Future of historic Werich Villa decided after years of speculation

Werich Villa, photo: Filip Jandourek

After years of speculation regarding its future, the famous Werich Villa on Prague’s Kampa, once the home of the famous Czech actor Jan Werich, is set to get a new tenant. The Prague authorities have just decided to rent the historical building to the Jan and Meda Mládek Foundation, which will turn it into the Voskovec and Werich Arts and Social Centre in honour of the great Czech acting duo.

Werich Villa,  photo: Filip Jandourek
The historical house on Prague’s Kampa – a stone’s throw from the district’s picturesque square – has been uninhabited and falling apart since it was severely damaged by floods over a decade ago.

On Tuesday, the Jan and Meda Mládek Foundation finally succeeded after several attempts to lease the building. It was given preference over two other bidders, Post Bellum and the Charter 77 Foundation.

Prague will rent the villa to the organisation for 600,000 crowns a year on a 10-year contract with the option of renewing the contract when the first term comes to an end.

The Werich Villa was built at the beginning of the 17th century and originally served as a tannery. In 1761, it was bought by the Nostitz family and later became the home of Josef Dobrovský, one of the most important figures of the Czech National Revival, who worked for the family as a tutor.

Jan Werich,  Jiří Voskovec,  photo: archive of Czech Radio
The Nostitz family owned the house until 1918, when it was confiscated by the state. The famous Czech actor Jan Werich moved into the building in 1940, and lived there with his family until his death in 1980.

Jan Smetana, the head of the Jan and Meda Mládek Foundation, outlines the organisation’s plans for the future of the historical site.

“We would like to create an interactive exhibition here dedicated of course to Jan Werich, Jiří Voskovec and their Osvobozené divadlo [Liberated Theatre], as well as to other people connected with the building, such as Josef Dobrovský and Vladimír Holan.

“The attic of the villa will serve as a multifunctional centre, where we would like to organize lectures, discussions and workshops. We are cooperating with other organisations, such as Charter 77, DAMU [drama school] and the Philosophical Faculty, and we hope that everyone will find something of interest in the programme.”

Werich Villa,  photo: Filip Jandourek
The villa has been in a state of disrepair for years, standing empty since devastating floods that hit Prague in 2002. But now it is finally ready to undergo extensive renovation, says Jan Smetana.

“Prague 1 has to reconstruct the villa, which we expect will take about ten months. As soon as we get the key, we can open in a fairly short time. Some of our programme, such as discussion and lectures, can start immediately after the reconstruction and I expect we should be ready to open completely about three months after we get hold of the villa.”