President-elect to employ architect, signals big changes at Prague Castle

Prague Castle - residence of the Czech President

The newly-elected Czech president Petr Pavel has promised sweeping changes at Prague Castle. He wants to open up the historic seat of Czech kings to the public and return to the tradition of employing a Prague Castle architect.

Petr Pavel | Photo: Martin Vaniš,  Radio Prague International

Asked what he would do differently from his predecessor in office, Miloš Zeman, the newly-elected head of state quipped: everything. In addition to a different style of communication, Pavel wants a  more “civil” presidential role better suited to the 21st century. He has no plans to reside in Prague Castle and says that his administration will only take up a small part of the premises. The rest should be open to the public. Moreover, he is the first head of state after Václav Havel, who wants to employ a Prague Castle architect. The man whom he would like to see in the post is the respected  Czech architect Josef Pleskot.

Josef Pleskot | Photo: Michaela Danelová,

“I have already spoken about this with Josef Pleskot and I am happy to say that he is willing to take on the challenge and that we have a common vision. We discussed a number of projects, including possible changes at Prague Castle, but it is premature to talk about them now.”

Josef Pleskot has already left his mark on Prague Castle. At the beginning of the millennium, he worked with President Václav Havel, which he recalls as a period of “opening and connecting”. He masterminded the reconstruction of the Deer Moat, including the connection of its upper and lower parts through the tunnel under Powder Bridge. He says Prague Castle has a lot more to offer than meets the eye.

The tunnel designed by Josef Pleskot | Photo: Štěpánka Budková,  Radio Prague International

“We could transform and open up hidden, unused and even forgotten parts of the Prague Castle compound so that they would serve cultural gatherings meetings and debates, areas that would bring a new quality to people-to-people contacts. There are so many places that need to be considered and reviewed.”

Under presidents Václav Klaus and Miloš Zeman, whose terms in office spanned two decades, Prague Castle was only open to the public on special occasions. Architect Zdeněk Lukeš says he is happy about the planned changes.

“It is good for Prague Castle to have its own architect. Of course, it is up to every president to decide whether they want one. Masaryk did, so did Beneš and Novotný, but others didn’t. The last time Prague Castle employed an architect was in Havel’s era. He chose Bořek Šípek who left his unmistakable stamp in the Prague Castle interiors. The Slovenian architect Joze Plečnik served under President Masaryk and his work at Prague Castle is greatly admired to this day. Eduard Beneš chose architect Pavel Janák whose reconstruction work is also deemed a big success.”

Pavel Janák,  Former residence of Czech presidents in the Royal Garden at Prague Castle | Photo: Pražský hrad

How Josef Pleskot will tackle the challenge remains to be seen. One thing is clear –Petr Pavel will encourage him to take bold action.

“During my term in office I would like to support some bold architecture. I think our architects have a lot to offer and by holding ourselves back we are losing the chance to build something exceptional that will attract tourists and other world architects and make us proud.”

Authors: Daniela Lazarová , Olga Vasinkevič
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