The unique panorama of Prague is threatened by plans for building high-rise buildings

20.6.2007 - Prague

The violation of the Treaty to protect the world heritage by the Czech Republic will be discussed on Saturday during the UNESCO meeting at New Zealand.

The City of Prague may face serious problems because the city council pushes for building high-rise buildings within the protected area of the UNESCO world heritage reservation without consulting the plan with the UNESCO Council. The so called Prague Manhattan shall become a “modern counter balance of the Prague Castle” but will seriously damage the unique historical panorama of Prague. The case shall be debated at the upcoming Conference of the UNESCO Council at New Zealand.

“Prague is unique exactly because its horizons are dominated only be the churches' steeples. Only Venice and Florence are as preserved as Prague. Prague is also included among the most beautiful cities of the world thanks to a unique configuration of the natural landscape and the human scale of the buildings. High-rise buildings next to the historical city center are absolutely inappropriate although there is an option to build them at the periphery of the city,” says the president  of Czech section of ICOMOS Josef Šulc.

Although the Czech Ministry of Culture is opposing the high-rise buildings construction, the City Council has the opposite opinion and entirely supports the project of Prague Manhattan. The council's arguments are not accepted by the ICOMOS International. The director Michael Petzet urged the Prague Mayor Pavel Bem to immediately stop the project of Prague Manhattan.. „Existing high-rise buildings on the Pankrác Plain represent serious town planning mistake of the past. I must strongly advise against this mistake being repeated today. What concerns me especially is the fact that projects with such deep impact on the historic urban ensemble of Prague may be approved by the city authorities on a case-to-case basis. The case of Pankrác Plain high-rise buildings shows the urgent need of an appropriate Management Plan for the formally designated World Heritage site and buffer zone,“ wrote Petzet to the Mayor of the City of Prague.

Several Citizen groups have been fighting to protect Prague from aggressive developers for many years now. „Since 2003, we have been telling the City Council that it violates the international agreements signed by the Czech Republic. We collaborated  with Ministry of Culture that refused twice to issue a positive statement for constructing the high-rise buildings. Prague lacks a plan to protect the historical UNESCO reservation established in 1991. There is no vision for an appropriate urban development plan.“ describes the situation Martin Skalský from an Arnika NGO. „In Prague the rule is that whoever brings a project with lots of money to invest, he generally receives a permission to carry out the investment plan.” This is threatening the real value of the historical city.“

Architect Vlado Milunić  is jointly with Frank Gehry the author of Prague Dancing House  (Ginger and Fred), a rare example of excellent modern architecture. „Prague is a unique city built in layers of European architecture for ten centuries. The city panorama is part of this unique identity. The buildings situated on the horizons must be in harmony with Prague identity, says architect Milunič. „The Council should minimize the impact of the three already existing high-rise buildings. Instead, its decision makes the situation even worse. It is sad that we have to call for help to UNESCO. Prague citizens are not able to protect its city themselves in contrast to Parisiens or Viennese although Prague is even more susceptible to such changes,“ adds Milunić.

After years of hopeless consultations with Czech authorities, six citizen groups turned to the Council of UNESCO in Paris. The Case of Six Highrise buildings will be debated during the 31. meeting of UNESCO Council at the end of June at New Zealand.

„The main problem is the Council making ad hoc decisions about the future of the City of Prague without any clear well-defined plan and the vision of polycentric city development. This is not sustainable. Such a development may lead to inclusion of Prague historical city on the list of endangered monuments. Our reputation in the rest of the world would be damaged and it would have serious consequences for tourism and income of Prague inhabitants,“ explains Šulc.

1) More info about skyscrapers in Prague

2) Photogallery

3) More info about UNESCO Conference in New Zealand

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