Buildings fitted in the panorama

7.2.2010 - Prague

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 Prague off the World Heritage List?
Answer:  UNESCO will no longer strike us off the list because of the high-rise buildings on Pankrác. These are high-rises that the developer fitted in the Prague panorama. They will not disturb the view on Pankrác.

Question:   What would it mean for the city of Prague if it 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 practically do no harm to Prague, except for the fact that the city would lose prestige. The list is a kind of prestigious club for us.

We distance ourselves from this statement since we value 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 behavior toward you and other citizens to be dishonest.

The reasons we do not agree with the construction of high-rises were stated in the letter we sent to you on March 21, 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 to be a serious intervention in the historical Prague skyline and is also opposed by the Headquarters of the National Conservation Institute and ICOMOS. The city council informed you that back in the 1920s and 1930s, there were plans to build high-rise buildings in this area; however, they forgot to tell you that these high-rises were to be 11 stories 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 the UNESCO unofficial mission to Prague have never been fulfilled. The documentation submitted for the planning procedure has not been altered.

Each 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 located entirely outside the visual focal point, so the problematic skyline would not be balanced (linked together). 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 center. 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 that might be of interest to the local people.

The Pankrác Plain is located near the most congested road in the city, the South-North Arterial Road, and air and noise pollution limits are already highly exceeded. Placing of such buildings in this area also runs 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 for high-rises has not been issued yet, so it is still possible to discuss dimensional restrictions or reductions of these buildings.

The World Heritage Center, Mr. Francisco Bandarin, and a representative of ICOMOS International, Bruno Maldoner, have been involved in the reactive monitoring mission in Prague and are investigating whether the Czech Republic cares adequately for Prague, which was inscribed on the World Heritage List.

The letter is signed by: Arnika (Martin Skalsky), Atelier for the Environment (Petr Kuzvart), Civic Association of Pankrac (Marie Janouskova), Citizens Afflicted by North-South Artery, (Alzbeta Rejchrtova) and Pankrac Society (Zdenek Holecek).

Article Author: Marie Janouskova

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