The “Prázdné Domy” (Empty Buildings) civic association grew out of the negative emotions that we all feel when we come across a decaying building in the city or the countryside that clearly has seen better days. Or when we watch a chateau slowly turn from stately residential manor into a ruin. What is most frustrating is the loss of cultural history, but we also begin to ask questions of an economic nature: How is it possible that, at a time when rents are rising to astronomical levels, some residential buildings in the middle of the city have remained empty and unused for decades? Prázdné Domy was founded not just to find answers to such questions, but also to foster debate and to show positive examples of good practice. Besides operating a database of empty buildings, the group also organizes tours, outings, and other public events related to this issue.
We discussed the reasons why some buildings continue to decay, and look at possible solutions such as the temporary lease of empty buildings for community events, cultural purposes, or housing. Along with our invited guests, we talked about how empty buildings, when properly used, may help to revitalize a city – or how they can drag a city down by negatively influencing an entire neighborhood. We were also searching for the answers why even city-owned buildings remain empty and whether there exist any city programs that might address this issue.
Why does the City of Prague own empty buildings while it rents out others? Why did it take the city 11 years to open one building from the row of Municipal Buildings for non-profit organizations? Could the state better manage its buildings, and what is preventing the temporary use of decaying buildings? Can we repeat the success of Žižkov Station, the Karlín Barracks, and Vnitroblock? What to do with the empty Invalidovna? How does the state deal with its properties? Is its approach effective? How do they do it in other countries?
These and other questions were addressed in the panel discussion featuring activists and representatives from state and local government.
Moderated by: Petr Zeman (Prázdné domy)
Participants: Nisan Jazairi (Iniciativa pro Invalidovnu), Petra Kolínská (City Council of Prague), Kateřina Nohelová (Prázdné domy) Matěj Velek (Kasárna Karlín), David Skála (Containall)