Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

This site uses cookies. By using our services, you agree to our cookie use.
Learn more here.

Competition: Charles Square, Prague

The City of Prague has announced an international contest for a major 150-300 million CZK overhaul of its historic 14th-century Charles Square (Deadline: 12 October)

Open to teams of architects, landscape architects and civil engineers, the competition will identify a new vision for the prominent 7ha public space which hosts the city’s iconic New Town Hall, the Czech Technical University and several churches.

The project aims to transform the square into a ‘versatile and high-quality public space’ where existing natural and historic features are preserved. The scheme will also create a masterplan for the square and its surrounding network of streets, which harmonises pedestrian, road, tram and rail infrastructure.

Charles Square, Prague

Charles Square, Prague

Charles Square, Prague

According to the brief: ‘The competitive dialogue process will seek a solution for the entire Charles Square, focusing on the park revitalisation, aiming to obtain a proposal which will successfully intertwine high-quality architectonic and landscaping design with requirements of the heritage site to produce a contemporary public space meeting standards of a modern European metropolis.

‘This task may only be completed by adequately addressing all current problem areas, which include intensive traffic and pedestrian through-flow, ineffective rainwater management within the park, overall poor quality of vegetation and, last but not least, problematic social perception of this location.’

Charles Square was laid out in 1348 as part of the New Town of Prague established by Emperor Charles IV. The plaza – which features the Town Hall, a Jesuit school and several churches – was originally intended as the city’s principal public space but is today eclipsed by the nearby Wenceslas Square.

The area is a major road, tram and rail interchange featuring congested streets and pavements. The centre of the square was transformed into a public park featuring statues, monuments and fountains during the 19th century.

The latest contest, organised by the Prague Institute of Planning and Development (IPR Prague), aims to upgrade the square and its surrounding environment. The competition process will be conducted in both English and Czech.

Five finalist teams will receive around 400,000 CZK each to participate in a ‘competition dialogue’ involving a series of workshops next year during which design ideas will be developed. The overall winner will receive an estimated 22.5 million CZK contract to deliver the scheme.

Judges include Prague mayor Adriana Krnáčová; vice mayor and architect Václav Vondrášek; the founder of Třiarchitekti Studio, Michal Fišer; and the historian and philosopher, Petr Hlaváček.

How to apply

Deadline

The deadline for applications is 4pm local time on 12 October

Contact details

Lukáš Marek
Prague Institute of Planning and Development,
Vyšehradská 57, 128 00 Praha 2
Czech Republic

Tel: 236004538
Email: marek@ipr.praha.eu

Visit the competition website for more information

St Andrew Square case study: Q&A with Graeme Pert

The consultant associate at Gillespies discusses lessons learned upgrading St Andrew Square Gardens in Edinburgh

How did your project revitalise St Andrew square and sensitively create a modern destination for the city?

Saint Andrew Square Gardens is within Edinburgh’s UNESCO World Heritage Site. The bold and simple 1767 Craig plan for the New Town implemented a wide central street terminated by gardens within Squares. At the eastern end, St Andrew Square was a private park within railings for enjoyment and perambulation but only accessible by the wealthy residents in the surrounding Georgian townhouses.

St Andrew Square overhaul by Gillespies

St Andrew Square overhaul by Gillespies

Source: Image by Gillespies / John Cooper

St Andrew Square overhaul by Gillespies

In the subsequent centuries, several of the surrounding buildings had changed to reflect the more commercial nature of the city centre while the Gardens had remained under lock and key, becoming difficult to maintain, overgrown in places and without surveillance: a landscape anachronism that did not resonate with a modern capital and its international profile for openness and the contemporary arts. The City Centre Management Company promoted a radical plan that would reflect societal change by opening the gardens to the public for 100 years while remaining in private ownership. Landscape maintenance would be sustained by the income from holding events and exhibitions on the lawns and from the franchise for a new Café Pavilion.

Which architectural, material, and other methods did you harness in your design?

The subsequent project has transformed St Andrew Square into one of the most popular and attractive spaces in Edinburgh. The design is a balance of respect for the old yet with new contemporary interventions (some after hard-won battles with the conservation lobby). A new path geometry and elliptical theme are superimposed to reflect desire lines, a new water pool reflects the enormous Melville Monument while the new circular Café Pavilion in glass, stainless steel and Scottish Oak enclosing walls services the busy pedestrian route and a lunchtime place of resort.

St Andrew Square overhaul by Gillespies

St Andrew Square overhaul by Gillespies

Source: Image by Gillespies / John Cooper

St Andrew Square overhaul by Gillespies

All paving is in large sandstone flags edged with light granite cubes, the same granite as used for the new bench seating with integral lighting. The tree canopy has been raised to achieve intervisibility and natural surveillance and the number of trees reduced to create a balance between the open central space and a more sheltered perimeter.

What advice would you have to contest participants on rethinking Charles Square in Prague?

The project has much relevance to locations in historic urban centres and places where public space needs to be won or revitalised. Such projects need a bold vision, sufficient budget, sound maintenance strategy and to be delivered through excellence in design, quality materials and good workmanship.

St Andrew Square overhaul by Gillespies

St Andrew Square overhaul by Gillespies

Source: Image by Gillespies / John Cooper

St Andrew Square overhaul by Gillespies


Q&A with Ondřej Boháč

The director of the Prague Institute of Planning and Development discusses his ambitions for the competition

Ondřej Boháč

Ondřej Boháč

Ondřej Boháč

Why are your holding a contest for an overhaul of Prague’s Charles Square park?

Charles Square is a public space of citywide significance and one of the key areas of the Prague Heritage Reservation. However, it has a lot of unexploited cultural potential. For that reason the city decided to revitalise the square. The overall quality of the design is one of the most important criteria for us when making changes in public spaces. That is borne out by the importance of competitions when interventions in public space are being planned. There must be dialogue when the project is being designed, and that is not possible with anonymous competitions. That is why we have opted for a competitive dialogue that specifically makes this communication possible. But the way designs are assessed remains the same, and here too the final quality of the design is taken into account. That should prevent disagreements and enable the much-needed revitalisation. There has never been a competitive dialogue process for a similar project in our country, but even so, I am confident that this method will deliver the right result.

What is your vision for the new square?

This is a project to revitalise the square’s park, but it also comprises a masterplan for the entire square, including the streets that surround it. It covers, for example, modifications of traffic spaces, including a parking solution that does justice to the square’s importance. In addition, we want to address a new way of dealing with rainwater in the park. The water is channelled into drains that do not have sufficient capacity during heavy rains, resulting in serious problems, yet the trees in the park suffer from a long-term shortage of water.

Charles Square, Prague

Charles Square, Prague

Charles Square, Prague

What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?

As competitive dialogue is a procedure to select the winner of a public contract, some minimum restrictions are placed on entry. Applicants must have experience with a similar project for a public space, park and cultural monuments involving an investment equivalent to around €400,000. We demand the participation of a landscape architect, an architect and a traffic engineer. The landscape architect and architect can pool their references, however. So it may come about that a young landscape architect who lacks the required references teams up with an architect who has the references, or vice versa.

Charles Square, Prague

Charles Square, Prague

Charles Square, Prague

Which other design opportunities are on the horizon and how will the architects/designers be procured?

We currently have four more competitions planned, which will be announced in turn. They include an artistic competition to design metro stations on the new D line. We are trying to find a look for one of the most significant transformation spaces in Prague, the former Zizkov rail freight terminal. The competitions planned for two other squares, Vitezne Namesti and Namesti Bratri Synku, will address both improvements in the local inhabitants’ quality of life and the traffic situation. In addition to the competitive dialogue for Charles Square, we are currently holding a competition for a bridge for pedestrians and cyclists that will provide a barrier-free link between the districts of Holesovice, Karlin and Stvanice Island. Another ongoing competition is for the new street furniture. In October, we are planning an exhibition of all the submitted work in our new centre for architecture and metropolitan planning.

Are there any other public square overhaul projects you have been impressed by?

We have definitely been inspired by Park am Gleisdreieck in Berlin by Loidl Landscape Architects in terms of the excellent standard of the process and its ability to deliver a high-quality, convincing and detailed design. Especially because it resulted in an outstanding landscape architecture solution that was highly acceptable to all, despite the large number of different expectations.

Charles Square, Prague

Charles Square, Prague

Charles Square, Prague

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.