One of Prague's most dominant historic buildings, the Jindrich Tower, on the edge of Senovazne Square in the city centre, will soon be reopened to the public. Most unusually, after extensive, and careful reconstruction, the historic structure, which dates back to the late 1500s, will house exclusive new shops, a restaurant and cafe, which will almost certainly be welcomed by both locals and tourists. The reopened tower will also make one of the best views of the old city available again. Jan Velinger reports.
The Jindrich Tower: who hasn't wondered when passing about the reconstruction taking place in the famous building, as it was flanked by scaffolding, and blocked by plywood boards. Now, the building is almost on the eve of being reopened to the public - certainly, not quite the way original builders imagined it, but still, reopened for the first time in hundreds of years. Now, the structure will house a sort of tower within a tower, ten floors of space for shops and a restaurant, while respecting the integrity of the original structure and following guidelines laid-out by architecture conservationists. It should certainly be an interesting space to see.
Then, last month, an added gem: construction workers discovered two copper chests in the tower's dome that climbers rappelled down the side of the tower's 65 metre face so that they could be inspected closely. Unveiled: historic documents from reconstruction phases that took place in 1878, and 1971. Also found: historic coins from World War II, and the Stalinist period. I spoke to Marek Chraska, a media representative for the real estate firm responsible for the tower, and asked him about the building's unique status in Prague, as well as the old documents that were found.
Why were the documents put there in the first place? Is it a tradition when doing reconstruction to always leave behind a sign of the times?
"Yes, it's very usual that people who reconstruct towers that they put something on the top of the tower, they just put special things from that age: coins and documents and some pictures."
What about the content from the earlier documents, the older documents?
"From the older documents there is written about the reconstruction of the tower [in 1878], why reconstruction took place, the other documents are just over thirty years old, from the communist period in Czechoslovakia, there are some newspapers, and it is described that it was a really hard winter, and they didn't work very well."
We should discuss what is going to be inside the tower here...
"The first thing is that there is going to be a new tourist place, a new view of Prague up in the tower, the other thing is that there will be ten floors that can be used for shopping."
There was actually a lot of interesting engineering points about building, it's actually a tower within a tower, could you talk about that just a little bit?
"It was very difficult because we had many problems with conservationists of historic architecture because they just changed a lot of plans with building new stuff in the tower, because they were cautious so that nothing would damage the old building. We had a couple of discussions before we finally agreed on the make-up of the new tower."
This is really the first time that a tower in Prague has been modernised in this sense, isn't it?
"Yeah, it's the first time in Prague, I think it's very unusual in
Europe as well, I've been sort of looking for information on the internet
and I can't find anything else like this all around the Old Europe."
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