Malostranské náměstí renovation will finally begin this spring

A plan to return the square to pedestrians was approved in 2014 but has faced numerous delays.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston Published on 14.12.2021 13:20:00 (updated on 14.12.2021) Reading time: 3 minutes

Work will finally begin in the spring on transforming Prague’s Malostranské náměstí into a user-friendly destination. Preparations have been completed, and the project has a building permit. Prague City Hall yesterday chose a construction contractor to complete the work, the last major step before the long-delayed plan goes into effect.

The city will pay CZK 84.4 million to the firm Gardenline for the renovation work. This is CZK 10 million more than the city expected. The increase is due to a general rise in construction costs resulting from the pandemic, with the cost of labor and materials both going up.

“Construction work will begin in the spring of next year at the top of the square, between the Liechtenstein Palace and the Church of St. Nicholas. An archaeological survey will also be carried out at the excavation sites,” Prague Deputy Mayor Petr Hlaváček, responsible for territorial developments, said in a press release.

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

“Thanks to the renovation, the entire space of the square will be freed up to conform more closely to its original meaning and purpose – as a place to meet,” he added.

The large parking lot around the plague column will disappear from the upper part of the square, but some parking spaces will still remain on one side of a narrowed one-way traffic lane. Sidewalks, on the other hand, will be widened, benches and other furniture will be installed, and trees will be planted. The blue anthropomorphic Cubist bollards by Karel Nepraš, installed in 1993, will remain to delineate the remaining parking spaces from the sidewalk.

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The plague column installed in 1715 will, of course, remain as the dominant feature of the upper part of the square, while a historical hand pump will be restored.

Work in the lower part of the square along the tram line and between Grömling Palace, Malostranská beseda, and Sternberg Palace will be carried out in 2023, according to the document approved by City Hall. A fountain and benches will be added there and the large shade tree will remain. The whole area will be repaved to form a cohesive space.

Cars parked around the plague column. (Photo: Raymond Johnston)
Cars parked around the plague column. (Photo: Raymond Johnston)

While the overall idea is to preserve the historical look of the square, current plans do not include re-installing the statue of Field Marshall Josef Radecký which stood on the square from 1858 until 1921. The statue still exists and is in the possession of the National Gallery.

Malostranské náměstí, on the route between Charles Bridge and Prague Castle, is one of the most visited places in Prague. It has long been something of an eyesore though, with both the upper and lower parts of the square used as parking lots. Over the past decade, the city authorities have shifted the emphasis in many public spaces from favoring cars to favoring pedestrians.

Plan for the lower part of Malostranské náměstí. (Photo: IPR Praha)
Plan for the lower part of Malostranské náměstí. (Photo: IPR Praha)

In 2014, the Prague Institute of Planning and Urban Development (IPR Praha), in cooperation with Prague City Hall, announced an urban-architectural competition for a new pedestrian-friendly design for Malostranské náměstí. The winners were architects Martin Hájek, Václav Hájek and Petr Horský.

In 2016, the parking lot at the bottom of the square was closed, and the space began to host events. The city has also rebuilt the tram tracks on the square with new paving. Stones of the same color will be used throughout the lower part of the square.

The renovated square will offer Praguers and tourists a quiet place for sitting as well as a space for markets and other cultural and social activities.

“This project is the result of several years of efforts by IPR, the city, and local initiatives to cultivate the neglected Malostranské náměstí. And I am very pleased that now, seven years after the architectural competition, we are finally approaching the start of the renovation,” IPR Praha director Ondřej Boháč said.

Planned fountain for the lower part of Malostranské náměstí. (Photo: IPR Praha)
Planned fountain for the lower part of Malostranské náměstí. (Photo: IPR Praha)

"At the same time, I hope that similar projects will be implemented more quickly in the future, although the current form of the new Building Act approved in the summer does not yet indicate this,” Boháč said.

Malostranské náměstí is just one of several Prague squares currently under renovation. Work is currently underway on Wenceslas Square, with the lower part nearing completion. Trams will also return to the upper part when the second phase is completed. In Vinohrady, work is about the begin at náměstí Jiřího z Poděbrad to add more trees, improve the playground, and make a dedicated space for markets. In the long term, Karlovo náměstí and Vítězné náměstí will get a makeover too.

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