status: international competition, honorable mentio
The banks of the Vltava are some of Prague’s most attractive and emblematic locations. How did they become home to a hodgepodge of overpriced and unpleasant snack-bars, parking lots for tourists’ cars and buses, strange wooden structures on decks serving as bases for boating companies and other incomprehensible buildings?
We believe the explanation lies mostly in the un-transparent and corrupt environment in which the landlord (the town hall) and the tenants operate. A corrupt atmosphere, where nobody trusts anybody, combined with the unfavorable conditions of the rental agreements, definitely does not encourage the much-needed long-term investments.
A major problem in the densely built up centre of Prague is the lack of parks and recreational areas. Residents therefore resist any development project that would encroach upon the slightest bit of grass – and yet they have a large public space along the river. This is not as surprising as it seems: to Prague residents, the banks of the Vltava are a hostile place. They are completely lacking in vegetation, street furniture and public facilities. In addition, contact with the river is blocked by the number of anchored boats, which exclusively serve tourists. Further from the center, the banks get greener, but nothing was created there to attract the residents of the neighboring areas – and these parks are primarily perceived as dangerous.
Another factor affecting the present state of the banks is the attitude of the Prague branch of the National Heritage Institute. In its view, the banks should remain bare. Any structure, even temporary, is considered to be a new construction in a listed area. Regarding vessels permanently anchored in the same place, its decisions focus on maintaining an open view of the city panorama.
Considering that the most important factor affecting the current state of the banks of the Vltava in Prague is the opaque, corrupt environment of developments in this space, we believe the first corrective measure should be to establish clear and transparent conditions for its future use.
It would be unrealistic to suggest ending corruption at the central and local town halls. We therefore suggest creating an entirely new administrative body dedicated to the river and its closest surroundings. Since the various Prague districts were numbered according to the chronology of their foundation, we named this new body Prague 0.
The first task of the officers at Prague 0 will be to approve a new regulatory masterplan for the use of the Vltava and its immediate surroundings. It will involve, in particular, investing part of the funds collected from rents into non-commercial activities along the river. Another key component is the establishment of simple and transparent rules for the calls to tender for individual moorings, with contractual conditions that encourage long-term investment.
The masterplan will focus primarily on creating the missing attractions – public equipments and services – on the river itself, in order to free up the whole width of the banks, which can then be transformed into a linear urban park. The plan will divide the river into sections between the various bridges, as well as between the left and right bank. Each section will have its clearly defined constructible and non-constructible surfaces and minimal share of the non-commercial activities operated by the city. These specifications for the individual sections can be modified according to the natural evolution of their character. The built up surface of the sections and – accordingly – their minimal share of non-commercial activities will increase towards the city center.
The transfer of attractions from the banks to the water also enables the safe separation of cyclists and pedestrians. Motorized access for deliveries and maintenance will be authorized at given times only. Parking on the banks will not be permitted.
The constructible surfaces defined by the masterplan will be divided into individual moorings according to the dimensions of the floating docks (8x25m). The size of the docks is based on the requirements for their transport from the dry docks through the canal locks. Therefore, in each section, a 25-meter jetty will be divided into basic modules in the width of the dock. Investors can choose particular modules or connect several to create a larger structure. The layout of the floating docks, perpendicular to the river, leaves an open view over the river from the banks. The piers to access excursion boats will be located in places not directly connected to the street but nonetheless easily accessible. The connection between the various sections and between the two banks of the river will be ensured by a new river service, part of the MHD city transport system.
In case of a flood alert, the individual floating docks can be separated and taken into safe storage. Another possibility is to use mobile anchor arms. Trees in the new park will be planted in tubs set into the cobblestones. These tubs can be removed and placed behind a flood barrier for the duration of the alert.