No money for reconstruction of a UNESCO cultural heritage site

The Tugendhat villa in the Czech Republic's second city of Brno was added to the UNESCO list of cultural heritage sites in December last year. The building is in desperate need of renovation, but earlier this week Brno councilors swept the renovation plans off the table, saying the estimated costs were too high.

The Tugendhat villa is a dramatic contrast with the 10 other UNESCO sites in the Czech Republic, which include the historical centre of Prague or the ancient towns of Cesky Krumlov and Telc. The Tugendhat villa was designed in 1928, and is the finest surviving masterpiece of the German architect Mies van der Rohe, who is best known for his skyscrapers in Chicago.

Brno Mayor Petr Duchon has said that he will only start celebrating the inclusion of the villa on the UNESCO list once it has been properly restored. Restoration is to include repairs to the facade and interiors, and also installing all the original furniture which is now scattered in numerous private collections.

Earlier this week, the majority of Brno councilors refused to give the green light to renovation works, because they are estimated at 114 million crowns, that's over three million US dollars, and they say Brno cannot afford to pay such a high sum.

Such hesitation definitely does not improve Brno's reputation, because it gives the impression that the city is not showing any respect for its UNESCO site, say those who voted for the renovation to be carried out as soon as possible

But Brno's deputy Mayor, Rostislav Slavotinek sounds optimistic:

"Some councilors probably do not correctly perceive the importance of the villa's renovation for the city, that's why they turned it down. But in fact they had no objections on principle, I think we can submit our proposal again in June, and I'm convinced that it can be passed without major problems."

But yet another international scandal concerning UNESCO sites in the Czech Republic threatens to break out soon - this time in Cesky Krumlov. UNESCO has demanded that a revolving stage in the open-air theatre located in the garden of the local castle be removed. It considers the revolving stage an unwelcome addition, because back in 1991, when Krumlov was included into the UNESCO list, it was not there. Although the Czech Minister of Culture, Pavel Dostal, recently assured UNESCO that the revolving stage will be removed by the end of this year at the latest, this week he suddenly changed his mind quoting protests from the general public as the main reason. According to the director of the Conservation Institute in the regional city of Ceske Budejovice, any delay in the removal of the revolving stage threatens an international scandal and could even lead to Cesky Krumlov being crossed off the UNESCO cultural heritage list.