A central point in a new Prague neighborhood
It started when several individuals decided to turn a Prague train station into a place of memory. It soon became clear that few buildings were as ill-suited to such a project as the station, which was undergoing a property transformation from a semi-state-owned institution to a fully state-owned one, and was located in the city’s largest undeveloped brownfield site which was under a construction ban at the time. In addition, the fortieth planning study in the last hundred years was being prepared for its urban-development concept.
The first years were devoted to designing the usability of the building – as a station building temporarily borrowed from the Czech railway operator, České dráhy – for the future memorial. This was followed by the handover of the entire station network to the Railway Infrastructure Administration organisation.
In the new concept, the new owner did not foresee any future use of the old Bubny station for traffic operation. This opened the way for a much more generous planning of its transformation for the new purpose.
With the support of the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic, a competition was announced for an architectural design based on new instructions. The original building was technically improved and, in view of its future requirements as an exhibition space, entered into the competition as an “exhibit” to be protected by modern architecture.
Those parts of the building that have retained their original character, patina, and any sign of the past were declared untouchable, while the other parts were specified for the tender purposes as the future permanent exhibition under the new scenario.
An expert committee under the leadership of Ing. arch. Zdeněk Zavřel selected the winning solution for the new design documentation based on two-round tender proceedings of implementation documentation.
The author of the study is the ARN studio from Hradec Králové. The jury recommended this design for implementation and stated that Prague can look forward to quality architecture that will give new meaning to the place of memory.
The winning design has been commissioned for further development. In the two years since the competition, three design phases have been created and planned, a new building permit has been obtained and everything is now ready for the redevelopment to begin. However, the redevelopment came to a standstill due to administration issues in 2019. An attempt to combine the resources of the Prague City Hall and the Ministry of Culture, managed by a non-profit organization, reached an impasse.
In the few years since the establishment of the non-profit society, the cultural dialogue around the new Prague Memorial, which provides several dozen commemorative and educational cultural events per year, has also taken shape. It has strengthened partnership relations with other memory institutions at home and abroad, and has begun to define the directions of its educational concept.
The activities of the Shoah Memorial Prague in the old railway station, in an environment euphemistically called “the garbage dump of history”, had their own absurdity and showed the limits of the country’s cultural development. In January 2020 (at the time of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz), Prime Minister Andrej Babiš instructed Culture Minister Lubomír Zaorálek to establish a new state contributory organisation, personally guaranteeing both the funding of its operation and investment in the reconstruction of the memorial.
This was followed by several months spent on a process of inter-ministerial proceedings, government deliberations and decisions, which culminated sixteen months later with the establishment of the new state contributory organisation, the MEMORIAL OF SILENCE.
The year 2021 was thus a time of transformation of the non-profit company into a public organisation which would restart the investment process and also coordinate the design of the broad surroundings of the Bubny station.
Due to the dilapidation of the historic elements of the station building, the non-profit company started the rehabilitation of the visual parts of the original premises and the facade at the beginning of 2021.
In the following months, many practical suggestions have been brought up during a discussion in which the Memorial of Silence is actively involved. After many years of stagnation, in the Bubny-Zátory environment, the finalisation of the metropolitan urban plan, occurred simultaneously with the approval of the local urban-development study and the preparation of the radical redevelopment of the railway corridor which is due to start in 2022. In addition, a tender for building a new structure designed to house philharmonic orchestras has been announced in the immediate vicinity of the station.
In December 2021, the architects of the ARN studio (i.e. the authors of the winning design of the future Memorial of Silence) prepared a visualisation of the coordination study of the immediate surroundings of the Bubny station.
The latest visualisations by the ARN studio are based on the completed study of the urban plan. They envision the cultural use of the space between the platform of the Bubny station and the new railway corridor of the high-speed railway line to Kladno, within the bounds of the surrounding construction and Nicholas Winton Street, a new street with a symbolic name which was chosen by the Memorial of Silence in cooperation with the Prague 7 borough.