Back to future overhaul of Prague’s Karlovo náměstí under consideration

Prague’s biggest square, Karlovo náměstí could be getting a facelift which could transform it from being a scrappy green traffic intersection into something much more attractive. Moves to push forward changes have taken another step with a lively three hour public meeting over the transformation.

Photo: CTKPhoto: CTK Karlovo náměstí, or Charles Square, is one of the centrepieces of the Czech capital. On one side is the impressive Church of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, on the other is the historic New Town Hall and facing that is the mysterious Faust house, where Faust is supposed to have made his pact with the devil. But what used to be a bustling cattle market under emperor Karel IV in the 14th century and a pleasant laid out park at the end of the 19th century under the directions of celebrated Czech landscape architect František Thomayer is now cut into three sections by two main roads and a busy tram track.

But a series of proposals being studied by the local council are seeking to transform the square into something more than its separate parts. Prague Two deputy mayor Václav Vondrášek explained what the council is planning to do.

Karlovo náměstíKarlovo náměstí “The park under Karel IV and then František Thomayer was originally conceived as one area. Today the whole square is cut into three pieces by traffic. The authors of these studies are trying to combine them again.”

Such steps could at least mitigate some of the traffic blight being suffered now. Mr Vondrášek continues:

“The biggest problem now is undoubtedly traffic. There is a metro, some of the most used tram routes and road traffic linking the left and right banks of the Vltava”

After failing to get the traffic diverted elsewhere, the council is trying to blunt its noise and visual impact. One of the most praised - and probably expensive - transformation projects submitted to the council and public so far would see a wide, gradually sloping underpass built under the main road dividing the park’s two main sections. Another envisages a current metro vestibule at the edge of the square extended to give direct access to the park. But the eventual blueprint for change is likely to be a pick and mix of the best from the 22 proposals put forward, says Mr Vondrášek.

But before taking any bold steps the council is seeking to sound out conservation authorities about the possible changes. If and when these and other bodies are on board, a tender for the square’s transformation could be launched by the end of the year and work could begin in 2010.