Endangered 20th-Century Historic Monuments
The State preservation of historic monuments in the Czech Republic also pays attention to the architecture of the 20th century. In the last five years, from a total of 1711 declared non-moveable cultural monuments, 230 were of the 20th century. Despite the fact that they represent our 'youngest' architecture, these monuments include a number that are endangered and at risk. The reasons for this are varied:
- insufficient or inadequate maintenance (especially a failure to take an inclusive approach);
- long-term non-utilisation of the monument;
- property legislation problems;
- inappropriate use by the owners;
- inappropriate use and interventions that damage the monument (sometimes irreversibly), change its appearance, and in the case of a group of monuments alter the appearance and atmosphere of the whole environment;
- speculative intentions;
- lack of financial resources for restoration of the monuments - not only of the 20th century.
Within the limits of these problems, the officers working for the State preservation of historic monuments fight a more or less successful battle to save the monuments.
The architectonic monuments of the 20th century that we will discuss can be divided into two groups according to their function and use.
1) Residential, Social, Administrative and Cultural Buildings
We will first mention examples of monuments that are individual dwellings, which share the common risk of being left unused over several years. Without protection, facing the potential for vandalism, they fall into disrepair and their structural and technical conditions deteriorate quickly.
The villa land-registry No. 1200 with an area in Celákovice
This is an excellent and unique example of a Functionalist villa in central Bohemia, the seat of the owner of a factory. The project of Karel Janu and Jirí Štursa was implemented in 1939. Apart from the above-mentioned risks, the intention of the owner is to build other residential houses in the area.
The villa land-registry No. 111 in the area of the farm yard in Libodrice
An example of Cubist architecture by Josef Gocár, it was built in 1912-14. Its present-day new owner is considering the reconstruction of the building as smaller flats.
The new château in Ratbor
According to the project of one of the founders of Czech modern architecture, architect Jan Kotera, the chateau is a quality work of Modern Movement architecture of 1911-13.
The villa land-registry No. 502 in Plzen - Lochotín
Built by architect František Beneš in 1921-2 as his family home, the villa is an example of exceptionally successful architecture, preserved until today almost in the original condition. The present owners are considering demolishing the structure to basement level and building a modern family house, referring to the bad structural and technical condition of the villa.
The villa land-registry No. 974 in Dvur Králové nad Labem
The villa was constructed by the influential architect Josef Gocár in 1920-24 as a representative seat of the owner of a textile factory. Apart from the above-mentioned threats, the wooden structures are attacked by house fungus due to water leakage. It is anticipated that the owners are less than concerned with the preservation of the villa, and more interested in potential land speculation and the economic advantages of the plot.
The settlement of Bata's small houses in Zlín
This is a unique document of the rapid growth of the town connected with the foundation (in 1894) and quick development of the footwear industry by the genial entrepreneur Tomáš Bata. Together with the construction of modern factory buildings, equipped with new technology, he broad-mindedly designed dwellings for the workers as well. The large number of houses that had to be built is attested by the fact that in 1910-1938 the number of inhabitants of Zlín increased by about 40,000 (its quick growth encourages comparisons between Zlín and Detroit, USA). The first workers' settlement was built as early as 1912. The first regulatory plan was elaborated by architect Jan Kotera, who was called in to work with Tomáš Bata, for the town with 8000 inhabitants. In 1932 architect F.L. Gahura elaborated the plan for the town with 100,000 inhabitants, designed as a vast settlement of family homes with a rectangular or oblique street scheme. First, many settlements and housing quarters were built on the periphery of the plant and the town. After the creation of Greater Zlín (1931-33), housing was also constructed in the territory of five surrounding villages that became its consistent part. At thebeginning of the 1920s, they were one-storeyed quadruple plastered dwelling- houses with roofs; later the buildings were semi-wooden small houses of square type with roofs, and also attached small houses. From 1924 the houses were mostly double dwellings without roofs, and from 1927 double dwelling houses of unplastered facework. From 1928 the small houses were built in series with the walls only 30 centimetres thick, which did not provide sufficient thermal insulation. The characteristic design of the houses is of simple prisms of facework, without roofs, without details, built in small grassed plots (gardens) with trees. Only five small houses from all Bata's houses have been declared cultural monuments, the others are only protected within the framework of the municipal zone of historic monuments.
The threats to the small houses include inappropriate alterations by the owners, especially by thermal insulation of their exteriors; replacement of windows with plastic ones; superstructures, extensions by adding bathrooms, small rooms, garages; building different sheds and shelters in the gardens; by casting concrete in the terraces and garage places; and replacement of hedges with unsuitable fencing. So, gradually, not only is the characteristic appearance of the houses changing, but also the total appearance and atmosphere of the various settlements. The interest of the town in co-operating with monument protection is limited - on the contrary, the intention is to cancel the declared municipal zone of ancient monuments.
The settlement of villas Baba in Prague 6 - Dejvice
From the architectonic and urban points of view, this settlement is a unique set of Functionalist architecture of villas in Bohemia, built on the basis of the regulatory plan of 1928 by architect Pavel Janák under the participation of a number of foremost Czech architects (J. Gocár, L. Machon and others). As with Zlín, the settlement is endangered by the activities of the owners. Also, this settlement is protected as a zone of ancient monuments in which the law allows the authorities for preservation of historic monuments to intervene only with the exteriors of the objects.
The collective house land-registry Nos. 1580 and 1581 in Litvínov, the so-called 'Koldum'
Designed and built in 1946-58 by architects V. Hilský, E. Linhart, Ing. Dimitrijev and Ing. Kostrov, under the influence of the Soviet Avant-Garde, the house is a significant example of an experiment in dwelling, together with a similar smaller house built in Zlín. It has a symmetrical ground-floor plan with two flat nine-storeyed wings connected by a lower middle part in which are located a boarding house, a nursery, crèche, canteen, cultural rooms and clubs, laundry, hairdresser and other services for the inhabitants. The residential complex was built for about 1400 employees of the chemical combine in Záluží u Mostu. After many years of non- performance of common maintenance, the overall wear of all structures is evident. Moreover, the middle part was damaged by fire in 1984. In any case, the complex is endangered: unless the financial means for total reconstruction are successfully ensured, the building will continue to fall into disrepair. If gradual modernisation and restoration are started, its value as a monument will be destroyed by haphazard interventions - for example, during the installation of thermal insulation, or the replacement of non-typical windows with common types of frames, most probably plastic.
The Grand Hotel land-registry No. 275 in Hradec Králové
Together with the former cultural hall (later the so-called Palm Garden) and object land-registry No. 295, the hotel is the work of the early Modern Movement of the decade before World War I, prevailingly by the noteworthy architect Jan Kotera (1911). The former hotel complex is doubly endangered: in the long term it is without utilisation, without maintenance, falling into disrepair, and there is leakage; it is further at risk from the intentions for new utilisation, with an inadequate management programme, that exceeds the capacity of the architecture in question, and proposes enormous interventions in the original fabric and structure.
The Barrandov Terraces in Prague 5 land-registry No. 165 - Hlubocepy
This is an excellent architectonic and urban composition of the area of the restaurant with the terraces and the observation tower, and a Functionalist building by architect Max Urban of 1927-30, which includes a swimming pool with stands and a jumping tower at the foot of the Barrandov Rock. The area, which was built as a leisure centre for 3000 persons, has not been utilised in the long-term; it has been without maintenance or security; moreover, a part of the complex was burnt out some time ago. The result is that it suffers from constructional and technical disrepair. So far there are insufficient financial resources for its restoration.
The Skyscraper, the administrative building of Bata's plants in Zlín
The dominant structure of the town is the first document of the Functionalist architectonic monumental movement in Czechoslovakia. Following the design of architect V. Karfik, it was built in 1936-7. It is a 77.5-metre-high 16-storeyed building of iron-concrete structure with ledges of facework. The building has three staircases, one paternoster and eight lifts, one of which is the mobile office of the chief, T. Bata, with a refined interior preserved reverently until today. It also has a lift for washing the exterior windows, hung on a trolley track. The building was heated and ventilated by air-engineering equipment and it was equipped with pneumatic mail. The intent was to avoid any stoppages and to ensure efficient administration and management of the plant. Also partially preserved are the original furnishings and wooden wall-lining of the representative rooms. In the past two years the building has been almost without utilisation. This valuable architecture is endangered by the prepared superstructure and replacement of the windows and other arrangements, according to the elaborated study that does not respect instructions for the preservation of historic monuments.
2) Industrial Monuments
In the course of the 20th century there was an essential development of industry; as a result, today, there is a considerable number of endangered industrial monuments.
Since the revolution in 1989, mining activity has gradually decreased. The problem has arisen as to how to make use of the abandoned mining areas, and especially the operating buildings. Some of them represent quality architecture built in the style of Art Nouveau and the individualist Modern Movement, with perfect hand-made details. We have discussed this problem previously in the two earlier Heritage at Risk reports. Particular examples (the original names of the mines are given) include:
- in the Kladno coal-mining area - the operating machinery of the Wannieck Mine in Kamenné Žehrovice;
- in central Bohemia - the František Josef Mine in Dubí u Kladna and the Schoeller Mine, with the unique preserved head frame of the Tomson type;
- in northern Moravia - especially the Hlubina Mine, the coking plant and blast furnaces of Vítkovice;
- in the Ostrava - part of the coal-mining area the Alexander and Terezie Mines;
- in the Karviná - part of the Gabriela, Habsburg and Alpienenschacht Mines.
As examples in the railway field we mention, at least, the assembly of the rack railway with operating buildings at Korenov-Tanvald, called 'Zubacka' (cog-wheel railway). In the area of the station Korenov the most endangered are the workshops and locomotive shed, the roof structures of which are already collapsed. Efforts are continuously exerted to cancel their declaration as cultural monuments and achieve a subsequent demolition. The intention is the sale of the material (also the historical rails) abroad. The protected route of the railway, 6564-metres long, overcomes the height difference of 235 metres in this relatively short distance; it has four tunnels, the longest of which is 940 metres. It is the single functional non-electrified rack railway with normal track gauge in Europe. This unique structure is 100 years old this year - it is continuously endangered in its existence.
The old departure (western) building of the railway stop Plzen-Jižní predmestí (the Southern outskirts) in Plzen was built in 1904 in the historicizing style with elements of Art Nouveau. It has been closed since the reconstruction of the eastern building in 1980; without utilisation it falls into disrepair and Ceské dráhy (the Czech Railways) considered its demolition. In the second half of the 1990s, with a contribution from the preservation of historic monuments, its membrane roofing was repaired. However, there are no financial means for the total restoration. Occasionally, exhibitions and theatre performances are organised on the site.
Another highly endangered area of industrial heritage is represented by examples relating to the textile and food industries (the sugar industry, brewing industry and slaughterhouses). In the 20th century in the CSR these industrial complexes were of the highest international level and, at the same time, they document the high architectonic standard of architecture in our country. With the changed political and economic situation, a number of plants have had difficulties and some have even gone into liquidation. Examples include:
- The Textile plant (dye works) in Chrastava built in 1905-7, preserved until today in an almost intact form. It is presently without utilisation.
- Endangered due to a similar reason are the sugar factories in Dymokury and in Bedihošt with preserved valuable technological equipment, extensive areas of the slaughterhouse in Aš (they fall into disrepair without utilisation), in Kraslice (endangered by demolition) and in Moravská Ostrava (it is not clear from the behaviour of the present-day owner, as to whether or not liquidation is a blessing rather than a problem as there may be land-sale advantages).
- Demolition is considered also in the case of the power plant in Prague-Holešovice.
- A very interesting area is Ledárna (the ice-making plant) in Prague-Bráník, built in 1909-11, which served its purpose till 1954 and then it was used as warehouses. The present owner intends to demolish this unique monument and build a supermarket with a tower building in its place.
In connection with industrial monuments we consider it necessary to highlight that not only real property monuments are endangered, but also the moveable assets, such as technological equipment, which regularly disappear yet form an inseparable part of the cultural heritage.
There are positive examples of successful restoration of the architecture of the 20th century:
the Villa Winternitz in Prague 5 by architects Adolf Loos and Karel Lhota and one of the most
significant national cultural monuments; Obecní dum (the Municipal House) in Prague, by
architects Osvald Polívka and Antonín Balšánek, built in 1905-12 in the style of Prague Art Nouveau.
It is a popular cultural centre of Prague with the main concert hall, exhibition halls, representation and cultural
parlours, cafes and restaurants. Indeed, its restoration was financially demanding but extremely successful.
ICOMOS Czech Republic
The 2002 Floods and their Impact on Built Heritage
The disastrous floods, which surpassed all expectations and all records in history, hit a vast area of the Czech Republic territory. Approximately 505 villages and towns were floode
d, including about 40 historical sites, whose historic cores are protected as conservation areas. Two of them, Prague and Ceský Krumlov, are listed on the UNESCO World Heritage
List. These important towns, together with the town conservation areas of Ceské Budejovice, Plzen and Terezín suffered most, not only in terms of threats to cultural monuments. In five
regions of the Czech Republic the Government declared a state of emergency during the floods, which enabled extraordinary measures to be taken. These regions were: Prague, Central
Bohemia, Southern Bohemia, Western and Northern Bohemia. Southern Moravia was also affected, but to a lesser extent.
Prague has kept precise records of historical floods since the 18th century. This year’s flood was greater than the big 1890 flood, when the well-known Charles Bridge partly
collapsed. The flow rate of the Vltava River by far exceeded the previous 100-year flood level. Hydrologists statistically estimate that the water reached a level corresponding to
a 500-year flood. On 14 August 2002 at about 1 p.m., the Vltava River level peaked in the Prague borough of Chuchle, reaching the level of 785 centimetres at the flow rate of 5300
m³ per second. This was more then 36 times the average water level of 66 centimetres. The long-term average flow rate is 145 m³ per second. The 100-year flood rate is 3700 m³
per second. The preliminary gross estimate of the damage incurred is EUR 2-3 billion, of which Prague is supposed to have suffered losses of about EUR 330 million..
Because stone, bricks and lime had been preferred for use in the Czech region in building works from the Middle Ages and the less-durable building technologies
(half timber or timber buildings, raw bricks) had not been used too frequently, historical towns, as well as other components of our built heritage, have survived the floods in
surprisingly good conditions. Fortunately, only a few really important monuments with valuable artistic decoration were damaged in a serious way. Generally speaking, the
major problems include water-logged walls and structures, which should be dried in a suitable way, preventing further damage from frost in the winter season.
For the preservation of the authenticity of historical buildings, the period after the floods is, perhaps, even more risky than the disaster itself. Big problems started when the contractors and producers of building materials took their opportunity to extract money from the situation. They started fierce campaigns, offering the owners of flooded buildings their services and products. They are very busy persuading them to make the repair of the affected buildings, not in a minimal-necessary scale, but encouraging radical reconstruction. They are offering to strip out all plaster, to replace wooden elements such as floors, windows, doors - in many cases even ceiling timbers - with steel, plastic and other modern materials. The financial help given by the State to the victims of the flood even accelerated this process. The badly needed money was and, even now, is often wasted on unnecessary interventions, which are depriving the traditional buildings of their former beauty, authenticity and feeling of age.
The position of professional conservators in the process of elimination of flood damage has not been an easy one. In a short time after the flood, the State Institute for the
Preservation of Cultural Heritage, along with the Society for the Technology of Conservation of Monuments and the Scientific Society for the Sanitation of Historic Buildings
and Monuments, organised colloquia and meetings of specialists to discuss how to treat buildings affected by water. With the participation of the best specialists from the
Technical Universities in Prague, Brno and Ostrava, as well as our most experienced conservators, these societies produced booklets containing useful know-how and practical
advice on how to treat affected buildings considerately, with full respect to their material authenticity. The booklets were distributed to all concerned State and municipal
Nonetheless, in the after-flood excited atmosphere, on the verge of hysteria, these activities failed to work. In some wishful, non-objective articles in the newspapers and other
media, conservationists were described as notorious trouble makers who were making the uneasy, sometimes tragic situation of citizens deprived by the flood of all their
property even more difficult. Our well-meant technical advice was frequently taken as an ‘undue’ or even ‘impertinent’ interference in the owner’s rights and interests. We have
practically lost our struggle with building contractors and their massive publicity. Finally, because we have found no support among the State authorities, including the Ministry
of Culture, our part in the after-flood recovery of the country nearly collapsed. We have been allowed to focus our efforts only on the handful of first-rate monuments in the
possession of the State. In not very frequent cases, after difficult negotiations, we are able to cooperate positively with municipal authorities when municipal property is
concerned. The same is the situation with churches. In the case of private proprietors we have become practically powerless.
The results of this situation are sometimes rather sad: a number of fully reparable traditional buildings pulled-down without sufficient reason and hundreds of non-listed
traditional buildings mutilated by the ‘reconstructions’ mentioned above. The listed buildings are at similar risk, some of them already severely damaged by inconsiderate
A very dangerous after-flood process can be observed in some big cities: real-estate speculation. At best it can be demonstrated in the case of Prague’s quarter called Karlin.
It is a valuable town-planning unit - the oldest historical suburb of the city, founded at the very beginning of the industrial revolution in the 1830s. The built-up area of the
quarter was formed partly in the neo-classic genre, partly in the revival and Art Nouveau styles. The quarter was flooded completely and a couple of its buildings, originally
built of cheap materials, collapsed. Because the quarter is situated in the very centre of the city, its building lots are in most cases much more valuable, in commercial terms,
than the buildings standing on them. Many owners and developers, who wish to invest in the region, are now trying to put their houses into the category of so called
‘irreparably damaged structures’. It would result in the situation that the inhabitants of the houses will be transferred into compensatory municipal flats and the owners
will be allowed to pull the houses down and replace them with bigger ones, serving no more as residential housing (with State-regulated rents), but as more-lucrative offices,
commercial buildings and parking.
The State conservators strongly oppose this process. Our specialists in building construction are doing their best to prove that most of the buildings in question are
fully reparable. Our historians are drawing attention to the irreplaceable artistic and town-planning values of the Karlin quarter as a whole and to the architectural
quality of most of its buildings in particular. The whole case is not yet settled-down, but after some recent sad experiences I am by far unconvinced that we shall
win the battle.
Our monitoring of the damage caused on the stock of historic buildings by the flood, as well as by the after-flood demolitions and bad repairs, is not finished yet
by any means. We are now thinking over the question of how to prevent the above-mentioned impact of floods on the cultural values of our heritage; and which
preventive measures to take and what practical conservation ideas to promote and disseminate to make future floods less destructive to the values we are responsible for.
It is not an easy task and we would be grateful to the international community for the intermediation of any good ideas and experience in that aspect.
For your information we have prepared a brief survey of the most important and historically and artistically valuable monuments damaged by the flood.
Monuments Damaged by Floods in August 2002
Region of South Bohemia
Ceský Krumlov, Historical Core of the Conservation Area
The historical core of Ceský Krumlov is one of the most complex town cores from the mediaeval Gothic and the Renaissance period. The historical core of the
town was listed on the UNESCO List of World Cultural and Natural Heritage in 1992. About 150 historical buildings in the historical centre, mostly burgher houses,
were flooded twice. Some houses were flooded up to a height of 4 metres. Expected cost of renovation: EUR 6,385,000.
Ceské Budejovice, Historical Core of the Conservation Area
The town was founded by Premysl Otakar II about 1265; it is enclosed in an irregular oval of walls and water fortifications. The houses surrounding the large square are basically in the mediaeval
Gothic and Renaissance styles, featuring continuous arcades. In August the whole conservation area of Ceske Budejovice was flooded twice, up to a height of 1.5 metres. A total of 146 historical
buildings was affected. Expected cost of renovation: EUR 1,300,000.
Ceské Budejovice, Dominican Monastery and Virgin Mary's Sacrifice Church
This is one of the most important monuments of the early Czech mediaeval Gothic period, founded in 1265; Petr Parlér took part in the building of the monastery chapel in the 14th century.
The monastery was remodelled in the Baroque style. The floors partially collapsed due to the flooding. The walls are endangered by moisture, static defects appeared, the church
furnishing is also damaged. Expected cost of renovation: approx. EUR 170,000.
Stará Hlína, Inundation Bridge
The inundation bridge is a masonry bridge dating from 1781, historically located in the Trebon pond system. A part of the inundation bridge collapsed; it is necessary to reconstruct the bridge
pillar as well as two bridge spans. Expected cost of renovation: EUR 270,000.
Pond System of Trebon
This is a unique technical monument consisting of a Renaissance system of ponds, including the largest Czech pond. The overflows, outlets and dam crowns, as well as bodies in the ponds
Rožmberk and Svet were damaged; as were the old bastion of Rožmberk and channels in outlet ditches. The parts of the channel in Zlatá Stoka were affected. Expected cost of renovation:
The bridge at Pisek is the oldest mediaeval Gothic stone bridge in Bohemia with Baroque sculptural decorations from the period after 1250. The bridge was completely under water, the
breastwork walls made of square granite stones and one of the Baroque statues collapsed due to the flood. About 250 square stones and the damaged statue have already been retrieved
by divers. Expected cost of renovation: EUR 240,000.
Písek, Holy Trinity Church
The Holy Trinity Church is a Gothic and Renaissance cemetery church dating from 1549-76. The plasterworks and historical moveable objects, including the pulpit from the early Gothic
period, were damaged by water; parts of the cemetery walls as well as many tombs collapsed. Expected cost of renovation: EUR 85,000.
Blatná, Historic Country House and Park
In the 16th century the well-known architect Benedictus Ried participated in building the castle fortifications and the Gothic and Renaissance palace. The country house was flooded to
the height of 1 metre; the cellars were completely under water and the northern façade was destroyed. The park was also damaged. Expected cost of renovation: EUR 100,000.
Cervený Dvur, Historic Country House
This early Baroque country house, originally from the late 17th century, is characterised by a large park and is presently used as a sanatorium. The whole historic country house area
was flooded three times. The park was completely under water (30 trees uprooted) and the country house was flooded up to the height of 1 metre. The plasters, gate and interiors were
damaged. Expected cost of renovation: EUR 170,000.
Lnáre, Historic Country House
This early Baroque historic country house from the period after 1650 includes excellent stucco and fresco decorations and a Renaissance palace, originally from the 16th century.
The enclosure walls, which have Baroque sculptural decorations, at the entrance of the country house were completely destroyed. The cellars, ground floors and chapel with wall
paintings were flooded. Walls in the sala terrena are endangered by moisture. Some trees in the park were uprooted. Expected cost of renovation: EUR 120,000.
Majdalena, St. Mary Magdalene Church
The St. Mary Magdalene church is a Gothic church dating from 1397-1400. The plasterworks, floors and moveable objects were damaged. The Majdalena site was one of the most
seriously hit localities in Southern Bohemia. Expected cost of renovation: EUR 40,000.
Strakonice, Castle and St. Procopius Church
This Romanesque palace (originally an early Gothic castle), was built mainly in the second half of the 13th century. The Romanesque St. Procopius Church, featuring Gothic wall
paintings from the period around 1340, is located in the castle area. The flooded castle area is being cleaned; it will be necessary to repair the plasterwork and floors. Expected cost
of renovation: EUR 35,000.
Sobeslav, St. Mark and St. Vitus Churches
The St. Vitus Church in the Gothic style dates from the late 14th century, and the early Baroque St. Mark Church dates from the period about 1650. In both churches it has been
necessary to repair the plasters and floors. Expected cost of renovation: EUR 50,000.
Vyšší Brod, Cistercian Monastery and Assumption of the Virgin Church
This is an excellent early Gothic monument; the monastery was founded before 1259. The broken pond in the monastery garden damaged the adjacent terraces; a general reconstruction
of the monastery garden and pond will be necessary. Expected cost of renovation: EUR 60,000.
Region of West Bohemia
Cervené Porící, Historic Country House
This early Baroque historic country house was founded in 1611. The roofs were damaged after heavy rainfalls; static defects appeared. Trees in the park were uprooted, the park was
muddied. Expected cost of renovation: EUR 30,000.
The Romanesque and Gothic Benedictine monastery and Virgin Mary Church were founded in 1115. The church was remodelled in the Baroque Gothic style by the great architect J. B.
Santini. The roofs were damaged by heavy rainfall. Expected cost of renovation: EUR 26,000.
Lužany, Historic Country House
This Renaissance historic country house is originally from the late 16th century, rebuilt in the pseudo-Renaissance style by the important Czech architect Josef Hlávka (1831-1908).
Repair works are necessary. The Baroque enclosure wall collapsed; arbors, memorials, Baroque gate, bridges and mill-race supporting walls were damaged. The garden an
d park were damaged by water and mud. Expected cost of renovation: EUR 60,000.
The Cistercian monastery was founded (probably) in 1144; the great architects J. B. Santini and K. I. Dienzenhofer participated in its Baroque rebuilding. Masonry, carpentry and roofin
g works are necessary due to the floods. Expected cost of renovation: EUR 42,000.
Plzen, Conservation Area
This centre of West Bohemia was heavily hit by floods. As many as four rivers burst their banks in the city. A total of 43 monuments were flooded in the city, some of them in the
Gothic style, mostly the burgher houses, but also the Romanesque St. Jilji Church, town walls and gardens. Static defects affected some buildings; the walls endangered by mo
isture need drying; numerous buildings need renovation of the floors and ceilings. Expected cost of renovation: EUR 2,474,000.
A total of 25 monuments were flooded at Sušice, mostly of mediaeval Gothic origin, including the Town Hall, St. Wenceslas Church, and town walls. There are necessary repair works t
o be done; the static defects affected some structures. The sculptural decorations and moveable objects in the church are damaged. Expected cost of renovation: EUR 190,000.
This is the best-maintained water castle in Bohemia, dating from the late 15th century. A repair of the roof after heavy rainfalls is necessary; static defects affected the structure. The
castle courtyard needs cleaning from silts, and field and garden works are needed. Expected cost: EUR 90,000.
Prague, the Capital
Prague is estimated to have suffered losses of about 330 million EUR.
Prague 1 - Malá Strana (Lesser Town)
The Nostic Palace - an important Baroque palace from the 17th century - features rich decoration of its interiors from the first third of the 18th century. Since 1999 the Palace has been
subject to extensive conservation efforts, which were to be completed this year. The Palace was flooded up to a height of 0.5 metres. Consequently, all wooden floors in the ground fl
oor were destroyed, the walls were waterlogged and the wooden doors were damaged.
The following palaces in Prague 1 (Lesser Town) were damaged to a similar extent: Wallenstein, Fürstenberg, Lichtenstein, Buqoi, and the Great Priory (of the Maltese Order).
In the Krocov Building, which is the seat of the Institute of Archaeology at the Czech Academy of Sciences, a large library was flooded and destroyed - including the archived
documentation of archaeological research from 1945 to the present. The archives included not-yet-published information about expensive field research and this loss is irrepla
Prague 1 - Old Town
The following synagogues were flooded up to a height of 1.5 metres: Old-New Synagogue, Maisel Synagogue and Pinkas Synagogue. In addition to the wet walls, the decorations and
memorial inscriptions in Pinkas Synagogue were partially damaged.
The St. Agnes Convent, the well-known early Gothic convent founded in 1233 by St. Agnes, is used at present for exhibition purposes by the National Gallery. The buildings of
the convent and the church were flooded up to a height of 2 metres. Masonry, plasterworks, floors and equipment providing for the operation of the gallery were damaged.
In Old Town, the cellars of most historical buildings, which form an important part of their heritage value were also flooded. In addition to the cellars with Gothic vaults, the
unique Romanesque cellars from the 12th century were also flooded. These cellars form the ground floors of the stone Romanesque houses, unique in this part of Europe, t
hat in the 13th century had been incorporated into the newly built houses of the Gothic town.
Prague l - New Town
The St. Peter Church Na Porící was originally a Romanesque church, rebuilt in the mediaeval Gothic style in the 14th and 15th centuries. After flooding to the height of 1 metre, the entire floor
dropped and moveable objects were heavily damaged.
Prague 8 - Karlín
In the historical quarter, the St. Cyril and Methodius Church, an important work of the neo-Romanesque architecture by Ignacius Ullmann, was flooded. Water rose to the height of 1.6
metres and the wall paintings and all moveable objects were damaged.
Several residential houses in Karlín collapsed; the state of others are being assessed, and more forced demolitions are expected (approximately 30 houses). Flooding of the Hotel
of Invalids was a severe cultural loss as the hotel is an important Baroque building designed by the excellent architect K. I. Dienzenhofer from 1729-30. The flooding of the
building also affected valuable records in the Military Historical Archives and National Technical Museum. The worst loss for the architectonic heritage comes from the
destruction of archives of historical plans, which contained original drawings and plans by important Czech architects of the 19th and 20th centuries (including Zítek, Kotera,
Plecnik, Janák, and Gocár).
In addition to the damage caused to the fund of historical buildings, numerous valuable historical gardens and parks were flooded and covered with mud. The most valuable
ones included: Vojan Park (former convent garden), park at Kampa with former Nostic Garden, Wallenstein Garden in the Renaissance style and parks on Prague islets and
embankments. Outside the centre, the historical Baroque garden at the Troja Historic Country House was devastated (fortunately, the damage caused to the country house
was only minimal), as well as the former Royal Game Park, later on the public park called Stromovka. The flooding of Prague Zoo in the neighbourhood of Troja Historic Country
House was a heavy loss.
Region of Central Bohemia
The Gothic and Renaissance fortress from the second half of the 14th century and a Baroque mill together form the seat of the Regional Muse
um of Central Bohemia. The buildings were flooded, including their second floors; the valuable museum collections, library and archives, as well as important technical equi
pment of a country-wide operation - the conservation irradiation workshop (the only one for cultural institutions in the Czech Republic) and equipment for plasmatic metal reduc
tion (donated from the Swiss government) - were damaged or destroyed. We need financial assistance for renovation of the monument itself, collections and archives, and of the irr
adiation workshop, as well as a new generator for plasmatic metal reduction (such a device is not available in the Czech Republic). Expected cost of renovation: EUR 500,000.
Dolní Berkovice, Historic Country House Area
This early Baroque historic country house, dating from 1606, was rebuilt in the pseudo-Renaissance style. The entire area was flooded. Some floors, doors and windows (includin
g shutters) were destroyed, and plasterwork was damaged. Static faults appeared. Moveable objects in the historic country house chapel are damaged. The park, including enclosur
e walls, is devastated. Expected cost of renovation: EUR 300,000.
Libiš, St. James Church
The important mediaeval Gothic St. James Church, built before 1391, has preserved wall-decorations and mediaeval Gothic wall paintings from the late-14th century. The church was fl
ooded to the height of 1.7 metres. The wall paintings need restoration. The moveable objects were waterlogged and damaged. Carpentry and shingle-roofing in the belfry are damag
ed. Expected cost of renovation: EUR 50,000.
Horín, Historic Country House Area and St. John of Nepomuk Church
This was originally a Baroque hunting lodge, built about 1696, according to the plans by the excellent Italian architect G. B. Alliprandi. It was later remodelled twice, with its valuable
Rococo interiors dating from the years 1760-63. The entire area was flooded. Lower parts of the buildings were under water and covered with mud, especially the church, where floor
s and moveable objects were damaged. Trees in the waterlogged park were uprooted. Expected cost of renovation: EUR 670,000.
Libechov, Historic Country House and Park
This important Baroque building by the excellent Czech architect F. M. Kanka was built about 1730, with a park established in a formal style and decorated with numerous sculptures. The histor
ic country house was flooded to the height of 3.5 metres. Very valuable wall paintings by the well-known Czech painter Josef Navrátil (1838-43) are in a critical state. Univ. Doz. Dr. Ma
nfred Koller, head of the restoration workshops in the Federal Office for the Preservation of Monuments in Vienna, was asked for a personal visit and an expert consultation on t
he restoration process. A valuable park (approximately 10 hectares) was devastated and covered in mud. Suitable wall driers are necessary in addition to financial assistance. Ex
pected cost of renovation: EUR 1,700,000.
Veltrusy, Historic Country House Area and Landscape Park
This important work of the high Baroque period from the first half of the 18th century was probably designed by the important architect F. M. Kanka or by G. B. Alliprandi. The landscape p
ark (approximately 300 hectares) includes many romantic follies in neo-classical, Empire and Gothic Revival style. The park has been combined with an ornamental farm (ferme ornée),
which is unique in Europe, and a fallow-deer park. The Veltrusy Historic Country House was flooded to the height of about 1 metre. Interior plasterwork in the ground floor, wall pai
ntings and valuable decorations in the sala terrena were damaged. Richly decorated interiors on the second floor (including wall paintings, Rococo wallpapers and walltextiles) are
endangered by moisture through capillary action. The landscape park is completely destroyed. The layer of soil from dozens of hectares of the area were washed away, as
well as several metres from the height of the historic flood-control dike. The landscape park was silted with metres of sand and gravel (more than 2
00,000 cubic metres on the area of 30 hectares of the park). Hundreds of trees were waterlogged and uprooted, all plants were killed. In particular,
financial assistance would be necessary. Expected cost of the historic country-house area renovation: EUR 6,470,000.
Všestudy, so-called Red Mill in the area of Veltrusy Historic Country House
The building is in the pseudo-Gothic style from 1795. The building, as well as the historic house and all pieces of architecture in the landscape park were damaged; the walls and floors
were waterlogged and muddied, and static defects have appeared. Expected cost of renovation: EUR 300,000.
Region of North Bohemia
Terezín, Fortress Town
The town was established by Joseph II in 1780. The original fortifications are based on the Baroque fortification systems of the 17th century; they have been retained almost all around
the town in the form of a large oval ring with star-shaped projections of pointed bastions. Terezín is the most important and largest post-Vauban fortress in Europe. During the August f
loods, Terezín and its surroundings were flooded to a height of 3 metres; a lake (20 x 8 kilometres) appeared. The huge damage includes the historically valuable underground protection syste
m of the fortress. The reconstruction of its parts (for example, the inlet and outlet watergates from the river Ohre) and the system as a whole would save this unique technical monument and
prevent further flooding. Costs of renovation of the entire fortification system: EUR 10,000,000.
Decín, Bridge with St. Vitus, St. John of Nepomuk and St. Wenceslas sculptural group
This stone bridge is in the late-mediaeval Gothic style. It dates from 1564-69 and includes a sculptural group by the excellent sculptor M. J. Brokof, which dates from 1714. One of the pill
ars was damaged by the flood and the bridge statics were affected. Expected cost of renovation: EUR 100,000.
Krešice, Visitation Church of Pilgrimage
The high Baroque chapel from 1708-12 was expanded in 1729-32. Octavio Broggio was the architect in both cases. The church was flooded to the height of 3.5 metres. The side altars an
d main altar were under water. All moveable objects were damaged. Expected cost of renovation: EUR 100,000.
Libotenice, Area of St. Catherine Church
This unique Baroque church from 1703 is attributed to the important architect of Litomerice Town, Octavio Broggio. The church was flooded to a height of 2.3 metres. The enclosure walls p
artially collapsed. The set of sacral statues was also damaged. Expected cost of renovation: EUR 100,000.
Pocáply u Terezína, St. Adalbert Church
The St. Adalbert Church is an important work by the excellent Baroque architect K. I. Dienzenhofer from 1724-26. The church was flooded to the height of 2-2.5 metres. Floor dama
ge is apparent; static defects are possible. Expected cost of renovation: EUR 167,000.
Prosmyky, St. Francis´Chapel
This unique chapel dates from 1762-63. The chapel was flooded to a height of 3.1 metres. Serious static faults appeared, the murals are damaged as well as all m
oveable objects. Expected cost of renovation: EUR 100,000.
Štetí, Area of St. Simon and Juda Church
The church is in the late Baroque style, built in 1785. Church foundations at the sidewall were undermined, plasterwork, stone components and moveable objects are damaged.
(Following major reconstruction, a grand reopening of the church had been planned for August 17, 2002). Expected cost of renovation: EUR 110,000.
Ústí nad Labem, Area of St. Adalbert Monastery Church
The St. Adalbert Church is an important Baroque monument from 1731, built by the excellent architect of Litomerice Town, Octavio Broggio. The church was flooded to a height of a
bout 0.5 metres, the monastery up to 1 metre above the floor level in the ground floor. All doors in the ground floor are damaged and the wooden floors in the
entire ground floor are destroyed. The monastery garden, including its enclosure wall, is also damaged. Expected cost of renovation: EUR 67,000.
Region of South Moravia
Jaromerice nad Rokytnou, Historic Country House and Park
This Baroque representative historic country house belongs to the largest and most monumental stately houses of the first half of the 18th century in the Czech Republic and in Europe.
The historic country house had been rebuilt from an original 14th-century fortress into a Renaissance and, later on, Baroque building. The floods mostly impacted the park and bridge.
Expected cost of renovation: EUR 40,000.
Valtice, Historic Country House
This large Baroque representative residency is a part of the Lednice-Valtice Cultural Landscape Area, which was added to the UNESCO List of World Cultural and Natural Heritage in
1996. Originally a mediaeval castle from the 12th century, it was rebuilt into a Renaissance historic country house. The floods undermined the supportive wall. Expected cost of
renovation: EUR 16,000.
Appeal for International Support for Terezín following the Flood on 15-17 August 2002
The future of the fortress town and Holocaust National Memorial after the tremendous damage caused by the flood depends very much on the possibilities and opportunities for urban
conservation, development and revitalisation. A world-wide effort is necessary. The scenario of a National Memorial in an abandoned and unused town must not be allowed to become
The fortress Terezín (Theresienstadt), founded by order of the Habsburg emperor Joseph II in 1780, had never had to be defended militarily. The first siege in the course of
its history occurred on August 15-17, 2002, when water from the Labe (Elbe) River reached a height of 151.5 meters above sea level. The inhabitants of the fortress town, which lies 150
meters above sea level, lost their battle against the rising water: the town and the citadel were occupied by the floodwaters of both the Elbe and its tributary the Eger. Water reache
d a height of up to 1.3 meters in the town and even more in parts of the fortifications and surrounding municipal territory.
Experts have determined that only repair and reconstruction of the historic fortress and its original defensive water system, in combination with adaptation to modern needs
, will ensure against further destruction by future flooding.
The Terezín fortress town is considered to be one of the last and most completely preserved examples of the art of fortification building and garrison town planning in the tradition
of Sébastien le Prestre de Vauban. The citadel and the main fortress town are an integral historic unit, designed by General Karl Clemens Pellegrini for the Habsburg empire. Its unique
qualities and significance in terms of architecture and town planning have been overshadowed by the site’s history from 1941-1945, when the fortress town was turned into a Holoc
aust ghetto during Nazi occupation. Before and after this misuse, which is documented by a national memorial with museum, archives and meeting centre, Terezín served as a Czech
garrison town. Only in recent years, since the Czech army ceased military use of the town in 1996, has it been possible to begin detailed study of this historic complex. Through private
initiative in the community extensive sections of the fortifications and casemates had recently been repaired and made accessible to the public. Several international workshops have
produced a digitised inventory of the historic fortress buildings.
But now, for the first time in its history, the fortress town has suffered severe destruction to its buildings and its urban infrastructure through the siege by the floodwaters.
Terezín and the Holocaust Memorial are now in an alarming state of emergency.
The entire site (about 400 ha) was flooded to a height of at least 1.3 meters. The cellars and ground floors of all the military and civilian buildings were under water, causing
severe or total damage to the interior and exterior plaster, wooden components such as window frames and doors, immovable fittings, furnishings, etc. The technical and social
infrastructure of the town, including the historic military flooding and drainage defence system, water and gas lines, telecommunication systems, kindergarten, school, public library,
streets, etc. suffered immeasurable damage. This is a tragedy that cannot be dealt with by the community alone, with its population of about 1700.
The Terezín Holocaust Memorial has also suffered heavy losses through the damage to buildings, museum inventory and the archives. The national cemetery was flooded.
The cost of these damages is estimated at 60 million Kc. (about 2 million Euro).
As far as could be established without further risk, the fortification system has suffered damages to the rampart and canal systems, to the contergards, the escarpes, the ravelin
s and the casemates. The structural system for the fortifications consists of pier arches linked by an earth embankment, the front of which was armoured by escarpes covered by brick-
work. Six years ago reconstruction of the entire fortress was estimated roughly at a cost of 1.2 billion Kc. (about 40 million Euro). Now the actual costs are even more difficult to calculate.
A detailed analysis of old and new damages is necessary to produce a serious estimate.
In addition regional flood damage and deterioration of the original military flooding and drainage defence system have caused drainage problems in a surrounding area of c. 5-10
kilometres. Repair and reconstruction of this system is urgently necessary to regulate water drainage in the future.
Since the Czech army withdrew from Terezín in 1996 the municipality has been confronted with the immense task of reusing the buildings within the main fortress, which covers
36 ha. This neglected and deteriorated military real estate from the 18th century is being transferred to the municipality without any financial compensation or planning assistance.
The former military buildings, which dominate the townscape and are of special historic interest, have been heavily damaged by the flood. They present an extreme burden for the munici
pality, which cannot be solely responsible for this cultural heritage.
Nevertheless the community’s sense of identity as a historic fortress town has become more and more apparent in recent years. At the same time international interest in
the town itself, especially as a meeting place for young people from the east and west, has grown. Seminars concerning the Holocaust and concerts and activities by the Hans Kr
ása Foundation have contributed to this process, as have local associations dedicated to the history of the fortress and cultural programs initiated by a colony of young artists.
Since the Second World War, conservation law has been applied differently to the area of the Terezín Holocaust Memorial (the citadel) and to the main fortress and town.
Accordingly national and international attention and sponsoring has been concentrated on the memorial. The memorial, with its international visitation, has already provisionally re-open
ed its museums since the flood.
From a conservation perspective, time is needed for proper preparation, analysis and calculation of the repair and reconstruction work. Moreover, the walls of the flooded buil
dings need time to dry out so that conservation work will achieve sustainable results. This need is in conflict with the desires of the inhabitants and the local businesses to return to th
e town as soon as possible, rather than waiting until next spring.
Nevertheless, after some unfortunate destruction involving removal of exterior and interior plaster during the initial chaotic response to the damage, the municipality of Terezín
is attempting to persuade the citizens to cooperate with monument preservation goals and to be aware of the site’s unique historic value.
Special grants have been announced by the state to promote sustainable conservation and reconstruction to save the architectural heritage of national monuments such as
the citadel. The town and the main fortress, in contrast, are listed as an urban reservation and cultural site, which means that fewer grants are available for conservation of privately ow
ned cultural monument buildings. The municipality of Terezín, which has taken over ownership of about half of the civilian houses since the Second World War but collects only a ver
y low rent, is required to contribute a very high share for the reconstruction of its architectural heritage. All the work necessary on the flood damaged buildings, whether in public or pri
vate ownership, is subject to strict conservation regulations. To meet this challenge the municipality of Terezín must have special financial, professional and management support.
Even if the legal status of the Terezín Holocaust Memorial differs from that of the fortress town because of the difference in monument classification, no distinctions should
be made in terms of flood prevention provisions. It would make no sense to protect the memorial separately from the town. The efforts of the Czech conservation authorities are
therefore concentrated on the entire site of Terezín/Theresienstadt. In the last few years proposals have been drawn up to have this historic Habsburg military site with its complex Holocaust
connection considered as a World Heritage Site.
The vision needed to preserve this unique example of our cultural heritage and to restore and reconstruct it after the dramatic flood damage requires interdisciplinary efforts
and international support at a very high level. The Czech conservation authorities will create a documentation centre in the city to house all archival, research, investigative and design
materials; the work that has been done in the last years, including projects involving international participation, will be available there for all experts who wish to share in the conservation and preservation work.
It is necessary to coordinate all the forces at work in the town. In addition, international experts and sponsors are invited to help evaluate the damage to this significant site, to
propose conservation measures and to assist generously with their execution.
To encourage colleagues and other interested people, we can report that in recent years a world-wide cultural network of professionals and friends has developed and become
accepted in Terezín. This place of extreme contradictory experiences and memories has become a centre of serious and warm communication. This should be considered an intangible
dimension of our world heritage which is to be protected, conserved and maintained, as is the physical fabric of this cultural monument.
Contact in Terezín:
Foundation Terezín, Karel Tolde
Contact in Prague:
State Institute for the Care of Historical Monuments, Vladimira Rakosníková
Astrid Debold-Kritter, Berlin, October 2002
Schinkel Centre, Technical University of Berlin