Praha - According to UNESCO's World Heritage Committee, the skyscrapers planned for the Pankrác district in Prague must be lowered, otherwise they would damage one of Europe's best preserved historical city panoramas.
"UNESCO has set the height limit for the new buildings at 60 to 70 metres," Martin Skalský from the environmental NGO Arnika, said commenting on the decision. He added that according to the current plans, one of the planned buildings should be 100 metres tall and another should exceed 80 metres. "This is exactly what we were striving for," Skalský told Aktuálně.cz.
There are already skyscrapers on Pankrác, but the new smaller buildings would optically lower the whole complex. This is what among others the renowned architect and author of Prague's Dancing House, Vlado Milunič, claims.
Arnika have been criticising the plan for the construction of such tall buildings on Pankrác for many years but neither the local Town Hall nor the Culture Ministry reacted. Then, they turned to UNESCO whose officials even came to inspect the situation in Prague.
If Prague ignores UNESCO's decision, it may be withdrawn from the World Heritage List sooner or later.
A binding decision
Czech authorities have not yet commented on the latest news related to the skyscrapers. The UNESCO Committee's decision becomes valid after the diplomatic mail delivers it to the Culture Ministry, most likely in September.
"UNESCO Committee's decisions are binding for the Czech Republic and it must follow them. Otherwise, the Committee may put Prague on the list of endangered heritage sites at its next meeting," says Martin Skalský.
Prague 4 Town Hall recently permitted the construction of two new skyscrapers on Pankrác Plain. The NGO's have appealed against this so that Prague Magistrate is now deciding on further procedure.
"Both the constructing permits should be cancelled. The Czech Republic cannot ignore the voice of a world organisation with which it has signed an international contract and risk its prestige," says lawyer Petr Kužvart of Atelier for the Environment which is also criticising the construction.
In September 2007, also the Culture Ministry agreed with the construction planned by ECM. This approval is now being handled in the court whereArnika filed a case against the construction.
Eight claims for Prague
The UNESCO Committee has defined eight tasks whose fulfilment it wants to check in a year.
Besides setting the maximum height of the new buildings at 60 to 70 metres, it for instance requires strengthening the position of the National Heritage Office whose attitude can currently be ignored by the authorities or passing a complex plan for the maintenance of Prague's historical centre.
UNESCO is offering the expansion Prague Heritage Reserve and wants to be informed about all the other projects that could disturb the historical panorama.
How tall will Ice Tower be?
The plan for the construction of another skyscraper is being born at Prague´s Pankrác, though. The company of the same name, Pankrác, wants to build an administrative building called Ice Tower close to the tall buildings criticised by UNESCO.
The National Heritage Institute ihas been firmly opposing the plan saying it is an absolutely unsuitable project.
"From the point of view of monument preservation, the project is unacceptable," says the statement available to Aktuálně.cz. UNESCO's decision should concern also Ice Tower which should be 80 metres tall.
"Our fears have been confirmed. More skyscrapers on Pankrác would have a negative impact on the historical centre. We expect politicians to find a way to eliminate the danger," Marie Janoušková of the NGO, Pankrác Initiative, says.
The Czech Republic in UNESCO:
1992: Prague, Český Krumlov and Telč historical centres
1993: Zelená hora Holy Shrine
1995: Kutná Hora historical centre
1996: Lednice-Valtice area
1998: Holašovice village; Kroměříž Chateau and gardens
1999: Litomyšl Chateau
2000: Holy Trinity Column in Olomouc
2001: Villa Tugendhat in Brno
2003: Třebíč Jewish Quarter and basilica