Wright & Wright Architects unveils master plan for major transformation of historic castle and grounds near Prague

The Lobkowicz Collections in Prague include paintings by Canaletto, Velázquez and Rubens, and manuscripts by Beethoven and Mozart; the project also includes the renovation of the Birth House of composer Antonín Dvořák

Wright & Wright Architects today unveiled the master plan for the restoration and redevelopment of Nelahozeves Castle near Prague, Czech Republic, for one of the most important collections of fine and decorative arts, arms and armour, musical instruments and manuscripts in Europe. The announcement follows on from the practice’s success in winning a major international design competition for the project earlier in the year.

The design focuses on the renovation and transformation of Nelahozeves, a Renaissance castle built in the Italian style, for the Lobkowicz Collections, which include a family archive and historic library dating back 700 years. The comprehensive nature of the artefacts, manuscripts and other items in the various collections provide a fascinating insight into the cultural, social, political and economic life of Central Europe over more than six centuries.

The master plan will incorporate a newly-built archive and international study centre, as well as a state‐of‐the‐art orchestral performance space linked to enhanced public and private areas within the Castle, which will be refurbished and transformed for a variety of supporting functions, including foyers, seminar and study rooms, rehearsal spaces and a restaurant. New storage facilities for the Collections will also be delivered through the master plan.

The Dvořák Birth House, which is a museum dedicated to the Czech composer, is sited just across the village square from the Castle. Also included in the master plan, this will be renovated and transformed into an interactive museum, with new residential accommodation for visiting scholars arranged around a courtyard at the rear.

This ambitious and exciting new phase of the Castle’s development will add to an historic continuum distinguished by the outstanding contribution the Lobkowicz family has made to European culture to date.

William Lobkowicz said:

“We see the Nelahozeves Castle project as a phoenix rising out of the ashes, with enormous potential to become an international centre for the history and culture of Central Europe. We want to build on our family’s role as enlightened patrons of the arts over many centuries and make these unique collections available to students, scholars and enthusiasts from all over the world.

“We are delighted to be working with Wright & Wright Architects who bring a wealth of experience in working with archives and historic buildings. Our ambition is to establish Nelahozeves Castle as one of the key international destinations for study, performance and cultural engagement over the next hundred years.”

Clare Wright, partner at Wright & Wright Architects, said:

“We are honoured to have been selected for this internationally significant project and excited at being able to draw upon our wide‐ranging experience of restoration and redesign of sensitive heritage buildings and apply it to Nelahozeves Castle. Our approach will be founded on bringing the existing ensemble of buildings back to life through carefully considered new patterns of use and relationships, augmented – where appropriate – by contemporary additions of high architectural quality. This is an amazing opportunity to enhance Prague’s position as one of the leading European cities of culture and heritage.”

The Lobkowicz Collections include approximately 1,500 paintings with works by Brueghel the Elder, Canaletto, Velázquez, Rubens and Cranach; an historic library of over 65,000 volumes including an illuminated 9th-century Gospel Book, and a copy of Handel’s ‘Messiah’ annotated by Mozart; an arms and armour collection; a porcelain collection; and archives preserving the details of the Lobkowicz family from the 14th century onwards. The Collections will be re‐housed in a sustainable, secure and contemporary archive at Nelahozeves Castle.

The master plan and redevelopment of the Nelahozeves Castle and Dvořák Birth House sites – both of which are within the ownership of the Lobkowicz family – form part of a wider, ambitious programme to catalogue the existing collections, introduce additional displays and exhibitions, develop new education programmes, digitise the Lobkowicz Collections’ inventory system and launch a new website to support research. It is also hoped to enhance facilities for the various festivals held annually in the castle grounds, with a particular aspiration to grow the number of classical music concerts aimed at attracting international audiences.