Open House Prague, a week-long festival which celebrates Prague’s architecture, took place on May 16–22, 2022. With dozens of usually inaccessible buildings and an eventful accompanying program, the 8th Open House Prague attracted 64,000 visitors, which is 10,000 more than last year.
After the coronavirus pandemic, the festival was able to take place in the traditional month of May, and we are delighted that people made use of the beautiful weather and the opportunity to see many architecturally fascinating buildings around Prague. We were also pleasantly surprised by the number of visitors in districts of Prague that are further away from the city center, such as Zbraslav, Komořany, and Staré Ďáblice,” says Andrea Šenkyříková, director and founder of Open House Prague.
Starting May 16, 2022, people could attend a walking tour around selected bridges in Prague which commemorated the 140th anniversary of the birth of architect Pavel Janák. Jože Plečnik was another important figure that the organizers paid attention to.
“We wanted to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the birth of this exceptional Slovenian architect in a bit of an unusual way. Together with Ana Porok, curator of the Plečnik House in Ljubljana, we organized an exhibition focused on Plečnik’s unrealized projects for Ljubljana that was installed in front of the Church of the Most Sacred Heart of Our Lord. In addition, we held a lecture on the same topic, led by Ana Porok together with professor Vladimír Šlapeta,” says Andrea Šenkyříková.
The exhibition is open until the end of May. The church, which is one of the most valuable sacral monuments in the Czech Republic, was open to visitors not only during the festival weekend but also on the occasion of an evening concert of classical music, where attendees could listen to compositions by Plečnik’s contemporaries performed by the Stamic Quartet. The accompanying program included other events, such as a discussion on the future of sports venues, development plans regarding the area of Bubny, and a number of guided walks and tours.
On the weekend, the festival opened the doors of 100 buildings (out of the 101 originally announced; the lounge at the Main Railway Station was not available in the end) that are usually not accessible. As usual, visitors were most attracted by the new buildings – there were 26 buildings and spaces that participated in the festival for the first time ever. The former Electrical Enterprises, now Bubenská 1, saw long lines of visitors early in the morning, and the place was busy the entire weekend. At the time of construction, it was the biggest administration building in Prague. Now a cultural monument, the building has won a number of awards thanks to TaK Architects and their quality reconstruction project.
“Ever since the first Open House Prague, we had been making efforts to open this exceptional example of functionalist architecture, and this year, the circumstances were finally in our favor, and the owners allowed us to open the building. The reconstruction which was finished last year was led by architect Marek Tichý, who also guided one of the tours himself, which was a great experience for our visitors,” says Andrea Šenkyříková.
Other popular places included the Clubhouse of the Autoclub of the Czech Republic or EA Hotel Juliš on Wenceslas Square, both designed by Pavel Janák. In the hotel, visitors could see the former restaurant and climb up to the terrace with a view of the Franciscan Garden. Breathtaking views were also available from the roof of the Adria Palace, another building designed by Janák, and the roof of the former Gráf Hotel, now I. P. Pavlova 5.
As for buildings constructed in recent years, popular stops included the UMPRUM Technology Center in Mikulandská Street or the Czech Institute of Informatics, Robotics, and Cybernetics (CIIRC), Czech Technical University in Dejvice, which houses not only offices, laboratories and classrooms but also the chancellor’s office. For the first time ever, the festival also opened the Thun Palace in Malá Strana, the residence of the UK ambassador and the UK embassy. His Excellency Nick Archer himself guided visitors around the palace as well as the garden. Beautiful gardens were also to be seen in the Czernin Palace in Hradčany, seat of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, at Vlašská Infirmary in Malá Strana, and Villa Lanna in Bubeneč. This opulent residence is the first Czech villa built in the style of Neo-Renaissance, and it was most likely designed by Vojtěch Ignác Ullmann, another architect whose anniversary of birth (200th) was commemorated during the festival.
“The most eye-catching feature of the villa is its high level of decorativeness, namely the reliefs on the façade and the mural frescos inspired by ancient mythologies,” says Michal Šedivý, Open House Prague guide and volunteer.
The lesser-known brutalist Boiler House of the General University Hospital, designed by Karel Prager, served as a venue for an exhibition of contemporary art. Here visitors admired the KOOJON collection of works of contemporary artists, which was installed right in the mechanical room. Technical enthusiasts could learn interesting facts elsewhere, too, for example at Štvanice Power Station or in the engine room of the Small Sports Hall at Prague Exhibition Grounds.
Among the buildings which take part in the festival repeatedly, popular spots included the Kramář Villa, the Ministry of Industry and Trade, Hotel International Prague, or the abandoned Desfours Palace, which is set to be reconstructed in the near future.
On Sunday only, visitors could enter Diamant, an apartment building designed by Emil Králíček and one of the few cubist houses in Prague. With a distinctive cubist façade featuring geometric shapes, the house also contains a number of original furnishings which were successfully renovated during a past reconstruction. During the festival, there was even a tour for visitors with hearing disabilities. More special tours took place in selected buildings, including tours for visitors with visual disabilities, who could learn about the buildings using 3D models and tactile maps, and for families with children.
This year, visitors could also explore the ancient underground and two nuclear fallout shelters, climb up to the top of the water towers in Michle and Letná, enter the grandstands of one of the world’s biggest sports stadiums in Strahov, take a ride on a track bike at the Třebešín Velodrome, learn about the bell foundry tradition in Zbraslav, take a look inside the engine room and the steering room of a historical steamship, and explore the firemen’s premises in a firemen’s house. On top of that, visitors could enter sacral buildings and several Sokol gyms.
“As late as Friday afternoon, we were not completely sure if we were going to be able to open all the buildings that had been announced. Many thanks go to all the volunteers, owners and managers of the buildings who helped us make sure that the event goes smoothly without any setbacks,” says Klára Veselá, main coordinator of volunteers.
The event is, above all, a community project. This year, 400 volunteers helped organize the festival and guide and coordinate visitors for no financial reward. As part of the festival’s volunteer program, volunteers can visit selected buildings during the year as well. Being an event that opens buildings to the public for free, the festival would not be able to take place without many partners, supporters, and individual donors.
Open House Prague is part of Open House Worldwide, an international network of festivals which take place in 50 cities around the world, and it aims to arouse the public’s interest in architecture and the city.
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