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Brutalist complex in Prague centre can be demolished

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Prague, Nov 21 (CTK) – The former Transgas complex of buildings in the style of brutalism from the 1970s in the centre of Prague will not be declared culture heritage and its owner can demolish it as planned, Czech papers wrote yesterday, referring to the Culture Ministry’s decision.

The present owner, HB Reavis company, wants to replace the complex on a lucrative plot near Wenceslas Square with a multifunctional complex of seven buildings designed by architect Jakub Cigler.

However, the decision on the halting of the re-assessment procedure in the Transgas case has not been delivered to all parties involved yet and this is why the Culture Ministry refused to comment on it for CTK.

The Club for Old Prague association reported on ts website last week that Culture Minister Daniel Herman (Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) had halted the re-assessment and thereby the temporary heritage protection of the complex.

The association initiated the protection of the buildings, which it considers an exceptional example of brutalist architecture, and asked the Culture Ministry to declare them culture heritage.

Herman’s decision, released on the ministry’s website, is critical of the Transgas complex, saying the buildings are not in harmony with the surroundings, “their details, facades and railings are beyond human standards” and that no significant culture and historical events took place in the complex. Besides, the minister is of the view that the buildings are not a valuable example of brutalism, unlike, for instance, the Kotva department store in the city centre.

Last year, the Culture Ministry refused to declare the Transgas complex protected heritage. The National Heritage Institute (NPU) did not recommend to give the complex this status either.

Herman started re-examining the decision in the spring. He said in late September an expert commission recommended him that he reassess his office’s steps and save Transgas.

The investor sharply criticised this. It said the possible damage caused by the delay had exceeded 0.5 billion crowns.

The complex of three buildings, former seat of the Transgas central gas utility directorate and the now defunct Fuel and Energy Ministry is situated in Vinohradska street next to the Czech Radio building near Wenceslas Square. It was designed by a team of architects Jindrich Malatek, Ivo Loos, Zdenek Eisenreich and Vaclav Aulicky in 1966-76.

The advocates of the old complex say it is one of the most distinguished examples of a synthetic architecture of the 1970s connecting the elements of brutalism, technicism and post-modernism as well as a unique implementation of post-modern urbanism in the Czech Republic.

It is often controversial to declare buildings from the latter half of the 20th century culture heritage, but under current law it is often the only possibility to prevent their demolition.

In another case, the Culture Ministry refused to protect a modernist block of flats from the 1920s at the corner of Wenceslas Square after the investor was threatening with a lawsuit over his lost profit. It was demolished in the summer.

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