Will Prague's "Manhattan" be completed?

The recent tragic events in the United States have raised new debates concerning Prague's planned high-rise business complex in Pankrac just south of the centre, in the area known as Prague's Manhattan, already the site of three of the city's tallest buildings. There has already been concern about the creation of such a complex as a blemish on Prague's historic skyline, and the metaphor of Manhattan has simply compounded the problem. Radio Prague's Jan Velinger looks at the questions over the future of Prague's Manhattan.

Prague's Mayor Jan Kasl is himself a well-known architect and a strong supporter of modern and innovative architecture. In his vision of Prague as a modern city he is also no stranger to controversy. Mr Kasl is one of those who are enthusiastic about the designs by the renowned American modernist architect Richard Meier for the further development of the Pankrac complex. Kasl feels that the Pankrac development is still on track.

"I don't think there's any reason to change the plans, which I personally like and support. Of course there will be maybe plenty of difficulties. There will be difficulties from the point of view of protection, there will be difficulties of clients, maybe there won't be clients for such a building 160 metres high. Maybe the cost will be too high, because there is no economic need, there is no lack of space in Prague for building high-rise buildings as office towers."

But if Prague does not need high-rise office development, then why develop Pankrac at all. Perhaps the Czech Manhattan should become a Czech Greenwich Village instead. The problem lies in what is already there. Pankrac is a bleak hilltop site, where the wind blows between the three desolate skyscrapers already standing. It is a place that completely lacks unity. Jan Kasl again.

"I would be against any high-rise building in any other area. For example there was a crazy idea to place a skyscraper on the centre of Victory Square, the round square in Prague 6. It would be nonsense of course. It would be competition with the castle. But in Pankrac we have three high-rise buildings. It's nonsense to think that someone will demolish that part of the city just because we don't like it on the horizon of the city. Pankrac is a part of the life, it's a part of the skyline, it's already there, and because there is something missing, it should be remodeled and finalized."

Whether or not the remodeling of Pankrac will be completed remains unclear, and opposition is loud. The Prague-based Croatian architect Vlado Milunic, co-architect of Prague's most famous landmark of the 1990s, the so-called Ginger and Fred Building - the "Dancing House" - on the banks of the Vltava, says that the plans for the complex should be scrapped in the wake of the US tragedy. Local residents have also set up a protest group against the development. For the time being at least, Pankrac looks set to remain a half-developed hilltop.