‘Open House’ in Prague as city landmarks join movement

This weekend, people in Prague will have a unique chance to visit some thirty buildings across the city, from historical sights to state-of-the art office buildings, which are otherwise inaccessible to the public. The event, called Open House, was originally founded in 1992 in London and over the years, more than thirty cities across the world have joined in. I talked with Open House’s Bohdana Rambousková and I first asked her about the history of the festival:

“Open House as a festival was founded in London in 1992 by a fan for architecture and urban development, Lady Victoria Thornton. Originally she wanted to open a couple of houses and invite public from the streets to see the houses from inside.

“Other people called her crazy but the idea of the festival went really well and many people came to see the first edition. And then the festival spread all around the world. This year, the festival is organised in 32 cities all around the world and Prague is one of them.”

I belive that one of the people who stood at the origin of the festival in London was Eva Jiřičná. Is that right?

“Yes, that’s correct. She is an architect of Czech Origin and she was with Open House London from the very beginning. Therefore we asked her to be so kind and be one of the patrons of Open House in Prague.”

The festival opens buildings to the public that would otherwise not be accessible. Is that the only aim of the event?

“The core idea of the festival is to allow the public to enter the building they usually only pass when walking to work or home.

“The festival believes that by having a direct experience with architecture and the buildings the wide majority of inhabitants of the city will start to actively care about how the city is developed, about new buildings that are to be built and about public spaces and their usage.”

Kramář villa,  photo: Filip Jandourek
How did you actually select the buildings?

“We addressed owners of different buildings and of course, because it is our first edition of Open House in Prague it was not very easy to get them on our side, so in some cases we were even rejected.

“But many owners were absolutely great, they loved the idea and they decided to join.”

You will open altogether thirty buildings. Can you mention at least some of them?

“There is a wide choice of buildings. We have some historical sights, such as Saint Anne’s Monastery, Kinsky Palace or the villa of the former Prime Minister Kramář.

“We also have a selection of modern buildings from the beginning of the 20th century, for instance Trade Union Building or Glass Palace in Dejvice.

“And of course we have contemporary architecture, such as Dancing House, which is very famous, and also contemporary office buildings in Karlín,like the Danube House or Main Point.”

Will the tours be guided?

Danube House,  photo: archive of Radio Prague
“In most of the buildings there will be free entry, which means that you simply enter, you follow marked routes and you see everything yourself. In several buildings people will be required to proceed in groups but without guides. And in several buildings, I believe it is seven of them, a registration is needed due to limited capacity.”

How many people do you expect to attend the event?

“Well, it will be a surprise, since it is the first edition of the festival, but on our Facebook event we already have 12,000 people registered, so we hope that all of them will come.”