City Hall advances the renovation of Karlovo náměstí

A plan approved last year is undergoing some modifications before implementation

The Prague City Council approved more steps toward changing Karlovo náměstí. The design proposal approved at the end of last year will now undergo some needed adjustments, steps will be taken for creating and implementing a plan to realize the design.

Among other things, the plan increases greenery as a response to climate change.

The winner of the competitive dialogue was the team of the German landscape studio Rehwaldt Landschaftsarchitekten with the architectural office BY Architects and the transport office PD Filip. The proceedings were conducted by the Prague Institute of Planning and Development (IPR).

“It is a pleasure to build on the quality results of the competitive dialogue. Turning Karlovo náměstí into a functional and pleasant square is not an easy task. That is why it is very important from the beginning to set up the square administration and continue cooperation with all the parties involved,” Prague Deputy Mayor Petr Hlaváček (United Force for Prague), responsible for territorial development and zoning plan, said on the City Hall website.

The idea of revitalizing the square goes back to the previous City Hall administration.

The competitive dialogue procedure was launched in 2016. This form of competition allows all stakeholders to be involved in the development of the proposal from start to finish. The Commission selected five teams, which, together with all stakeholders — for example, Prague 2, the Prague City Hall Department of Conservation and the National Heritage Institute — created the proposals for a new park.

At the end of last year, the commission chose the winning team: Rehwaldt Landschaftsarchitekten with BY Architects and PD Filip.

City Councilors on April 23 approved making partial modifications to the selected plan and creating a project committee to draw up the assignment for each project phase and supervise its processing.

“The Council has approved another process for revitalizing the [city’s] largest square into a place where Prague residents will be able to spend their free time in the future. The revitalization of the listed Karlovo náměstí is in many ways an important pilot project for Prague,” Deputy Mayor Petr Hlubuček (United Force for Prague), responsible for the environment, said.

“Among other things, the landscape competition has cultivated a significant public space. The project will also contribute to the adaptation of Prague to climate change, as it uses a close-to-nature solution and maintains a vast green oasis where trees grown in the city center will be renewed and supplemented. It also provides for an integrated rainwater management system,” he added.

“An important prerequisite for the functioning of this territory and all the measures introduced is good governance, which is why we want to introduce a new management system,” he said. The City Council suggest that one person, the Karlovo náměstí manager, would be in charge of the overall administration.

The winning proposal proposes dividing the changes in Karlovo náměstí into three time periods. This will let the square change gradually, from minor adjustments that can be quickly realized to major changes that are long-term goals.

“In order to save the dying trees, some adjustments to the greenery will be implemented this year,” IPR director Ondřej Boháč said.

After the preparation of the project documentation, the complete revitalization of the park should take place in 2025. In the long-term vision until 2048, the 700th anniversary of Karlovo náměstí founding), however, the authors expect, for example, a gradual calming of traffic to such an extent that the entire eastern side would be a promenade only for pedestrians.

Karlovo náměstí was built as part of an extensive urban development plan overseen by Emperor Charles IV in the mid-1300s. It was originally a cattle market, while Wenceslas Square was a horse market and Senovážné náměstí was a feed market.

Charles IV envisioned Karlovo náměstí as being the cultural and economic center of the New Town district, but people always preferred Wenceslas Square instead.

He based his city layout loosely on plans of Jerusalem. The square once had the Chapel of the Body of God, at the site that corresponded with the location of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The chapel was used to display relics and the Crown Jewels.

Karlovo náměstí is one of the largest urban squares in the world, measuring roughly 70,000 square meters, and was the largest town square in medieval Europe. It has been a park since the 1860s.

The square is adjacent to the New Town Hall, which was the site of historical incidents such as the defenestration of 1419, when seven town councilors were killed, sparking the Hussite Wars.

On the opposite side of the square is the Faust House, now owned by the Medical Faculty of Charles University. It is associated with several colorful legends.

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