After years of preparation, a complete renovation of Wenceslas Square began April 15, 2020. City representatives handed over the construction site to Hochtief CZ, which will oversee the renovation of the square’s lower and upper parts for less than 327 million CZK. The repair project should be completed by 2025.
Police intervened in handover ceremony as it violated the ban on public assembly put in place to combat novel coronavirus. The politicians, construction representatives and journalists had to separate but no fines or warnings were given out.
The first phase will be a revitalization of the section between Na Příkopě and Vodičkova streets, but the upper part is also expected to undergo major changes.
“I am pleased that after many years and many long preparations, the renovation of this iconic Prague square will finally begin! Contrary to the original design, long-discussed ramps to private underground garages have disappeared from Wenceslas Square. On the contrary, the restoration and planting of trees is part of the revitalization, for which I am very pleased,”Prague Mayor Zdeněk Hřib (Pirates) said.
On Facebook, he added that this was a big step in returning Prague to the Prague people.
The lower part of the square will be mainly modified to improve the quality of the environment for residents and visitors. The square’s surfaces will be newly paved and new furniture will be installed.
Double-row alleys of trees will be planted on both sides of the square and mechanisms for watering are planned.
In addition to these interventions, which will help to make the space more residential, several technical elements will be built to protect metro stations against flooding.
The most fundamental change in the upper part of the square will be the construction of a new tram line that will run in the side parts of the square. The center of the square will be left as a pedestrian zone with extended walkways and a dedicated lane for cyclists.
“I am very pleased that after long preparations we are finally beginning the realization. The project was created according to the winning design by architects from the office of Cígler Marani architects in 2005. In this difficult period that we are all experiencing, I consider it important to continue on such projects and thus give Prague and Prague citizens a positive impulse for the future,” Prague Deputy Mayor Petr Hlaváček (United Force for Prague), responsible for territorial development, said.
“Every modification of public space is very pleasing to me, all the more so because it is such an important square. I hope that I will walk through the revitalized lower part of the square and the reconstruction will be completed already in 2025,” he added.
The existing greenery will be replaced by new alleys of littleleaf linden trees, which are in line with what has historically been on Wenceslas Square since the end of the 19th century.
Contrary to the original plans, the lower part of Wenceslas Square will not be have ramps leading to garages. “We managed to replace the garage entrance with a new metro entrance. Thus the access ramps will not protrude into the most valuable square of the Czech Republic and at the same time we will calm the Prague 1 area away from automobile traffic,” Prague Deputy Mayor Adam Scheinherr (Praha sobě), responsible for transport, said.
“We will also increase the availability of public transport and the comfort of passengers who will be able to enter through the passages of the Savarin project directly into the vestibule of the Můstek metro station. At the same time there is a place for a tram, and a comfortable and wide zone for pedestrians and cyclists will be created in the lower part of Wenceslas Square,” he added.
The square should also be more open to the public in order not only to attract tourists, but also to a large extent to Prague residents and visitors from the Czech Republic.
“Wenceslas Square deserves a dignified position not only in Czech history but also today. And I hope that the renovation that is just under way will give this important place a form that will lure you to walk, meet locals and revitalize the local network of shops and services,” Prague 1 Mayor Petr Hejma (STAN) said.
The overall renovation will be handled by construction company Hochtief CZ. The first completed changes are expected next year
“We are pleased that in the coming days we can begin the planned work on the revitalization of the lower part of Wenceslas Square. If everything goes according to plan, Praguers could look forward to a new modern appearance of this historic place at the end of 2021,” Hochtief CZ board chairman Tomáš Koranda said.
The architect Jakub Cígler added: “I often think that during the time of Charles IV. the entire New Town was built in nine years and today it took 15 years to prepare the renovation of this square, which is only a part of it. However, I am extremely pleased to be involved in the restoration of our country’s most important public space.”
Prague received building permit to renovate the lower part of Wenceslas Square at the end of January 2018, following a zoning permit in September 2017.
The area will get a new look with wider sidewalks to be more inviting to the public. Pedestrian space will expand considerably, with a loss of dozens of parking spaces. Asphalt will be replaced by granite pavement and another row of trees.
The greenery will be irrigated by an automatic system, and six spots will be created for market stalls. The plan calls for underground containers to combat flooding and recharging stations for electric cars. There will also be a place for a Christmas tree.
The original proposal from 2005 to transform Wenceslas Square was created in collaboration with the Cigler Marani Architects studio (now Jakub Cigler Architekti) and the DUA Atelier. The idea was first raised in the 1990s. Since 2005, there have been a series of delays.
Wenceslas Square, called Václavské náměstí in Czech, dates back to the mid-1300s, and historically was a horse market. It has been the scene of many historic moments such as the reading out of a document declaring independence in 1918, the main site of the Soviet invasion in 1968 and the famous ringing of keys in 1989 as part of the Velvet Revolution.
Under a previous agreement, any paving stones that were made from Jewish tombstones should be returned to the Jewish community. Some paving stones installed before 1989 in the Na Příkopě area are believed to have come from headstones that were cut into small pieces.