On June 24, Prague’s Karlín Barracks will celebrate the third anniversary of its opening to the public.
Since it’s founding, this one-time empty and abandoned classicist gem in the center of Prague has been visited by almost 1,000,000 visitors while nearly 900 events have taken place there; it has announced a diverse line-up to kick off its summer season Wednesday.
The space has been in operation for more than a month following its reopening to the public.
“Of course, the coronavirus measures also affected us — over sixty employees or co-workers are constantly involved in the program, maintenance, and security of the complex. Due to the impossibility of public traffic, we had to borrow money to keep the team together,” says Matěj Velek of the non-profit organization Prague Center, which has been managing the empty Karlín Barracks since 2017 and organizes cultural and social activities there.
“However, we are glad that immediately after the end of all bans, visitors began to return to us in large numbers. It is a message for us that our activities make sense, that people appreciate them very much and support us,” he says.
The informal celebration of the third anniversary will take place on Wednesday, June 24, from 1 pm in the courtyard of the Karlín Barracks.
The program includes children’s theater, DJs, and two concerts by the bands Oops and u-prag. Visitors can enjoy beach volleyball or the badminton court, sandpit, outdoor seating, cafe, bar, barbecue, climbing frames, František Skála’s Prastánek, and the Čestmír Suška lookout tower.
Admission to the event is voluntary.
Kasárna Karlín is planning a busy summer — an average of 25 events every month. Summer cinema in cooperation with the US Embassy will screen Shawshank Redemption, Death Trap, and Rebel Without a Cause as well as Czech classic films.
Smaller concerts and performances by DJs in the courtyard, charity events (eg Sekáč to support homeless people) and a book launch for Trampová will take place this season.
The further operation of Kasárna Karlín continues to be threatened by efforts to lease the complex commercially. If a winner comes out of another tender, which the Office for Representation of the State in Property Matters could announce, it would mean the end of the cultural center.
But the main producer Magdalena Sládková, on behalf of the team around Kasárna team, says that she firmly believes in an agreement with the state and outlines how she and her team plan to improve the complex in the meantime: “We are finishing the petanque court and expanding the playground. Our oldest bar, Myčka, got a brand new look.”
“The complex itself is worth a visit. The opportunity to see the courtyard of this classicist gem near the center of Prague, whose main building still remains unused and empty after the soldiers left, is an interesting and impressive experience,” says Velek.
Since 2017, Kasárna Karlín has been managed by the non-profit organization Prague Center, whose goal is to protect, improve, popularize and reuse forgotten or inaccessible places in Prague, including through the organization of cultural, educational and other social events.
Its first activity was the Žižkov Freight Station in 2013–2015. The barracks building was transferred to the administration of the Ministry of Justice in 2016. The then Minister Robert Pelikán intended to build a palace of justice here, over a period of ten years.
Velek turned to the Minister with a proposal for the temporary use of the building for cultural and social purposes. After one year of negotiations with ministerial officials, the terms were finally agreed, and in March 2017, a three-year contract was signed with the possibility of extension. The association borrowed the so-called new building and courtyard, with the proviso that the so-called old building will continue to be used.
Kasárna Karlín was established in 1844 in response to insufficient accommodation capacity for soldiers. The construction was undertaken by the company of Vojtěch Klein, who became famous as the builder of the first Prague railway station — today’s Masaryk.
It is a classicist five-story building, which has been preserved in its original layout and, in addition to several later additions to the courtyard and interior design, is in more or less original condition.
Today, the adjoining courtyard building houses a café, a bar, a cinema, a concert and theater hall, a gallery, and a dance school for children.