Masterplan will make castle fit for major art collection - and refurbish Dvorak’s birthplace

Wright & Wright has won an international competition to redevelop a 16th-century castle outside Prague to create a home for one of Europe’s most important collections of art and artefacts.

The architect will restore the renaissance-style Nelahozeves Castle 35km north of Prague in the village when Dvorak was born. The composer’s birth house is a museum just across the village square and this will also be upgraded during the project.

Wright & Wright has drawn up a masterplan which will transform the castle for the Lobkowicz Collections, which include a family archive and historic library dating back 700 years.

The collections, owned by the influential Bohemian Lobkowicz family, include a manuscript of Händel’s Messiah, covered in hundreds of annotations by Mozart, and 1,500 paintings by the likes of Canaletto, Velázquez, Rubens, Brueghel and Cranach.

They are currently displayed at the Lobkowicz Palace in Prague but the plan is to move them to a new-build library and research centre at Nelahozeves Castle. The castle was returned to the family in 1993 after confiscation first by the Nazis and then the communists.

The masterplan will also incorporate an 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 created and the castle grounds enhanced.

William Lobkowicz said their ambition was to establish Nelahozeves Castle as a key international destination for study, performance and engagement in central European culture over the next 100 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.”