Prague Eyes - Riverfront Revitalisation

Revitalization of Prague riverfront area is Prague's largest investment in public space of post-totalitarian era after the 1989 Velvet revolution, the first of its kind and sociocultural impact. It brings life to the public space and 20 vaults in the riverside wall serving as cafes, workshops, galleries, space for neighbor meetings and public toilets.

The project has been built for 10 years. We initiated it in 2009 as a program and architectural revitalization of the Prague riverfront area that was built as a transshipment quay for ice and coal. After it had lost its function, the area was left deserted during the communist era and for many years used as a car park and the vaults as storages. By gradual program activation, we have achieved cultural and social revival, and subsequently, architectural rehabilitation. The vast revitalized riverfront area stretches along the three Prague embankments, almost 4 km in length, and thanks to our activities it became one of the liveliest places in the city. The interventions symbiotically merge with the original architecture of the riverside wall, into which they naturally fuse; by using the acupuncture strategy, they re-create a monumental whole.

The architectural design responds to the context of the place and works with the strong (but still minimalistic) artistic gesture that allows purging of the existing shapes and relations. The aim is clear connection with the riverfront area with the maximum opening of the spaces inside the wall. By merging exterior into bays of sheltered spaces, we re-established a continuous public space without barriers of enclosed interior spaces, the vaults offer service complements for the linear public riverfront. This new typology based on non-separation of exterior from interior now provides its visionary quality and potential suitable for a post-covid era. The contemporary architecture fuses with historical architecture and changes its program while keeping its genius loci. The result of our work is the change in the perception of the riverfront area as a space for multi-layered social life based on turning the city face towards the river, to which it has been standing with its back for decades. The next phase of the ongoing revitalization is focused on floating parts, opening the contact with a river and restoring the Prague tradition of river baths with our floating pool.

The design and materials of the individual elements are unified for all types of spaces and combine historical approach with the most contemporary and environment-friendly technologies. There are 6 vaults accessible by elliptical pivoting windows made of organic glass 7cm thick and 5.5m in diameter, weighing approximately 2.5t (engine powered). Each has a unique shape derived from the proportion of the vaults, they are probably the largest in the world. The inserted parts of bars and partitions are clad in black titanium-coated stainless-steel plate, complementing through reflection the spatial geometry of the vaults, and through the constant volatile movement of the reflection, bringing the fluid incomprehensibility of the river inside. The surfaces are made of geopolymer alternative to concrete (reducing emissions when produced) used in various forms - sandblasted walls and ceilings and cast floors and staircases. A combination of floor heating with air-conditioning with heat recovery and infrared heaters allows year-round operation, they are almost invisible to visitors. The vaults are wheelchair accessible, with mobile flood protection barriers.