Kotva gets cultural protection restored

The Culture Ministry has canceled an earlier decision due to a technicality

Kotva department store will again be a protected cultural monument after briefly losing its status over a legal technicality due to a change in ownership.

The Culture Ministry’s Department of Monument Care reached the same conclusion as in the previous decision, that Kotva meets the criteria for being a cultural monument.

According to the Code of Administrative Procedure, Kotva will be a cultural monument only after the decision comes into force. Unless an appeal is filed against it, this will be approximately one month after the decision is issued.

“After taking legal force, the Kotva department store will be doubly protected," Culture Minister Antonin Stanek (ČSSD) said. "First, by standing in the Prague Historical Reserve and also by obtaining the status of a cultural monument. I am glad that people are not indifferent to the fate of similar buildings and do not neglect other important buildings that are fortunately still standing,” he added.

All of the buildings in Prague 1 are protected due to that part of the city being a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The cultural monument status from the Culture Ministry adds additional protections.

Kotva is an exceptional building, according to the Culture Ministry. It was radical for its time. It is built on a hexagonal pattern to suggest busy bees and was designed by architects Věra Machoninová and Vladimir Machonin. The construction, between 1970 and ’75, was done by a Swedish firm, which was unusual during the communist era. The largest store in Czechoslovakia was intended to show the success of socialism, but it was often nearly empty of goods.

The reason it has now been declared a cultural monument is that the building has been preserved almost intact and that the architects made an original solution to the task of placing a bulky new building in space. By connecting to the neighboring Kotva Palace, after which it the building got its name got its name, it joins the surrounding buildings and, on the ground floor, connects to the shopping passage in Kotva Palace, the decision states.

Proceedings on making Kotva a cultural monument have been in progress since 2016, when then-culture minister Minister Daniel Herman (KDU-ČSL) tried in vain to do so.

Minister Antonín Staněk (ČSSD) pushed through the monument protection in the autumn of 2018.

However, the new owner, První nemovitostní, filed a complaint against this decision on the grounds that it had been overlooked as the new owner.

První nemovitostní is a subsidiary of Pražská správa nemovitostí (PSN), owned by billionaire Václav Skala.

During the procedure to grant cultural monument status, the building’s ownership changed but the ministry was not notified.

Both the former and new owners used the same legal representation, and the legal team did not inform the ministry of any changes of their clients, so it was unclear who they were representing.

In order to avoid litigation, the culture minister annulled the first instance decision as a precaution and returned the case for reconsideration as soon as possible, the Culture Ministry explained on its website.

At the end of March, PSN announced plans for a Kč 1 billion renovation of Kotva. The planned renovations should start next year and take one year to complete. The renovations have been approved by the National Heritage Institute (NPÚ), albeit with some reservations.

Since the 1990s, Kotva changed ownership several times. In 2005 Kotva was bought by the Irish group Markland. In 2016, the Irish state consolidation agency NAMA sold it to PSN for a reported 80 million euros.

Kotva was built in the communist era, and buildings from that time seldom get monument protection. The Trangas building, located behind the National Museum, failed to get protection despite being a unique structure. It is currently being demolished to make was for a multi-use retail, office and housing project. Hotel Praha, filled with socialist-era mosaics and other artworks, was torn down in 2014 after an unsuccessful legal battle to save it.

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