How Petrjanda/brainwork completed Prague’s biggest public-space initiative in 30 years

Prague – Culminating a 10-year-long project, Prague’s four-km-long riverfront promenade has been revitalized to include ample public space for cultural programming, completed by studio Petrjanda/brainwork. The 6.5-million-euro renewal – the Czech capital’s largest investment in public space since the revolution in 1989 – focused on the reconstruction of 20 vaults embedded in the riverside wall.  These modular interiors, designed to merge seamlessly with the exterior, will host cafes, clubs, studios, workshops, galleries, a library branch and more.

The work is a pertinent example of how cities can move forward in the provision of public space – especially as the need for such community areas indoors and out has become undeniably clear amid the COVID-19 crisis. These spaces aid in making urban environments more tenable in times like those we’re living in now.

Originally areas for ice storage, the vaults line the Vltava River’s three embankments in Prague – Rašín, Hořejší and Dvořák. Due to the diversity in functions these individual spaces would come to serve, the team at Petrjanda/brainwork had to think carefully about how they’d fit together; they are designed as a ‘detailed’ base, including all necessary operational and technical facilities. Tenants are able to modify the vaults to their needs with furnishings and interior elements.

Petrjanda/brainwork adjusted their own way of working to achieve the community’s goals for the project. ‘As part of the architectural revitalization, we initiated the creation of a programme methodology for the riverfront area,’ explains a representative for the practice. ‘The position of curator was created to complement the functional triangle of manager/architect/curator, with an authority overseeing the cultural and social quality of this valuable public space.’

The intervention keeps with the original architecture of the riverside wall – Petrjanda/brainwork employed the urban acupuncture strategy to incorporate the vault openings. A stretch-metal curtain wall and stone constructions formerly built into the wall’s original arches were demolished; in their place, large-format glazed round windows – 5.5 m in diameter and seven cm thick – are installed. People visiting the vault spaces can enter through these portals, which open by way of diagonal rotation inside the steel frame.


All existing interior elements were removed, swapped for designs and materials that prioritize spatial unification throughout the vaults. Cast-concrete flooring, sandblasted-concrete walls and ceilings and monolithic cast staircases define the spaces. The water infiltration system was replaced, flood-control reinforced base slabs with pumping sumps implemented and the walls insulated and finished with concrete on load-bearing reinforcements. Floor heating, air conditioning with heat recovery and infared heating will make it possible for the windows to remain open year-round, the spaces connected with the riverfront at all times.

Next steps will be the design of street furniture – such as litter bins, drinking fountains and benches – and free-standing toilets. The project will take to the water too: a floating pool – a reference to Prague’s tradition of river baths – terminal for cruise boats and floating toilets are in the works.

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