The Radost building - the landmark of lower Žižkov with its rich history was inaccessible to people for a long time, until a group of investors bought the building in 2019. What are their plans with the long neglected place? We asked one of the owners, Martin Louda, who also has an executive function and is responsible for the development of the building and its future.
Why did you decide to invest in this building?
Radost is a unique building in an utterly unique location. In my eyes, it has a huge potential that has not yet been fully realized. As a Žižkov resident, I feel a great historical debt to this place and I firmly believe that we will now be able to be at the origin of something really special. Lower Žižkov has long been unfairly ignored by Praguers. Now, with our involvement, it comes to life and the Radost building should, in our opinion, become the center and landmark of this area. So for us who bought the house, it is a huge opportunity to help this location with further development… and perhaps leave a legacy here that our children will be proud of.
You have opened the building to the public after many years of serving as a labor unions headquarters. What led you to this?
At the time of its establishment, the building was intended as the seat of the General Pension Institute and its functions corresponded to the requirements of the client. There were offices for about 1,000 officials, company apartments for the managers and shops and services for employees. After the Second World War, the owner changed, until the house gradually became a closed colossus without dynamics and function for the neighbourhood. This is wrong from our point of view. A landmark in such an amazing place simply asks to become a living cultural and social center of lower Žižkov, which is beginning to change after many years. Therefore, it would be a shame to leave such an exceptional building, which right fully belongs to the architectural avant-garde, inaccessible to the public. So, ofcourse, our first goal was to open Radost to the public.
What can we currently find in Radost?
Office spaces, which we offer to young companies and start ups, still form a large part of the space, other spaces are offered as studios for artists. At the same time, a large part of the offices are still used by tenants from labor unions that owned the building in the past. There are also apartments and commercial spaces on Seifertova Street and at U Rajské zahrady street. However, we plan to modify all spaces so they meet current needs and standards of the 21st century and ideally serve for the next 100 years. A unique place is the scenic roof terrace with a bar, which is run by the famous owner of various Prague cafés Ondřej Kobza. On the ground floor you will find a remarkable functionalist café, where we organize various exhibitions and openings in cooperation with The Chemistry Gallery and a PageFive bookstore. In cooperation with Aerofilms and the Spectaculare festival, we have opened a boutique cinema in the former Přítomnost congress hall, which can also be used as a modern multifunctional hall for conferences, concerts or private parties.
What does it mean, to meet the needs of the 21st century?
The building was completed in 1934, almost 90 years ago. Offices, flats, areas for leisure activities and entertainment, and business premises were built here. We also need all this today. But our lifestyle has changed, we need different equipment, different infrastructure. At the same time, for example, people were not much concerned about energy consumption at the time. That's a big topic nowadays. The current energy use of the operation of the building is unsustainable and the ecological burden for the city is also high. Not only do we have huge costs for heating and cooling the building, but additionally, the building is a huge source of thermal radiation to its surroundings.
Of course, we make partial modifications, which are limited by the fact that the house is a cultural monument. However, a complete revitalization of the building, which we would like to start within five years, is inevitable. Not only so that all offices and apartments meet today's standards, but also so that the operation of the house is environmentally and financially sustainable. However, our primary effort is, after years of decay, to restore the building with respect to the authors of the building, architects Josef Havlíček and Karel Honzík, and thus build on the history of the property, not only by restoring Radost to be a building with the latest technology.
The building also includes an adjacent plot of land infront of the Viktorka Žižkov stadium…
Yes, that's right, we manage Náměstí Radost as well. When we bought the building, this land was very neglected, so we looked for a suitable use for it. We tried to get the homeless people out of it and create an area for cultural and social events. But this was met with misunderstanding and complaints. However, this did not discourage us, we still want Náměstí Radost to serve the neighbours, we want cultural events, farmers markets or various seasonal activities to take place there. We found out that this will be a long journey. We want to negotiate with local associations and the town hall, and we will try to ensure that this square fulfills its function, serves the residents and that people do not have to be afraid to go there after dark.
You talk about Žižkov with passion and enthusiasm. Whatis your relationship to this part of the city?
I'm a big local patriot. I have a very strong relationship to Žižkov and its surroundings, because I spent my childhood here and also I moved with my family about two years ago close to Jiřího z Poděbrad Square. That is why I am well aware of what the locals lack and what are the strengths and weaknesses of Žižkov. This is one of the reasons why I will do everything to ensure that Radost starts to serve people from the surrounding areas and attracts the attention of people from other neighborhoods as well.
I am very pleased that there is a gradual development in the lower part of Žižkov and I want the modernization of the Radost building to become a symbol of this change and to return Žižkov back to the area of interest of people who will want to live, work and spend their free time here.
How do you see the buildingin 10 years?
The Radost building and its close surroundings will create a living urban organism, which will become a part of everyday life not only to the residents of Žižkov, but also a popular place for visitors to Prague who want to experience top architecture and be inspired by the unique atmosphere. It will be a place where people live, work, have fun and spend their free time. I believe that Radost will again become the kind of house that its authors wanted it to be - not a dead block, but an airy, lively and passable unit, which gives its neighbourhood exactly what it needs.