterloo station and were also involved in the design of Rotterdam’s central station and the competition-winning design for Brno’s new main station.
Henning Larsen Architects is a Danish studio founded by Henning Larsen in 1959 that now has more than 750 employees. In 2013, it won the Mies van der Rohe Award for the Harpa concert hall in Reykjavik, Iceland, and two years later, it designed a new town hall for the Swedish town of Kiruna, which will be relocated three kilometres east to accommodate the requirements of the local mining industry. It was also involved in the transformation of Remiseparken in Copenhagen. In Prague, it took part in the architectural design competition for the Vltavská Philharmonic Hall at the turn of the year.
Another finalist is a consortium of the Czech architectural studio Chybik+Kristof Architects & Urban Designers and the US studio Civitas. Chybik+Kristof Architects & Urban Designers was formed by architects Ondřej Chybík and Michal Krištof in 2010. Three years later, they won the competition for the Czech Republic’s pavilion at the World EXPO in Milan. Projects currently in the pipeline include a multipurpose ice hockey arena in Jihlava, a high-rise building in Ostrava and the redevelopment of Mendel Square in Brno. The president of Civitas, based in Denver, USA, is the world-renowned landscape architect and urban planner Mark Johnson, who has long specialised in sustainable urban development. He and his team have delivered some 500 projects in North America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. In Brno, he collaborated on a city planning study for a new district known as Jižní centrum (“South Centre”).
The fourth team is a consortium of the Czech architectural studio re:architekti, the Italian architectural studio baukuh studio associato and another Italian architectural studio, Yellow Office di Francesca Benedetto. The partners of re:architekti, founded in 2011, are Michal Kuzemenský, David Pavlišta, Ondřej Synek, Jan Vlach and Jiří Žid. Their main field of expertise is public buildings. They are currently working on a project that will see a new school built in Uhříněves. They have also prepared a concept study for the redevelopment of the transport interchange at the Černý Most terminal underground station. In 2017, baukuh studio associato was nominated for the Mies van der Rohe Award for its House of Memory in Milan. Yellow Office di Francesca Benedetto also specialises in landscape architecture and city planning. Both Italian studios were involved in the competition-winning design for a new library in Milan this year.
The last finalist is a team of representatives from the Spanish architectural studio Miralles Tagliabue EMBT S.L.P. and OCA architects, the Czech branch of the Spanish architectural studio OCA Arquitectos Barcelona. Miralles Tagliabue EMBT was established by Enric Miralles and Benedetta Tagliabue in Barcelona in 1994. It now operates worldwide, with additional offices in Paris and Shanghai. Among other things, it designed the Santa Caterina market in Barcelona, the Hafencity public spaces in Hamburg, and metro stations in Paris and Naples. OCA architects won the competition for the extension of the Prague Congress Centre, which is currently under preparation.
And what does the public have to say?
The public has also been included in the makeover of the park and the concourse at the Main Station. A guided walk and meetings with local residents and vendors were accompanied by an online questionnaire. The input received serves as a reference for the studios that will take part in the competitive dialogue. The selected project will then be consulted in detail with the public in autumn 2023.
Repairs to start in 2025
The next milestone in the competitive dialogue will be the evaluation of the architectural concepts, scheduled for December 2022. The expert jury will narrow down the selection to three teams based on the concepts submitted. The selected teams will then continue in the competitive dialogue and gradually evolve their final designs during the first half of 2023. The project launch is currently expected in 2025 or 2026.