Future metropolitan plan to try and counter urban sprawl

Prague, photo: Kristýna Maková

Prague Mayor Tomáš Hudeček and architect Roman Koucký of the Prague Institute of Planning and Development outlined on Thursday principles for a new metropolitan or zoning plan for Prague to be passed in 2017. Central to the proposal, is the understanding that additional sprawl at the edge of the city needs to be curbed, while undeveloped areas within the capital need to be built up, to create a living city that is functional and robust.

Prague,  photo: Kristýna Maková
According to the Institute of Planning and Development’s Roman Koucký, the population density of the Czech capital leaves something to be desired: an average of just 56 people per hectare in built-up areas, far less than some other European capitals. Prague hopes to improve the situation (and to make the city more economically viable) by building up areas within the centre with potential left unrealised until now: brownfields and other grounds suitable for development. According to the official estimate, there is enough unused space available that homes could be built, for almost half a million more inhabitants; the plan also stresses the need to curb sprawl at the city limits. Architect Roman Koucký of IPR discussed the initial plan presented this week:

Roman Koucký,  photo: Matěj Pálka
“The important thing to understand is that a city which is thin in population is neither economical nor ecological… and this is something that Prague has to try and tackle. The trend worldwide should be to prevent the depletion of cities and to bolster those that exist.

“In the 1970s we saw the opposite, we saw people leaving metropolitan areas, but if we want to have so-called ‘smart cities’ we need to increase density, to increase transport and services, and keep cities running. If you have a city which has less than 100 people per hectare it can’t function fully.”

Smart ecological planning according to officials, involves bringing people back, and preventing the further dilution of population into ever more sprawling and disconnected suburbs. Architect Roman Koucký again:

“Cities that Prague should be comparing itself to such as Munich, Milan, Berlin, and Hamburg, all have higher densities: Vienna has a much higher density than Prague but the quality of life is ranked first. Density is one of the reasons: people there are able to meet and interact. With a thinner density, their paths never cross.”

Pankrác plain,  photo: Kristýna Maková
Also part of the concept presented on Thursday, are plans to address building height cities, emphasizing vertical growth rather than outward sprawl. Presumably planners will be aiming to rethink areas were living and work space can be boosted upwards: areas such as Pankrác plain, known locally as Prague’s ‘Manhattan’, where several lonely skyscrapers have stood for years. There too, architect Koucký suggests there is room for considerable improvement, just one in many to be weighed in the future plan. If all goes well, it should be passed in three years’ time after considerable input and debate.