Czech architecture prize awarded for innovative reconstruction of Moravian castle

Already a favorite of late 18th century romantics as a picturesque medieval castle ruin buried in the rolling Moravian countryside, Helfštýn Castle remains one of the most popular medieval fortresses for tourists to the region of Olomouc. It is also one of the largest surviving castles in the Czech Republic with its origins dating back to the end of the 13th century and the glorious reign of the country’s “iron and gold king” – Přemysl Otakar II.

Miroslav Pospíšil and Martin Karlík |  Photo: Roman Vondrouš, ČTK

The castle was then partially rebuilt as a Renaissance residence and remained a formidable fortress even during the Thirty Years’ War, resisting Swedish assaults. Soon after, the castle was partially demolished and remained in ruins until the National Heritage Institute commissioned two young architects to rebuild it.

Miroslav Pospíšil and Martin Karlík of studio atelier-r state that their aim was to respect the historical characteristics of the castle while incorporating contemporary architectural elements.

“The first thing that struck us when we looked at the project was that the light was entering from above into the ruined rooms of the castle. We have tried to keep this characteristic and it shows in the canopies that cover the castle now. “

Room of November 17 of the Faculty of Human Sciences of Charles University |  Photo: eská komora architektů

In addition to equipping the castle with an original roofing system, the architects also connected the ground floors to the upper levels of the Renaissance palace within its walls. They also chose to make a clear distinction between parts of the structure that are original and those that are modern. Several terraces have also been added to allow visitors to better enjoy the surrounding picturesque Moravian countryside.

On Monday, the project received the Czech Architecture Prize from the Czech Chamber of Architects. Its president, Jan Kasl, says that one of the main reasons the jury chose the project was its innovative approach which superimposed several new architectural styles on the historic core of the structure.

Židlochovice Community Center |  Photo: eská komora architektů

“Personally, I am very happy, because heritage architecture sometimes only preserves. In this case, the heritage stakeholders seem to have cooperated very well, as they have made it possible to bring a new addition to the historic building, which is quite contemporary and wonderfully designed. While it’s possible to add layers of new architecture in other cases of reconstruction of heritage sites, I don’t think we have to worry about living in an open-air museum.

In addition to the winning design of Helfštýn Castle, six other projects also received honorary prizes. These included the reconstruction of the restaurant in the November 17 hall of the Faculty of Humanities at Charles University, designed by Atelier Kuba & Pilař, as well as the largely wooden community center in the Moravian town of Židlochovice by Atelier Jura et al., which the jury declared that it would have won the prize if the prize had been awarded solely in terms of town planning.

Lazy house |  Photo: eská komora architektů

Another finalist was the Baťa-inspired Lazy House Zlín construction, based on the design of architect Petr Janda and his studio work.

Prague also had a representative in the shortlist of the Czech Architecture Prize. The Papundekl Architekti studio was selected for its translucent design of the new pavilion at Výstaviště in Prague, near Stromovka Park.

The Czech Architecture Prize is awarded by the Czech Chamber of Architects. Its intention is to disseminate to the public the completed works produced by new and established architects.

Pavilion in the Výstaviště of Prague |  Photo: eská komora architektů

Berta D. Wells