Prague City Hall fights to save ‘unique’ villa from demolition

The demolition of the house was initially approved by the local Prague 5 building administration in early July. The mayor of Prague, Zdeněk Hřib, told Czech TV that the deadline to appeal the decision expires on Wednesday, but assured viewers that the city has already agreed to go to court and prepared the necessary documentation.

The Prague City Hall plan is also supported by the heritage group Klub Za starou Prahu (Club of Old Prague), which called the decision to demolish the villa “reckless”, and the Institute of History of Prague. art from the Czech Academy of Sciences, whose members wrote an open letter to the mayor of Prague urging him to prevent the destruction of the villa.

The building was designed and constructed in 1912 by Czech architect Viktor Beneš as his personal villa. It is inspired by the architecture of English villas built in the mid-19th century by architects such as Philip Webb, Richard Norman Shaw and Edgar Wood.

According to the Old Prague Club, Beneš imparted an aristocratic atmosphere to the mansion, which resembles a small castle. Beneš also mixed Modernist and Gothic Revival styles in his design, which the group says is unique among buildings in Prague. Meanwhile, art historians have pointed out that the house is unique and plays a dominant role among the villas in the Na Hřebenkách district of Prague 5.

The building was partially reconstructed in the 1980s and housed a section of Czech radio before becoming the headquarters of a communications agency after the Velvet Revolution. It was then bought in 2007 by Slovak businessman Jaroslav Haščák and his wife Valérie. However, their family never lived in the building which has become increasingly dilapidated over the past decade.

Recently, Valérie Haščáková decided to sell the property and found a buyer, but the new owner intends to demolish the villa in order to build a new house on the plot.

Despite the mobilization of experts and civil society groups, some of whom have written petitions against the planned demolition, the building is still in serious danger. Petr Zeman, who heads the Prague City Hall Committee for Spatial Development, Spatial Planning and Monument Maintenance, said that although the city managed to get the building on its official list of cultural monuments, it would not prevent the villa from continuing to collapse unless its current owners decide to maintain it.

Berta D. Wells