Kafka used the trains often for business, pleasure and travel to other lands. He was particularly fond of going from Prague to Berlin of an afternoon. I have taken the train from London to Prague (and still await my chance on the Orient Express). As with the demise of train travel in North America, and the resulting loss of many grand and historic stations, the same happens in Europe. Those stations of the then suburbs (or even villages) fall into disrepair and get threatened with removal. Since I foresee the day when train commerce will return for economic reasons, I hope many of these stations will be saved.
© Lukáš BeranVyšehrad Train Station
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Waiting to be saved: the state of Prague’s train stations
Organizers hope to show revitalizing train stations will enliven Prague neighborhoods while preserving some Czech architectural gems
by Jacy Meyer
As a place people go to leave town, or welcome someone home, train stations are still often filled with romance and nostalgia. Typically built in enviable areas of town and to a standard politicians of the time wanted to be able to show off; they often become areas of rundown blight – especially if after time trains no longer run through them. But the history and beauty still remain, and in Prague, at least, many are just waiting to be saved.
“There are two important layers to this problem. First in an urbanistic sense,” Tomáš Skřivan from the Czech Technical University’s Faculty of Architecture Industrial Heritage Research Center, told Czech Position. “There are huge unused areas which are in danger of speculative reuse by subjects who are only interested in its instant economical profit, not in respecting the public interest. There is a big danger of missing an opportunity of responsible and quality city development.” He says the second problem is the destruction of cultural heritage.
“Demolition unfortunately occurs in almost all cases of buildings which are not preserved,” Skřivan said. “Developers still don’t understand that these artifacts can serve as important landmarks of their “beautiful” new districts.”
These problems are seen by a broad spectrum of architects, cultural enthusiasts, and increasingly the City of Prague. The topic grew in such importance that on March 8, a one day international conference, Prague Railway Stations Un/Used, was held in Prague. Organizers hope it served as a stepping stone to a broader discussion focusing on the utilization of the railways stations, as well as other industrial buildings in the city.