Mendel Square in Brno is being renovated as part of a larger urban development project. How can a transportation hub be transformed into a vibrant community space while also paying attention to the architectural heritage surrounding the square? CHYBIK + KRISTOF, the architects responsible for the renovation of the square, came up with a solution.
CHYBIK + KRISTOF has already worked on projects in which the preservation of the architectural heritage has been a priority. One such project was the renovation of the Zvonařka Central Bus Terminal in Brno, where all efforts were made to preserve and modernize the structure of the brutalist building. There is no shortage of architectural heritage around Mendel Square either: the Starobrno Brewery, the 14th-century Gothic church of the Basilica of Assumption of Our Lady, one of Brno’s oldest monuments, and the St Thomas’s Abbey can be found here. From 1856 to 1863, an Augustinian friar Gregor Mendel, the namesake of the square, conducted experiments in the garden of this monastery, to his work we owe the foundations of modern genetics. Chybik+Kristof has previously prepared plans for the restoration of the garden’s greenhouse, but they are now extending their work to the entire square.
In 2018, it was the city’s chief architect, Michal Sedlacek, who first proposed the renovation of the square. The Mendel Square, which previously served as a public park, suffered significant destruction during World War II and was renovated in the sixties. It has become a busy transportation hub, but the millennia-old architectural heritage of the place is not given enough attention. The aim of the revitalization is to restore the square to its historic significance while preserving its new, modern functions. The Czech architectural studio, in collaboration with the professionals of Dílna, landscape architect Zdenek Sendler and PK Ossendorf, will start the renovation of the square. According to the plans, they would maintain its openness, accessibility and important role in transportation, but would make it safer for pedestrians. New stops built from recycled materials are planned to ensure smooth transfers between tram, trolley and bus services.
“Our new design brings a contemporary relevance to Mendel Square, moving from a lacking transportation terminal to a functional public space. This site plays a central role for the area and for the interactions within it. Rather than opting for a typical four-sided structure, we unify all functions in a core, inclusive paved circle that redefines the space. Not only is it more intelligible, but it also considers the needs of all possible users—locals and foreigners, passengers and visitors, young and old generations alike,” says Ondrej Chybik and Michal Kristof, the two founding designers.
A more dynamic use of space is facilitated by movable public furniture. The studio also connects the square to the surrounding buildings in its appearance—the aesthetics of the red bricks of the Gothic church are recalled with a strong visual element, the circular red paving stones. As a tribute to Mendel’s work, the renovation also includes the planting of special species of trees that have good water retention and provide shade. A new statue dedicated to the memory of Mendel is also planned. According to the current schedule, the renovated square is expected to be inaugurated in July 2022, on the 200th anniversary of Gregor Mendel’s birth.