Renovation of Prague’s Malostranské náměstí faces yet another delay

Efforts to transform the parking lots in Malá Strana into a unified space in the historical center began in 2014.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston Published on 23.11.2022 14:51:00 (updated on 23.11.2022) Reading time: 3 minutes

The long-planned renovation of Malostranské náměstí is facing another delay. The renovation was supposed to start in the spring, but due to extensive changes to the project, Prague City Hall will now have to construction cancel the contract awarded last year and start a new tender to find a contractor. No new start date for work has been set.

Malostranské náměstí, on the route between Charles Bridge and Prague Castle, is one of the most visited places in Prague. Despite its location, it has long been something of an eyesore, with both the upper and lower parts of the square used as parking lots. The lot on the lower part of the square was closed in 2016, and the city began to organize cultural events there such as festivals and farmers markets.

The space though still has the appearance of a parking lot. The renovation aims to give the whole square a coherent look, and to make it more inviting to the public.

Overview of the upper part of Malostranské náměstí. (Photo: IPR Praha)
Overview of the upper part of Malostranské náměstí. Photo: IPR Praha.

The Prague City Council awarded the now-canceled contracts to the company Gardenline on Dec. 13, 2021. The project has now undergone significant changes, which doubled the amount of work, ČTK reported.

The cost of work was estimated to be CZK 84.4 million. The new date for the launch of work and the price will only be known after the new tender process is finished. No date for the launch of the new tender has been set.

Extensive archeological survey required

The City Council said it never signed the contract with Gardenline due to pending requests for modifications to the project, especially in terms of historic preservation.

These include the need to carry out "extensive rescue archaeological research, at the highest professional level corresponding to the importance of the site, which was not adequately considered in the project documentation," the City Council wrote in a resolution adopted yesterday.

Due to a change in the planned traffic flow, the intersection in the lower part of the square will need to be adjusted. Preservationists also demand changes to the appearance of the furniture and public lighting poles along the tram line for a more historical look.

Work will start on the upper part of Malostranské náměstí. (Photo: IPR Praha)
Work will start on the upper part of Malostranské náměstí. Photo: IPR Praha.

"Furthermore, based on the requirements of the Chamber of Deputies of the Czech Parliament, it will be necessary to change the solution to the parking spaces at Sněmovní Street and to modify the solution to the traffic in front of the entrance to the underground garage of the Chamber of Deputies," the document states.

The Chamber of Deputies meets in three joined historical places adjacent to Malostranské náměstí. Sněmovní Street runs perpendicular to the square.

Design plans going back to 2014

The city held an architectural competition in 2014 to find a new look for the square. The winning project came from architects Martin Hájek, Václav Hájek, and Petr Horský.

The proposed changes saw the parking lot disappear from the upper part of the square, the widening of sidewalks, the narrowing of car lanes, and a fountain in the lower part of the square.

The entire square will be unified with light yellow paving stones. Some of these stones were used when tram tracks around the square were last renovated.

One unresolved issue is whether the statue of Austro-Hungarian Marshal Josef Václav Radecký, which stood on the square between 1858 and 1919, will be returned to its original location. The statue is in the possession of the National Museum.

Supporters of the return see it as a piece of history, while opponents object to the restoration of symbols from the Austro-Hungarian occupation of Bohemia. The restoration of the Victory Column on Old Town Square ignited a similar controversy.

New faces for the city's squares

Prague officials are mulling changes to other public spaces. Work is now being completed in the lower part of Wenceslas Square, which got a new look thanks to trees, benches and a fountain. The paved space has been expanded and paving stones made from destroyed Jewish tombstones were removed and returned to the Jewish community.

Modifications to the upper part of Wenceslas Square are also planned, but it is not clear when they will start. The project includes the return of trams to the upper part of the square.

The transformation of Karlovo náměstí, náměstí Jiřího z Poděbrad, and Vítězné náměstí are also in various stages of preparation.

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