Thansformation of an Inner City in the Postsocialist Period, Case Study Holešovice, Prague Cover Image
  • Price 2.00 €

Transformace vnitřního města v období postsocialismu, případová studie Holešovice, Praha
Thansformation of an Inner City in the Postsocialist Period, Case Study Holešovice, Prague

Author(s): Jana Zdráhalová
Subject(s): Fine Arts / Performing Arts
Published by: Historický ústav SAV, v. v. i.
Keywords: Postsocialist period; urban transformation; public space; gentrification; space syntax; inner city; Prague

Summary/Abstract: The text addresses the issue of the spatial arrangement of new office and residential complexes built in the inner part of Prague during the post-socialist time. After 1990, the transformation of the Eastern bloc state of Czechoslovakia into the present Czech Republic led to the implementation of major economic and social changes, as reflected in the use of new spatial forms and development organisation.First, the economy was transformed from a centrally planned system to a liberal market model. As a consequence, local production was confronted with global competition. Many of the local factories did not succeed in the competition and were closed down, while others moved to the outskirts of the city. At the same time, cities started to lose their industrial character and emerge as centres of services, offices and culture.The construction sites in the inner parts of Prague that became available after the factories were removed had great development potential and exceptional value. Their close distance to the historical centre of the city, good accessibility by public transport and the open space left by the industrial footprint made them attractive for exclusive office and residential construction.Compared to the planned development that dominated the socialist area, the building process is now different. Development is not organized by the state or a cooperative but by private developers. In the case of inner parts of Prague the developers are typically strong companies embedded in the global network. Moreover, such a typology of investment shifts the development process from meeting the social and spatial needs of local people, such as housing, building schools, kindergartens or shops, towards an understanding of architecture primarily as a way of reinvesting the yield from other business activities. Consequently, architecture is understood as any other commodity on the stock market that serves towards the saving and recapitalization of financial recourses. Therefore, the important “value” of architecture has become its exclusive character, original solutions and distinctive design. Architecture as a commodity focuses on a small segment of clients who are economically well situated and globally networked. Sometimes called the ‘new middle class’, this is the group that brings the gentrification processes into the area. Typically, the office complexes are used by lawyers, advertising agencies, IT companies, creative designers or media corporations.In this paper, we investigate general trends in the development of the post-socialist city through the case study of Holešovice in Prague. Holešovice is a former industrial quarter founded in the nineteen century outside the historic city walls, when the central city was not able to accommodate the guick development of industry. The case study analyses the lower part of Holešovice, surrounded from the south, east and north by the Vltava River; the west side is delimited by a large railway station. Lower Holešovice always a had predominantly industrial character. The characteristic urban forms are regular urban blocks organised in a rectangular street grid, and private courtyards inside the blocks. The blocks are composed of individual houses or factories and production spaces.This research focuses on the spatial solutions of new office and residential complexes. The economic robustness of the developers operating in the inner city leads to the development of large sites replacing often the whole urban block. For example the office and residential complex Prague Marina stands on the original site of the Holešovice docks. The office complex Classic 7 is on the site of the former steam mills.In contrast to the original block construction, the new development is spatially organized as clusters of individual objects with free open space in between. From the legal point of view, this space counts as private, yet it is not spatially clearly separated from the public space of surrounding streets. Only the complex of the Town Brewery is enclosed by walls, though the food store that is part of the complex and serves the whole neighbourhood is accessible only from the open space. Other complexes have privately held but freely accessible open spaces, designed to emphasize the sense of exclusivity by the use of unique, high-quality materials and often including various water features or decorative greenery. The concept of public space defined in the Czech legal system as“all squares, streets, markets, pavements, public greenery, parks and other space accessible to everybody without any constraints, regardless of the ownership of this space” does not issue any clear spatial boundaries within the structure of the city. While the original construction marked its boundaries clearly, the new complexes use ambiguity and fuzziness to specify the public-private relationship.Syntactical analysis of the space compares the original construction and the new development and evaluates the following criteria: the character of the boundary between private and public space; the position, articulation and depth of entrances to the objects, and the integration of the open spaces of the complexes within the urban structure of the city. The original construction used the primary boundary between objects and the street, where the transition between public and private was created by the façade of the buildings themselves. The new complexes prefer the use of secondary boundaries, in which there are additional spaces inserted between the street and the objects. Due to this arrangement, the houses have moved back from the street. Private open spaces can be designed as grass lawns, paved with different surface material, or marked by a change in level. Entrances are often designed in a simple way so that they almost blend with the surrounding façade. As for the buildings, they are often accessible from the inner open space instead of from the streets.The open spaces are accessible, but their spatial integration with the structure of the public spaces of the city, as defined by Bill Hillier and Julianne Hanson in the space syntax theory, is small. This effect decreases the chance that the open spaces will become places for accidental meetings of the people living or working in the complex with the local inhabitants of the quarter. The open spaces may instead serve only the people working in the complexes during a lunch break or as a playground for children living in the residential complex. Though the spaces are open, private corporations still exercise control over them. There are 24-hour receptions operating in the complexes that also survey the outdoor spaces, and the complexes are equipped with CCTV for constant monitoring. The office and residential complexes employ private security agencies that control the area. Moreover, the exclusive design of the complexes and the open spaces exercise their own ‘control’ of the space, in discouraging some people from the use of the spaces or making them easily visually identifiable.Even though the new development leaves private spaces essentially open to the public, these open spaces do not manifest a public character. These spaces do not offer inclusivity that would ‘invite’ the general public to use them. The reason is that the development understands architecture and space as a commodity employed to satisfy the expectations of high standards among the prospective users of the complexes. The local legal framework and the building regulations do affect the final form of the development, yet its impact on the shift from the traditional urban block structure towards more open cluster-like complexes should not be overestimated. This can be concluded from the general satisfaction of both developers and the complex users who undoubtedly understand the openness of the complexes as a positive solution that allows them to experience the city and does not enclose them to a limited space…

  • Issue Year: 49/2015
  • Issue No: 3-4
  • Page Range: 166-179
  • Page Count: 14
  • Language: Czech