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

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

The Prague Town Hall plan is also backed by heritage group Klub Za starou Prahu (Old Prague Club), which called the decision to demolish the villa “reckless”, and the Institute for the History of Prague. art of 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 built in 1912 by the Czech architect Viktor Beneš as his personal villa. It is inspired by the architecture of English villas built in the mid-nineteenth century by architects such as Philip Webb, Richard Norman Shaw and Edgar Wood.

According to the Old Prague Club, Beneš imprinted an aristocratic atmosphere on the mansion, which resembles a small castle. Beneš also mixed modernist and neo-Gothic styles in its 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 villas in the Na Hřebenkách district of Prague 5.

The building was partially rebuilt in the 1980s and housed a section of Czech Radio before becoming the headquarters of a communication agency after the Velvet Revolution. It was then acquired in 2007 by businessman Slovak Business Jaroslav Haščák and his wife Valerie. However, their family never lived in the building which has fallen into increasingly disrepair 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 land.

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 Committee for Territorial Development, Spatial Planning and Maintenance of Monuments at Prague City Hall, said that even if the city succeeds in placing the building on its official list of cultural monuments, it will not prevent the villa from continuing to crumble unless its current owners decide to maintain it.

Berta D. Wells