Brno buildings stripped of protective status under Communism at risk

Brno, photo: archive of Radio Prague International

A group of prominent art historians, architects, conservationists and others in Brno have joined forces to stop what they call the rampant demolition of historic city buildings. Due to registration errors before the Velvet Revolution, and new zoning, they say, buildings that were or should be designated as cultural monuments are not being protected.

Among the dozens who have joined a new association to protect the so-called “late registered” buildings are experts at institutions such as the Brno City Museum, the local chapter of the National Monuments Institute, and Museum of Art, along with popular local novelist Kateřina Tučková.

The group estimates some 1,400 monuments in southern Moravia, mainly in Brno, are unprotected due to clerical errors before 1989. The Supreme Administrative Court recently confirmed the oversight, but some private owners of buildings especially in lucrative sites continue to demolish them.

Michal Doležel, a local opposition politician and ethnologist steeped in the history and architecture of Brno, is one of the co-founders of the newly established Brno Association for the Protection of Undamaged Monuments. He says membership is growing fast, as word of what’s at stake spreads.

“We are trying to intervene in this quite serious state of affairs, for example, by explaining to people what monument protection really means. because there is widespread misinformation and rumours circulating. We want to popularize the topic and educate the public.”

Brno conservationists have watched in anguish as the Neo-Renaissance palace in Hybešová Street and a historic 19th century house on Lidická Street, connected to the famous Tugendhat business family, crumbled to the ground, or while a private owner reconstructed a villa of the famous architect Bohuslav Fuchs to his own taste.

Brno,  photo: archive of Radio Prague International

The co-founders of the Brno association have modelled theirs on established conservationist groups such as the Club for Old Prague and the Association for Beautiful Olomouc. They hope to be present at municipal meetings on construction and zoning, says Robert Janás, head of the Art History Department at the Brno City Museum.

“That way, the opinion of the professional public will not be absent. The demolition of a house always has an economic reason, which is understandable. But then there is the question of protecting the heritage of Brno, which in itself makes the city attractive.”

In fact, discussions in Brno about the protection of so-called “late” and thus incorrectly registered monuments have been taking place for many years. Since 2019, conservationists have been negotiating with city representatives how to protect hundreds of houses as quickly as possible. But they have failed to preserve or expand many protected zones across city districts. And as the Ministry of Culture awaits further action by Brno, historic buildings will continue to disappear from the city streets.