Open House Prague coming in May

Normally closed buildings from all architectural eras will be accessible

Fans of architecture will get another chance to see inside some normally inaccessible places.

The Open House Prague festival, in its fifth edition, will open the gates of 80 buildings and other premises on the weekend of May 18–19 for free.

People will be able to see historic palaces, representative villas, modern office spaces designed and views over the city offered by the rooftops of high buildings.

The festival’s aim is to give the public insight into Prague’s different historical eras.

“Exploring buildings, their architecture, and stories, is the first step for us to evoke people’s interest in the city and its public space,” festival director Andrea Šenkyříková said.

In the past four years, the festival organizers have made 192 buildings accessible in total and recorded over 185,000 visits.

Aside from buildings that have participated in the past, some 38 buildings will be opened for the first time. Visitors will be able to look inside the representative spaces of the state-owned Hrzán Palace and the Liechtenstein Palace, as well as the Trauttmannsdorf Palace in Hradčany, which, up until the beginning of the 20th century, served as a prison, and is now in the final stage of renovations for purposes of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic.

The program also includes buildings designed by leading Czech architects: the Štenc House by Otakar Novotný in Old Town, the House of Agricultural Education by Josef Gočár near náměstí Míru, or the Laichter House by Jan Kotěra in Vinohrady.

People can also visit the usually inaccessible spaces of some significant cultural premises: the medieval cellars in the House at the Stone Bell, the tower and the stables of the Troja Chateau, the roof and the technical space of the Prague National Gallery’s Veletržní palác, or the recently renovated technical monument of the Water Tower in Letná.

The organizers have also prepared two thematic sections.“In the context of the current global ecological crisis, we have decided to show how architecture can contribute to the debate over ecological sustainability,” Šenkyříková said.

“In cooperation with the Czech Green Building Council, we have put together a selection of contemporary constructions which represent various ways of how sources can be economically used in civil engineering so that there is a minimal impact on the environment,” she added.

The section of green buildings includes Visionary, a new administration building in Holešovice, which has received the LEED Platinum international certification, the highest possible rating.

Another featured building is Dock In Two, a business and office complex in Libeň. This six-story building covered with greenery was designed in such a way so that it would effectively use the assets of new materials and ecological technical solutions.

“This year, the Czech Green Building Council celebrates 10 years since its foundation, and I am therefore very happy that Open House Prague pays attention to this very topic.

We would like to show that buildings can be sustainable while being designed in accordance with the latest trends in architecture,” Simona Kalvoda, director of the Czech Green Building Council, said.

The other section consists of city-owned buildings that are currently waiting for their new purpose. “Empty houses in Prague are a big problem. And if the new political representatives want to do something about it, they need to put their own house in order first. It is necessary that all empty and decaying houses in the city’s ownership start being used,” Petr Zeman, founder of the cooperating Empty Houses association and a current Prague politician, said.

Visitors will also be able to see the largest stadium in the world – the Great Strahov Stadium. In 2014, after lengthy disputes, the stadium fell into the ownership of the city, which is now carrying out studies concerning the stadium’s next appearance.

For the first time ever, the Pages’ House of the Lords of Martinique in Hradčany will be made accessible, and, due to popular demand, the organizers will also open the Desfours Palace in Florenc for the second time.

Some former City Hall houses in the Old Town have already found their purpose and some are still waiting for their opportunity.

“My effort when maintaining city properties is to make the number of empty buildings as small as possible and make sure that most of these properties can serve to the needs of the citizens of Prague,” Jan Chabr, councilor for property maintenance and property shares, said.

The concept of the festival was born in London in 1992 and has since expanded into 46 cities around the whole world.

More information can be found at www.openhousepraha.cz and on www.facebook.com/events.

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