New check-in hall of the Main Railway Station in Prague (Prague, Czech Republic)
Docomomo International has been made aware through Docomomo Czech Republic of a Heritage in Danger, namely the future state of the new check-in hall of the Main Railway Station in Prague.
“The new check-in hall of the Main Railway Station in Prague was built in 1970–1977 according to the design of architects Josef Danda, Julie Trnková, Jan Bočan, Jan Šrámek, Zdeněk Rothbauer and Alena Šrámková. The intention was to expand the capacity of the existing Art Nouveau station designed by architect Josef Fanta in 1902–1909 and to offer current services for passengers, including a connection to the new metro station or parking on the rooftop area, to isolate passengers from the traffic of high-capacity artery through the centre of Prague, and to provide them with a direct link to the adjacent Vrchlického sady park. Despite the challenging starting points, the authors managed to find a solution that gave rise to an extraordinary architecture. The generous underground hall’s quality was also related to the neighbourhood of representative buildings such as the National Museum, the Federal Assembly, the State Opera House, and the original historic Main Railway Station.
The design of the new terminal of the Main Railway Station in Prague is the result of a successful cooperation of authors who are now perceived by professional critics as the most important architects and artists of the time. Josef Danda and Julie Trnková were our leading experts on railway station buildings (e.g. in Pardubice, Most, Cheb, Vítkovice, Klatovy, Aš, Oldřichov u Duchcova), Jan Bočan, Jan Šrámek and Zdeněk Rothbauer have had an experience with the realization of prestigious, also abroad award-winning buildings of the Czechoslovak embassies (in Geneva, London or Stockholm) and Alena Šrámková was an author of highly rated projects for tourism. The author of ceramic tiles Helena Samohelová, glass artist Jaroslava Brychtová and graphic designer Jiří Rathouský were also among the leading artists of the country. The experienced responsible organisation, the State Institute of Transport Design Prague, and the contractor Metrostav guaranteed the highest quality of the construction. The result was a complex, extremely high-quality architectural work, appreciated as a benchmark of station architecture at the time of completion and subsequently by generations of representatives of the professional community.
The new terminal combined a generous spatial design based on an airy central hall, enhanced by a progressive large-span ceiling structure that fundamentally co-created the internal and external architectural expression. The central hall was flanked by refined portals of shops and passenger services, with the ticket offices and train access naturally forming the front. Everything was subordinated to clarity, legibility, safety and visual connection between the park and train access. Original embossed ceramic tiles covered the wall surfaces, post-modern polished metal elements marked the entrances and services, the fluid pattern of the paving guided passengers to essential destinations, and the ceiling with its exposed steel structure was enlivened by design lights and air conditioning. On the exterior, glass stair towers visually interacted with the historic station building and attracted the attention of pedestrians from afar as well, while a continuous band of ceiling construction on the main façade gave the new hall the necessary monumentality and grandeur. The result, blending influence of brutalism, postmodernism, and high-tech, offered passengers an extraordinary experience. It brought current architectural ideas to Prague and socialist Czechoslovakia. To this day (despite some recent changes), it remains an important testament to the changes taking place throughout Europe in the 1970s and a key work of Czech modern architecture. The new check-in hall from 1970–1977, together with the historic Art Nouveau building, is a listed cultural monument protected by the Ministry of Culture, and also an integral part of the Prague City Monument Reserve and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In the years 2022–2023, a Competition Dialogue (https://novyhlavak.com/) was held for the revitalization of the forecourt of the main station and the adjacent park. The competition was organized by the Správa železnic, the Prague City Hall, and the Prague Transport Company in cooperation with the Prague Institute of Planning and Development. The winning design by Henning Larsen Architects (DK) and Ramboll (DK) proposes to demolish half of the 1970–1977 check-in hall, despite the protection, and replace it with a new structure.”
Photo: Jaroslav Franta, Metrostav