Revitalisation of the Invalidovna Park and Kaizlovy Sady Gardens in the Karlín district of Prague
The project is aimed at revitalising two parks within Prague after they both suffered considerable damage during the floods in 2002, as well as providing the inhabitants of Karlín with leisure opportunities and cultivated green space. The target group is mainly children, mothers with children, senior citizens as well as other residents and dog owners. The project was funded largely by the EU, namely the OPPK (Operational Prague competitiveness programme, which is funded by the European Regional Development Fund). As laid down in the rules of this particular programme, the Prague 8 municipal office funded 7.5% of the project itself, 7.5% was funded by the Prague city council and 85% of the eligible costs were funded by the OPPK.
Issue: green space remained limited and neglected
The Karlín area of Prague 8 suffered enormous damage by flooding in 2002. Over the past nine years most of the houses, office buildings and infrastructure have been rebuilt by means of foreign and domestic monetary aid (European Investment Bank, State Housing Development Fund). At the same time, new housing projects and business parks were built, expanding the local population. Despite these new developments, green space remained limited and neglected. On the basis of demographic research, the Prague 8 municipal office decided to renovate the existing green space in Karlín - the Invalidovna Park and Kaizlovy Sady Gardens, with the aid of available EU funding.
Approach: revamping the park for the people
The damaged and unsuitable vegetation was supplemented by new and dendrologically (meaning the scientific study of trees and other woody plants) valuable trees and plants. The function of the newly planted vegetation is mainly decorative and ecological. However, it also provides relaxation opportunities for visitors. The old playground was enlarged and renewed, while new, certified equipment was installed (merry-go-round, swings, a jungle gym, slide, drawing boards, etc.) to help children develop physical co-ordination, strength and flexibility, as well as providing recreation and enjoyment. Pétanque grounds were also added to provide leisure opportunities for adults and older children.
Both the revitalised parks were designed to fit into the surrounding area of late 19th and early 20th-century housing. The architects were inspired by historical drawings and maps and redesigned the damaged parks accordingly. Both parks were fitted with historical replicas of lamps, benches and bins.
A low-maintenance technologically advanced automatic irrigation system was installed. Security in the area is ensured by CCTV cameras targeting the inside of the parks as well as the surrounding streets.
Results: more visitors to the Invalidovna Park and Kaizlovy Sady Gardens
The success of the project can be determined by increased visitor rates. Official statistical data have not yet been collected; however, the parks are visibly more used than they were before.
Influence of Cohesion Policy: merging the old and grand with the gleaming and modern
It is unlikely that the project would have been realised to the extent to which it has without EU funding. The cost of the revitalisation was high, and the Prague 8 municipal office would most probably have struggled to find funding itself.
One of the largest brown field sites in Prague lies just a stone’s throw away from the parks. For the next twenty years extensive construction will take place in the area, creating a modern living and working space. The two parks will not only add to the value of the area but also add a breath of history to the otherwise highly modern development on the other side of the road, merging the old and grand with the gleaming and modern.
Integrated development: essential to design the parks in order to preserve the cultural heritage of the area
As mentioned above, the project will lie near to a vast new development of housing and office space as well as further leisure areas for the future residents of this part of Karlín. It will also integrate the current flood barrier which has been erected as a result of the floods in 2002. The flood barrier itself is not just a mere stone wall impeding the view of the river, but it is a cycling path elevated to a higher level in such a way that it serves as a flood barrier too.
From the perspective of the conservation authorities, it was essential to design the parks according to historical precedents in order to preserve the cultural heritage of the area. On the other hand the architects and gardening experts wished to create a useful modern space intended for contemporary life for the inhabitants of Karlín. Looking back in history, this was a rather poor area. However, in the 20th century a lot of new bourgeois housing was built, establishing a cultural and social hub in this part of Prague. It was essential to realise the project in tune with the historical value of the area. It has not been possible to plan the parks exactly as the architects originally intended owing to the conservation authorities. However, given unofficial data, the end users seem to be satisfied with the results. Even tropical freshwater fish were added to the small pond.
Spin-offs: revitalising a third park in the Karlín area
There is a park in the Karlín area other than the Invalidovna Park and Kaizlovy Sady Gardens. It is on the main Karlín square – effectively the centre of this particular district. The original plan included the revitalisation of this park too; however, due to unresolved land ownership issues this part of the project was abandoned. These issues have since been resolved, and the Prague 8 municipal office intends to revitalise the third park in Karlín. Currently, plans are being drafted with the intention of creating a modern, exciting and communal environment in the middle of Karlín, including a top of the range playground for local children. EU funding for this park too will be sought.
Added value: working with residents on future improvements
Currently this is the only green space in the area of Karlín which has been revitalised since the floods. The local residents do not have any other opportunities to enjoy some greenery and peaceful space unless they travel to other parts of Prague or out of town altogether. Therefore it was important for the City of Prague to fulfil residents’ idea of green leisure space. The city intends to work with the locals on future improvements of the area.
Lessons learned: essential to cooperate with interest groups
The most important lesson was that it is essential to cooperate with interest groups and various associations in the area. The project was, after all, intended for the end users – the inhabitants of Karlín, their children and pets. It is therefore vital to include their ideas and visions early in the planning stage.
This text relies on helpful commets by Petra Hainzova, Head of Department at Prague 8 Municipal Office.