Communist-era Hotel Praha set for demolition

10-07-2013

One of Prague’s defining buildings of the late communist era is set for demolition, its new owners, the PPF group, have confirmed. Hotel Praha, a large, curved concrete structure, will make way for a park for pupils of an elite school run by PPF. However, many architecture enthusiasts say the building is of great value and are up in arms over the decision.

Hotel Praha, photo: Sefjo, CC BY-SA 3.0Hotel Praha, photo: Sefjo, CC BY-SA 3.0 The Hotel Praha is perched above the road leading to the airport, a short if steep walk from Dejvická metro station. It was completed, at great cost, in 1981.

The Communist Party, which ordered its construction, mainly used the then state-of-the-art, six-storey facility to put up visiting government and party delegations. Until recently, the Czech national soccer team stayed there when they were in the capital.

Some people consider the hotel an eyesore, an ugly concrete legacy of the communist past, while another view is that it simply does not fit its surroundings in the leafy Hanspaulka district. Apparently its running costs have been hard to sustain, too.

But many architecture and art enthusiasts say the modernist building ranks among the most important of its era. Its interiors and glass fittings in particular won the hotel a lot of admirers.

The latter were unsettled last month when there were reports that Hotel Praha’s new owner, the PPF investment group of Petr Kellner, the country’s richest man, planned to raze it to the ground.

Photo: CTKPhoto: CTK On Tuesday, PPF confirmed that plan. The land will be used as a private park for Open Gate, the group’s elite school, which is building a new branch close by.

Within hours, the latest in a series of protests against its demolition were held in the grounds of the hotel. Among the 100 to 150 people in attendance was Pavel Kouras, who is a sculptor.

“The architecture of Hotel Praha is among the most interesting, the most unique that took place in the 1970s or 1980s. The structure can be compared to the Ještěd TV tower or the New Stage of the National Theatre by Karel Prager. It preceded by a decade the period of organisational architecture. The southern slope, comprising so-called liquid architecture, or organisational architecture, can be compared to the work of Jan Kaplický.”

The just departed minister of culture ignored calls from Kouras and others to launch a process to consider whether Hotel Praha should be made a national historical landmark.

“That’s a very controversial decision, for a number of reasons. The Ministry of Culture has several advisory bodies that recommended the building be protected. Also destruction of its interesting fixtures, its Gesamtkunstwerk, began when the Ministry was still dealing with the matter – so when the preservationists arrived there was nothing much left to save.”

Photo: CTKPhoto: CTK PPF say that by the time they acquired the building most of the hotel’s valuable fittings had been removed by its previous owners; some that remain will be donated to museums.

The Prague 6 Town Hall still has to approve the demolition. If it does so, the Hotel Praha is likely to disappear from the Czech capital’s skyline by next spring.

10-07-2013