Prague city councillors hoping to save Vyšehrad train station

Slav Epic by Alfons Mucha, photo: Barbora Němcová

Prague City councillors are discussing plans to save the long-disused Vyšehrad Train Station. Located near the ancient Vyšehrad fortification and the Charles University Botanic Gardens, the striking Art Nouveau building has been falling into disrepair for years. One of the proposals suggests that the building could serve as a permanent exhibition space for the Slav Epic, a famous cycle of paintings by Alfons Mucha.

Slav Epic by Alfons Mucha,  photo: Barbora Němcová

Prague councillors are currently holding talks about the buy-out price of the dilapidated Vyšehrad Train Station. If the deal doesn’t come through, there is also an option for expropriating the building, which was declared a national cultural monument in 2000. According to Jan Chabr of the United Force for Prague, who is in charge of the city’s property assets, the negotiations are likely to last until mid-2020.

Jan Chabr,  photo: Jsvab,  Wikimedia Commons,  CC BY-SA 4.0
Architects from Prague’s Institute for Planning and Development are currently assessing whether the building would be suitable to house the Slav Epic. A decision should be made within the next month or two.

To accommodate the cycle of twenty large-format paintings, the existing building might need to be extended.

“Architects are currently assessing whether this could be done while maintaining the building’s heritage status,” Mr. Chabr told the Czech News Agency.

If it is not found suitable as an exhibition space, the Art Nouveau train station could be converted into flats or offices.

The Vyšehrad railway station was completed in 1870 in connection with the proposal to build the Prague connecting line, which was to link the Smíchov Railway station with the city’s main train station.

In 1960, the station was closed down and has since been unused and in 2007 it was sold to a private owner. Today, the long-abandoned building is boarded up, and covered with graffiti.

Photo: Bogdan,  CC BY-SA 3.0
Whether the City of Prague will agree to buy out the Art Nouveau building is now a question of negotiations. While the foreign owner is demanding 117 million CZK for the building, the City Hall can only pay around CZK 67 million.

“The city can buy out property for a price that is common for the location. We cannot buy any building in Prague for any given price. We have to follow expert opinions, Mr. Chabr explains. In case the City Hall fails to reach agreement with the property’s owner, it could also decide to expropriate the property, based on the fact that the owner is not looking after the building.

While councillor Chabr says that the ownership right is untouchable, and therefore he would most likely not support expropriation, MEP Jiří Pospíšil has a different opinion:

“I am convinced that a political solution is not to watch how the train station is falling apart for another twenty years. Its expropriation would be in the interest of the public.”