International: Demolition Threat in Prague: Transgas by Ivo Loos, Jindrich Malátek, Václav Aulický, Jirí Eisenreich

Demolition Threat: Transgas
by Ivo Loos, Jindrich Malátek, Václav Aulický, Jirí Eisenreich, structure Juraj Kozák and Josef Tomášek, interior design Ivo Loos, Jan Fišer, Josef Vrana, Prague, Czech Republic, 1965-1978
“Former telemetric control center  of International gas pipeline Transgas and administrative department of The Ministry of Fuel and Energy, situated in the center of Prague, near the National Museum, Main Railway station and Czech Radio Headquarters, at the border between Vinohrady neighborhood and New Town of Prague (gps 50°04´42.8″N, 14°25´59.9″E).  The objects are arranged into urban micro-landscape, which accommodates the former enclosure of block, and left it open and accessible to the public. The overall architectural approach is an unusual mixture of well-designed High-tech details with the ideas of the New brutalism and maybe a touch of post-modern flavour.

Nowadays the site is going to be demolished and rebuild. Some experts appreciate the outstanding design and architectural quality of buildings and the rare performance of experimental tendencies in urbanism; in contrary the other condemn the settlement as an inappropriate relict of past era, and a blemish of historical town. The strong campaign against the demolition runs since the summer 2015. After more than two years of negotiations on heritage protection, the Minister of Culture ended the case without resolving – facing the threat of proceeding for the lost profits from the owner, investor of the future administrative building.

Administrative buildings and Gas-pipeline control-center were built up after architectural competition in 1966. First proposal has been redesigned along to the conclusion of contract for gas-transmission from USSR to the West Europe in 1970. The towers became the seat of The Ministry of Fuel and Energy, and an object of telemetric control station was added at the lower plateau. The final construction was carried out during 1972-1978.

The building ensemble consists of tree (four) objects, shaped differently in the respect of supposed function, seated in an elaborate urbanistic micro-landscape of stairs and terraces within the sloping building-plot. The low stony block in front line of the main street is telemetric control-station of international gas pipeline “Bratrství” (The Brotherhood). Regarding the purpose – the case of the most modern computer engine – was developed a special structure: the computing block is casted with heavy stone veneer, made of usual cobblestones (as symbolic reminder of barricades in Vinohradská st.) and lifted at four subtle, sculptural shaped supports. Under the heavy levitating block hangs a glassed cylinder of the control office. Underneath was left free passage to stairway to the upper terrace.  The aim of this demanding design was to suspend the vibrations of the traffic, and provide the computer lab with appropriate conditions. At the back of the lot, behind the low control-station, there are rising two identical administrative towers. In contrary to heavy stone-cast, these were made of glass and steel. Silver subtle towers are crowned with dark top of roof lobbies, casted in dark corten-steel, echoing once more the effect high-raised burden. Nevertheless, the height of the towers took account of adjacent National Museum and the view from Wenceslaus Square, and was reduced to 33.7 m. Each tower has 9 levels as demanded, thanks to the elaborate construction. The special steel frame structure with one middle and eight peripheral beamers made of cor-ten, with the ceiling height just 60 cm, employs Vierendel beam-steel girder for each two floors, what allows to achieve four vacant open space levels and levels with traditional disposition with supports as well. The last building of the set, stands back to the blind firewall of Czech Radio at the west edge of the lot. The tiered levels of glass façade, are displaying a reflective screen of the whole. The top of this building is once more crowned with an extraordinary sculptural figure of the ventilation terminal.

The objects are arranged on the two-leveled plateau with the business parterre, connected by open galleries and stairs. The place was conceived as a lively public spot with the straight connection to Wenceslaus Square nearby. The motif of gas pipeline unifies the allover design of the site, whereas the massive pipe serves as a decorative element of handrail, as well as a connecting bridge between control station and the towers. The same motif of pipes was used for the interior design as well, within the shape of furniture. The only piece of art, which has been realized, is the recessed fountain in the back corner of plot and the main staircase in the Ministry tower, both works of Ivo Loos.”

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