“It’s exciting and frightening”: Architect Jiřičná’s biggest project set for Prague

Eva Jiřičná

The great Czech architect Eva Jiřičná has been living in the UK for many decades. But the biggest project in the 85-year-old’s career, a 1,000-apartment development, is set to go up in Prague. I spoke to Jiřičná on Monday at a presentation of Centrum Nového Žižkova, New Žižkov Centre, on which she collaborated with the UK’s Arup Group. Plans for the complex were first revealed five years ago, but they have been forced to change considerably since then.

Your original winning design had three towers. The resulting design now has one tower, which is a bit shorter.

“What a shame, what a shame!”

Photo:  Central Group

Is it frustrating for you to have your vision kind of reduced in that way?

“I don’t think it’s frustrating to have MY vision reduced. I think that in the general concept ‘going up’ means that you actually provide space.

“It is a question of open space, which actually serves the entire environment of Prague 3.

“After very careful consideration in the first competition we were working with green zones and we were trying to maximise the amount of open space for all inhabitants – not only for people who were going to live in our buildings.

“When you go through the area you have got the [Olšany] cemetery, which is a slightly depressing zone, but it is at least doing a very important function, which is absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere.

“On the other hand, everybody is still copying 19th century blocks with a private environment inside them – and creating practically nothing which is accessible for the general public.

“So having three tall buildings going up to 100 metres meant that we had, I don’t know, 30 percent more green area available to the general public.

“We had to reduce it, which is very sad.”

Photo: Ian Willoughby,  Radio Prague International

It’s a huge project: 1,000 apartments, hundreds of millions of crowns of investment. Is it your biggest ever project?


And is that daunting or exciting?

“Well, it’s both. It’s exciting and frightening. And one feels tremendous responsibility.

“That was the reason why I started talking to Arup, because I worked with Arup on the first project which I worked on, in London in 1969, up to 1980, which was the project of the marina in Brighton.

Photo:  Central Group

“Arup have been my partners ever since, so I know that it is an organisation that knows about tall buildings, about all the other functions, about ecology, reconstruction.

“Therefore we developed the project with them and for both of us it was a learning curve. They always wanted to spread their services to Prague and Central Europe, so they wanted to see what conditions we are working on.

“And we wanted to draw from their experience and their advice – how to proceed doing a type of environment which we had never done before.”

How does it feel to make your mark on Prague in this really big way?

“You know, I’m so old [laughs] that it’s very hard to say if I will see the project even under construction.

“You have to do your best. And whether you see it finished or not, I think it’s our duty as architects to do our best all our lifes and hope for the best, you know [laughs].

“It’s like the Olympic torch. You have to carry it as long as you can, and then you have to hand it over to somebody else who will continue the race.”

The developers of Centrum Nového Žižkova, Central Group, say construction could begin in 2027. Plans for the project were on show on Monday at the gallery at Prague’s Café Louvre.

Author: Ian Willoughby
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