Concrete barriers at historic sites a ‘necessary eyesore’ – for now

Recently, concrete barriers were added around parts of the Old Town Square to prevent or block vehicles which could be used in a terrorist attack. There is no question about the prudence of the move but few would call the barriers “attractive”. The Prague Institute of Planning and Development is one of the bureaux looking for a better long-term solution.

Photo: Czech TelevisionPhoto: Czech Television I spoke to Kateřina Glacnerová of the institute, asking her about the starting point of the debate and what was being discussed.

“The security of our citizens is of course the top priority right now and it is something we cannot underestimate. But we have ideas and possible solutions for better barriers than are there at present, ones that will maybe be less intrusive or visible in the public space.”

What’s wrong with the ones there now? They are concrete, splashed with black and yellow, and appear temporary, certainly.

“I think the main problem is that they are fairly obstructive to pedestrians forcing people to go around. I think there are definitely more elegant solutions that would be possible. They also don’t really look very good at important historic sites like the Old Town Square.”

And the list of locations which may get barriers is likely to grow longer, I read…

“There are sites such as Charles Bridge or Wenceslas Square which may see barriers put in place, so more long-term solutions will be needed.”

What are examples from elsewhere that you are looking at, where barriers were handled elegantly?

“King’s Cross in London is one. You have metal bars which create a barrier above ground but which are sunken quite deep to make them effective. You can have concrete benches and flower pots able to stop cars but look good at sites. Or you can have retractable bars which only come up when you have a market there or some such event.”

I imagine that a tender will probably be held and a winning solution chosen, until then we will have the temporary solution.

“It will probably take some time. But we have to have something in place. If it’s a choice of having barriers that look less nice or leaving spaces completely without them, we have to choose the former. It’s a matter of protecting the public and of security.”