Prague City Council has announced a design contest to transform its largest public plaza, Victory Square (Deadline: 26 June)
Organised by the Prague Institute of Planning and Development, the anonymous two-stage competition seeks innovative proposals to rethink the enormous public space, known locally as Vítězné Náměstí, where seven busy roads and several tram lines converge in a giant roundabout.
The estimated £19 million project aims to transform the plaza at the heart of the Czech capital’s Prague 6 district into a landmark recreational space with improved transport links and reduced congestion.
Victory Square, Prague
According to the brief: ‘The current state of one of the largest and most monumental squares in Prague does not correspond to its importance. The proposed structure of the square in light of the current heavy traffic congestion is not ideal in terms of the quality of the public space or functionality of the traffic intersections.
‘The objective of the competition will be to find the best solution for the space of Vítězné Náměstí with all the land-use and transport relationships in the location concerned and create a public space that is representative and recreational in nature in line with its newly proposed transport and traffic solution. The square should be intended primarily for the needs of the residents of Prague 6. The design proposal should return the square to its users.’
Located in the north-west of the city, Prague 6 is the largest district in the capital and home to around 100,000 people. It has several universities and international schools along with many architecturally important 20th-century buildings.
Victory Square was constructed as part of an ambitious plan for the district drawn up by architect Antonin Engel in 1924 and features several landmark inter-war and post-war buildings. The square, which has yet to see development completed on all four sides, is dominated by motor vehicles.
Victory Square, Prague
The competition aims to transform the area into a green space while also solving its worsening traffic congestion problems. Following the open call for applications, between three and six teams will be invited to proceed to the competition’s second stage.
Judges include Prague mayor Adriana Krnáčová, Atkins public realm design director Peter Heath, Ivan Reimann of Berlin’s Müller-Reimann Architekten, and Antonín Novák from Brno-based Atelier DRNH.
The competition language is Czech and the overall winner will receive around 1.2 million CZK and a design concept contract. There will also be a second prize of 600,000 CZK and third prize of 400,000 CZK.
How to apply
The deadline for applications is 3pm local time, 26 June
Institute of Planning and Development of the Capital City of Prague
Prague 2 - New Town
Tel: +420 602354402
Q&A with Peter Heath
The competition judge and Atkins’ design director of public realm, landscape and urban design discusses his ambitions for the competition
Why is Prague holding an international contest to rethink Victory Square?
A long-term aim for the area is to adapt Professor Antonin Engel’s 1924, partially implemented vision, to meet the 21st-century needs of a gateway to and from the City Centre. The site can be a place of arrival and departure, responding to the townscape formality, with a respectful balance of route networks, attractive landscape and better facilities for visitors and the local commercial and residential districts. It should become a representative area of Prague 6.
What is the organisers’ vision for the new plaza?
Many of the issues of the site and competition are common to all cities. Architectural innovations are most likely to be developed by partnerships of professional disciplines. Innovative processes, and relatively small components of strategic change, not just physical solutions may be best to ensure long-term management and maintenance of new quality. As contained in the competition documents the area of focus is 78,000m² and the road and public transport, parking and servicing and delivery needs must be incorporated with the landscape and sensitivity of the original visions. Sustainable economic and environmental design life benefits are inherent to the challenges of this retrofitted raised quality, city ‘place’.
What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?
Applicants are needed with enthusiasm, communication skills, vision and experience in teamwork and partnerships, to meet the scale and nature of the brief, with a solution that is achievable. Participants could gain a competition win and an implemented scheme. If they recognise and promote partnership working, they could expect other city projects to follow and a better understanding of urban design diplomacy! However, every site and brief for improvement has unique characteristics.
Are there any other similar major public realm projects you have been?
We visited two relevant but different scale projects in London, firstly the World Squares For All projects. The Foster + Partners Masterplan 1996-98 and implementation with Atkins, demonstrated how, even in a city centre, high-profile, but vehicle dominated spaces could be retrofitted with better facilities, more focused on places to visit, walking (and now cycling). We also viewed Oxford Circus and along Regent Street, where improvements at major vehicle traffic junctions and streets have been adjusted. The aim was to emphasise high-quality townscape settings with better road crossings, reduced clutter and more spaces for gathering and promenading, achieved by Atkins in partnership with the public highway authority, Westminster City Council and local commercial interests.