Czech, Italian presidents cut tape on new Main Station concourse
Prague’s Hlavní nádraží or Main Station was once a dank and depressing place, not somewhere you’d wish to linger a moment longer than necessary. Over the past few years, however, it’s undergone a 50-million-euro makeover at the hands of the Italian firm Grandi Stazioni. On Thursday the presidents of Italy and the Czech Republic snipped the ceremonial tape on the station’s new concourse.
“The first transformation happened back in the 1970s, when this departure hall was built and linked up to the new metro line. This is basically the first major renovation since then. And I think that all rail passengers most definitely deserve it.”
To call what happened in the 1970s a ‘transformation’ is a diplomatic description of one of the greatest architectural crimes committed against Prague in the 20th century. Communist central planners took one of the city’s finest art nouveau buildings – the work of architect Josef Fanta, who redesigned the original Franz Josef station in 1909 – and drove a six-lane motorway right in front of it. Underneath it, they built a nightmarish new hall lined with futuristic red metal panels, the low ceilings creating a fair impression of hell, its garish walls coated with grease from fast food stands selling sausages.
“We’re not actually responsible for the park itself, but we are working very closely with Prague 1 City Council, which has promised to renovate the park. This is so important, because when a traveller or tourist arrives and sees a beautifully restored station and then walks out into a park which isn’t too nice to look at, it’s not a very good calling card for the city.”