Žižkov may just regain its title as the coolest neighborhood in Prague by transforming a functionalist-style skyscraper, once the tallest office building in Bohemia, into a culture center. Offices and apartments are also a planned part of the renovation.
The renamed Dům Radost, next to the University of Economics (VŠE) at náměstí Winstona Churchilla, opened its roof to the public over the summer for events four days a week (it is now closed for the season). A ground floor cafe and co-working space recently launched, and its big assembly hall will be renovated into a combination art cinema and music club.
The cultural program is being supervised by Ondřej Kobza, the man behind the pianos in the streets initiative, poetry machines, the Lucerna rooftop venue, and several cafes and projects meant to revive public spaces in various Prague districts in recent years.
The small park across the street from the building has been renamed Park Radost, and under a tent there is the new Bar Smutek, with DJs some evenings and fires on chilly nights. “Radost” means joy, while “smutek” means grief.
The cinema will be run by Aerofilms which operates the Prague’s Aero, Oko, and Světozor cinema houses. The space will keep its historical name — Přítomnost. A very worn sign saying Sál Přítomnost, meaning assembly hall, can still be seen over one of the entrances.
“In terms of capacity, it will be smaller than Aero, for example. But it will be also very different in terms of the seating, design and functionality. Besides film screenings, there will be music events, lectures and other types of content happening,” Aerofilms CEO Ivo Andrle said.
He added that the mixed-used venue will have a special interior design and set up, as well as special and comfortable seating. “Drinks and catering in general will play original and important role there,” he said.
The sale of the former Trade Union House (Dům odborových svazů) for over 1 billion CZK was one of the biggest real estate deals last year.
It was also previously known as the General Pension Administration Palace (palác Všeobecného penzijního ústavu), but popularly called the Tile Factory (Kachlíkárna) due to its facade.
It was bought by a consortium of five people including businessmen Martin Louda and Vítězslav Vala. They plan it to be a long-term investment, and will completely renovate the building. It will include residential apartments as well as shops and offices.
The building by architects Karel Honzík and Josef Havlíček was built between 1932 and ’34 based on an unusual cross design, rather than a square with a courtyard. It reached 53 meters in height, with 11 stories, and was the first skyscraper in Bohemia. It now it no longer makes the list of tall buildings as some panelák housing projects surpass its height, not to mention recent skyscrapers.
During World War II, it was painted black to make it less obvious to Allied planes. The coating was removed after the war.
The area around Dům Radost currently has two other large, mixed-use projects being built. Land formerly used for railway buildings and parking behind main train station Hlavní nádraží is being developed into the Churchill complex, with two office buildings and one residential. Consultancy Deloitte has already moved into the completed part as an anchor tenant.
On the other side of Dům Radost, next to FK Viktoria Stadion, there will be Viktoria Center, another mixed-use project. This one is being developed by CTR group on the site of a former walled parking lot and grassy area.