PRAGUE — The contested demolition of the building at Wenceslas Square 47 officially began on Saturday, April 15th.
Originally built in 1880, the Art Nouveau style building was covered in scaffolding and tarpaulin, the first steps in its preparation for demolition. Flow East, a private investment and property development company, owns the property and plans to construct a modern building with a glass facade in its place.
In a press release, Veronika Hanzlíková of Best Communications, the public relations firm representing Flow East, stated that Flow East… “is now moving ahead with the replacement of a nondescript, decaying building of no architectural merit, with a landmark building possessing a high degree of architectural integrity that we think will rival that of the Dancing Building.”
The controversy surrounding the demolition of a historical building, and subsequent construction of a modern building in its place, runs deep for many Prague residents. With several organized protests occurring and petitions circulating over the last few years, many are opposed to the demolition.
The argument for restoring the building, rather than demolishing it, is rooted in Prague’s pride in its history and culture. Some of the dispute lies in how replacing a historical building, which was built in the style of the near-by National Museum, with a modern structure will effect Prague’s aesthetic and cultural values. Additionally, some have questioned whether this will set precedent for the future demolition of historical architecture.
The long battle between locals and Flow East, came to a head in 2013 when the demolition of the building was approved. The building’s replacement was approved in 2010, however, the controversial plans go even further back.
Hanzlíková stated that “…Prague has one of the most stringent planning rules in all of Europe. However, if a small group of people are still dissatisfied with the result at the end of that long drawn-out process, which in our case has run for over a decade and required over 50 separate applications to different bodies, then surely they now need to start addressing their concerns about the procedures that developers are required to follow to the relevant authorities.” Although her response ignores loyalty to residents, it acknowledges the proper channels for discussing development projects within Prague.
The building that will replace the existing structure will be named the “Flower House.” Flow East’s intention is to increase the locations profitability. The new structure will consist of office and retail space. In a press release, Flow East stated that the Flower House will utilize the latest in energy savings systems.
Flow East focuses on “historical buildings in exclusive locations,” according to their website. Hanzlíková stated that Flow East “…can point to nine buildings in Prague that it has rescued, preserved, re-furbished and re-purposed, granting them a new lease of life while retaining all that is historically and architecturally valuable…” Flow East has operated in the Czech Republic since 1990, and has owned the building at Wenceslas Square 47 since 1994.
The demolition of the building will be relatively lengthy, considering Wenceslas Square experiences heavy pedestrian daily.