Negrelli Viaduct may be revitalized

The spaces under the railway overpass may become shops and cultural venues

The Negrelli Viaduct in Prague's Karlín district could be revitalized over the next few years with new cultural venues, restaurants and sports facilities in the arches under the railway viaduct that have long been neglected and used for parking.

Architects for the Prague-based Centre for Central European Architecture (CCEA) during this summer were able to open up test operation as a podium for music and theater as well as a bistro and sports area. Local people have been calling for something cultural to be done with the space, and 1,200 signed a petition.

Prague Mayor Adriana Krnáčová (ANO) also supports the idea. “Examples in Zurich, Vienna and Berlin show that it is possible to combine rail traffic on a viaduct with the active use of the spaces underneath. … The bridge will become an important place not only for Karlín, but for the whole city,” Krnáčová said.

The space under the arches could be covered in glass. This would allow then to be used for short- and long-term occupants like stores, galleries, bistros and workshops. Architects have a plan to convert up to 44 out of the viaduct's 74 arches. Experts have cautioned against the “Parisian solution,” where very expensive shops are put into the arches because the area is unlikely to support them. The exact use for each space, though, has not yet been decided.

CCEA architects say that the focal point of the project would be under the viaduct between Sokolovská and Křižíkova Streets, where the social meeting point is in trial operation. Pedestrians would get priority in the new area. A new park could possibly be created in the triangle between Prvního pluku, Pernerova and Malého Streets. Almost the entire length of the viaduct could be turned into a pedestrian zone, with sidewalk seating and trees, and some parking spots.

A three-year renovation of the viaduct costing some Kč 1 billion is set to begin next fall, and should be paid for by the Railway Infrastructure Administration. The transformation of the area under the viaduct would come out of the municipal budget. CCEA architects would also be willing to pay for some of the transformation of the spaces if they were able to supervise the use of the spaces. The reason for that is because in Vienna a similar project to revitalize a viaduct began to deteriorate after five years due to lack of supervision.

The Negrelli Viaduct is the second-oldest bridge in Prague. The viaduct spans over the Karlín valley and the Vltava River, crossing Štvanice Island. Construction started in the spring 1846 and it was completed in 1850. The first regular train went on the viaduct June 1, 1850.

It was the largest railway construction in Europe at that time. The material was Czech granite and the pillars had coating of sandstone. The length of the viaduct was 1,130 meters. The viaduct originally had 90 arches. In 1952–53 three arches over Křižíkova Street in Karlín were removed, as they had been a serious road obstruction in the present vehicle traffic. They were replaced with concrete beams. In 1981, more arches were removed at the Bubenské embankment.

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