Five Courts and surroundings
The main architectural essence of the complex is the palace behind the wall. Its complex layout creates a number of courtyards with different proportions and orientations to the cardinal points, with a reciprocal relationship to the city center. At present, the complex is a deaf spot without being integrated into the organism of the city. The building plan has defined five courtyards, each with its own purpose.
The Museum and Justice Courts are for the general public. The central feature of each of the courtyards is a sunken residential lawn that provides space for a variety of activities. Along the wall is a proposed lime tree planting with the underplanting of perennial beds. In front of the courthouse, flagpoles for the national and European Union flags are located to help identify the courthouse.
The inner memorial court is used by the museum exhibition. Rows of Ornamental Plum Trees (Prunus incisa Umineko) are planted in the gravel in memory of the executed and tortured prisoners and as a symbol of hope, the continuation of life, and the act of reconciliation. The tree’s high-set trunk and slim silhouette allow views through the courtyard to the windows of the buildings and up to the sky. The view from the windows of the judges’ chambers and corridors is directed towards the treetops, and they shroud the heavy fate with a new layer of rustling leaves.
The probation court faces the city center and acts as a front for the district attorney’s office and the mediation and probation service.
The service yard serves as the arrival of the judicial guards and court facilities and a protected environment for escorting inmates. Access is from the south side through the existing parking lot where we are considering reorganizing the parking spaces. The courtyard is composed of two elements – stone gravel and newly planted trees. The gravel depicts the courtyard in its rawness, confronting the visitor with the tragedy of the place, echoing the sounds of footsteps, and thus reinforcing the dramatic atmosphere of the site of the original prison and execution ground.
Then, from Commercial Street, which skirts the site closest to downtown, we propose a new small plaza defined by the west façade of the site and a new addition to the block. The open space in front of the site connects to the urban fabric and invites people to sit in the café or enter the museum. The square includes the torso of the monument to the December strike, a fountain with a drinking fountain, and a set of trampolines for children, for example, while waiting for the bus.
For the needs of the SUPŠ, a free multifunctional public space facing Obchodní Street is designed, which offers various possibilities for student use, such as small cultural events or outdoor exhibitions of school work.
The ambivalent relationship between the museum and the functional arrangement of the court was a determining factor in our proposal. The museum commemorates the most brutal time of the then totalitarian regime and the historical memory of the entire site in contrast to the 21st-century courthouse, which offers justice and not fears.
We have tried to make the neighborhood of the two functional units non-violent and to confront visitors and court staff with the story of the prison in an unobtrusive way so that they hardly notice it in their daily activities.
The museum visitor, on the other hand, is meant to experience the encounter with history in a profound way. He is guided through the exterior with the permanent exhibition installed between the wall and the perennial bed, in a second spatial plan. During the journey itself, he gradually uncovers the exhibition and an intense experience of the whole theme takes place. The exposition ends with an inner courtyard as a place of silent contemplation and piety. It provides the visitor with a space in which to let a multitude of sensations reverberate.
The existing buildings do not have the capacity to accommodate the program, with the two-track layout, long corridors, and many small rooms being a disadvantage for some of the spaces. We have proposed additions located in the spirit of the original composition of the site. On the ground floor, the building is newly flanked by a glass extension that extends the entrance spaces to all the operations (museum, court, prosecution and mediation, and probation services) and symbolically opens the building to the public and public scrutiny. The extension contains two wings of filing rooms, symmetrically placed on the site of the former farm buildings. Their slender proportions complement the original building in a non-violent way.