Charles Square, Czech Republic | 2018 | Shortlisted competition entry
Charles Square (Karlovo náměstí) was the largest town square in Medieval Europe and today is one of the largest squares in the world. The site is surrounded by the city’s iconic New Town Hall, the Czech Technical University and several churches. The client (the Prague Institute of Planning and Development) sought to identify a new vision for the prominent 7ha public space and its surrounding network of streets and to harmonise pedestrian, road, tram and rail infrastructure. The project aimed to transform the square into a ‘versatile and high-quality public space’ where existing natural and historic features were preserved.
Shortlisted as 1 of 5 teams in January 2018, Gustafson Porter + Bowman’s proposals for Charles Square makes sensitive changes to the park’s structure that acknowledge the needs of the city and its population and seeks to transform Charles Square into a flexible, comfortable living room where local people and visitors will choose to spend time. Just as the original design was influenced by Alphand and landscapes such as the Parc des Buttes Chaumont, we responded by introducing a denser path network in the arabesque style that removes existing mud tracks and informal shortcuts through planted areas.
The main axis through the North Park retains the original path layout amongst large planted beds of colourful flowers, whilst the west balcony and grass slopes to the east are restored. To help protect the flower beds and to create a sequence of water tables, we have lifted their forms with a continuous stone bench, providing plentiful seating without the need for additional park benches. The main axis through the South Park retains the original visual axis but allows it to extend as a major pedestrian route to the park’s eastern edge. The central fountain is lifted out of the ground and spills into a sequence of rippled and sculpted rivulets that allow it to become a play feature in summer. The introduction of shared surfaced roads and piazzas on the park’s north and east edges will encourage an interaction between existing buildings and the life of the park, whilst within the park we have placed kiosks along the new east edge promenade where they have a balcony view but do not impose themselves on the interior view corridors across the park.
Altogether, our design reworks the landforms to create better drainage and reintroduce some of the original features in new forms to create bolder spaces. New stone benches and lighting integrated into the landscape help protect newly planted areas and retained trees, whilst safe flexible surfaces for play, events and performance work alongside quiet areas for calm enjoyment and contemplation. The park’s influence is further extended through planted tree lined promenades on its north and south sides, thus integrating the redeveloped park within its historic urban context.