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Buildings fitted in the panorama

Marie Janoušková - 07 March 2008

We very much appreciate that mission of UNESCO and ICOMOS has arrived in Prague. But we are deeply dismayed that in connection with your visit Mr Jan Kněžínek, director of the Prague Conservation Department responded to journalists‘ questions with the following statements:

Question:  Is there really a threat that UNESCO will strike off Prague from the World Heritage List?
Answer:  UNESCO will in no case strike us off the List because of the high-rise buildings on Pankrác. These are high-rises which the developer fitted in the Prague panorama. So they will not disturb the view on Pankrác.

Question:  What would it mean for the city of Prague if after all would disappear from the World Heritage List?
Answer:  Practically nothing. In 1992, when Prague was inscribed on the List almost no one in the world knew about it and this (inscription) meant an influx of money for us. Today the removal from the List would not practically do any harm to Prague except the fact that the city would lose (the) prestige The list is a kind of a prestigious club for us.

We distance ourselves from this statement since we value very much the fact that some historical buildings and urban complexes in the Czech Republic have been and will be inscribed on the World Heritage List.

We would also like to point out that the City Council of Prague has invited you to visit Prague and are allegedly expecting your stance on the construction of high-rises on Pankrác but at the same time they opened a town planning procedure on the construction. The so-called oral proceedings (where participants can raise final objections) were scheduled for March 13-14, 2008 even though it is quite obvious that the City Council will not receive the conclusions of your mission by that date. We consider such behaviour towards you and us, citizens, to be dishonest.

The reasons why we do not agree with the construction of high-rises were stated in the letter we sent to you on 21st March 2006. So let us make just a few brief remarks to this point. The construction of sky-scrapers on the Pankrác Plateau is still considered by us to be a serious intervention into the historical Prague panorama and this is also strongly opposed by the t Headquarters of the National Conservation Institute and ICOMOS. The City Council informed you that back in the 1920’s and 1930’s there were plans to build high-rise buildings in this area, however, they forgot to tell you that these high-rises were to be of 11 storeys high at the maximum. If buildings of such height would be built here we would never protest against that. Another aspect we consider to be important is that the requirements to revise or adapt building documentation laid down by Dr. Irene Wiese-van Ofen, M. Bonnet, M. Firestone and W. Lipp during a UNESCO unofficial mission to Prague have never been fulfilled. The documentation submitted for the planning procedure has not been altered.

Every time when plans to complement high-rise buildings on the Pankrác Plain were discussed the new buildings were intended to be placed in the focal point of the so-called Pentagon, however the Epoque building is now being placed quite outside of the visual focal point so the problematic skyline would not be balanced (linked together) but on the contrary the “visual mistake” will be accentuated while viewing the skyline from Prague Castle. The reason for this solution is that the developer wants the prospective tenants/ buyers of the sky-scraper space to enjoy “undisturbed” views of Prague’s centre. One of the conclusions of Mrs van Ofen’s mission was that the developer should redo the ground floor of the planned buildings – this has not been done and the ground floor does not offer any services which might be of interest to the local people.

We emphasize that the traffic burden caused by these building will have a great unfavourable impact on properties in the area since the Pankrác Plain is located in close vicinity of the most congested road in the city – the South-North Arterial Road and air and noise pollution limits are already highly exceeded. Placement of such buildings in this area runs also contrary to the Zoning Plan since it fails to meet a greenery code (ratio). The City Council usually solves such problems by granting exceptions to legal regulations.

In conclusion we would like to say that the planning permit on high-rises has not been issued yet and so it is still possible to discuss dimensional restrictions or reduction of these buildings.

Letter of this content was handed over to director of World Heritage Center Mr. Francisco Bandarin and representative of ICOMOS International Mr. Bruno Maldoner, who participated in reactive monitoring mission in Prague and they are investigating whether Czech republic cares adequately of Prague, inscribed on World Heritage List.

Letter is signed by: Arnika (Martin Skalský), Atelier for the Environment (Petr Kužvart), Civic Association of Pankrac (Marie Janoušková), Citizens Afflicted by North-south Artery, (Alžběta Rejchrtová) and Pankrac Society (Zdeněk Holeček).