by Keziah VikranthOct 01, 2023
Čakovice is a small municipal district in the north-east of Prague, Czech Republic. The earliest mention of this village, a mere 1019 hectare in area, is in the 11th century. It has since accumulated a wealth of material and historic culture, evident from some of its most important buildings. Gothic and Neo-Romanseque style churches are converted to Baroque; a Čakovec style fortress is converted to a castle; and the establishment of a 19th century sugar factory leads to an economic boom. The Husuv Park stands in the middle of the Čakovice village square.
The revitalisation of Husuv Park (also called the Jan Hus Park) is a collaborative exercise between Prague-based design studios - Land 05, SKULL Studio, and XTOPIX. The site has its roots, quite literally, in the drained out basin of a historic pond, desiccated around the mid-20th century, during the era of the First Czechoslovak Republic. The restructuring process also involved the decimation of houses at the edge of the pond, leaving behind a silhouette of gabled roofs till as recently as 2020. The memory of the pond and the newly demolished gables is immortalised in this revival project.
The three-pronged revitalisation process includes not just the revival of the
A statue of the Czech philosopher and Church reformer, Jan Hus, forms the focal point of the eponymous park. Behind the statue are seven rows of six apple trees each, symbolising the flames that engulfed Hus when he was burnt at the stake. Enclosed in a cage of bamboo, this grid-like layout of the trees and their accompanying cages give the appearance of a series of repetitive installations in the park.
A pathway, of blackened bricks, annotates the shape of the original pond, interspersed with boomerang shaped concrete benches at the junctions of pathways. Benches and traditional lamps also line secondary paths, with a patch of perennial flower beds. The seasonal variation showcases a range of colours from spring to summer. Additionally, floor lamps are used to illuminate the crowns of trees littered across the park.
Towards the south, a central area is set aside to host small outdoor events, exhibitions, markets and performances. A series of wide steps to the west, together with the multi-purpose area creates an amphitheatre-like space. Beyond this amphitheatre, to the south, lies the water feature abutting the perimeter wall. The event area itself acts as a threshold between the park and the water-feature.
This water-feature, reminiscent of the former pond, is a metaphor for water that is used to extinguish the symbolic flames fronting it. A peripheral rowlock brick pattern inscribed by a horizontally laid stretcher bond pattern raises the water-feature by half a brick. Enclosed within this brick platform, sits the pool - its periodically receding water level reveals the message "The Truth Prevails", carved into the black edge. The brick platform is contiguous with the face of the brick perimeter wall behind it.
The linear wall, rhetorically called "Superpower Wall", lies somewhere in the realm between architecture and sculpture. The English brick bond with alternating courses of stretchers amplifies the linearity of the wall at this public space. The relief work on the wall gets its form from the contours of the erstwhile gabled roofs, reduced to a motif of diagonal lines as sculpture. Portions of the brick courses are strategically extruded to create silhouettes that attest to the presence of a historical context. Matěj Hájek explains this concept: "It’s a memento of what is no longer here, which nevertheless leaves its imprint on the place and time." But the Superpower Wall has another "superpower", a coating of titanium dioxide (a nano-technological transparent coating) combines with UV rays to liquidate harmful substances. The photocatalytic properties of this coating thus clean the surrounding air through this process of liquidation.
The cumulative upgradation of Husuv Park is a cohesive celebration of the context it sits in - natural, material as well as religious.
With a population of 11,500, the district of Čakovice may be considered a blip on the planet, and its narrative- a meta-narrative. But this universal approach of contextualising becomes part of the grand narrative of architecture.
Name: Husův Park
Location: Čakovice, Prague
Built Up Area: 178m2
Landscape Architect: Land 05, Martina Forejtová
Superpower Wall: SKULL Studio, Matěj Hájek