About KK

The Kar­lin Bar­racks are a place where peo­ple of dif­fer­ent ages and walks of life can meet and spend time togeth­er. It is a cul­tur­al oasis, free of visu­al smog and only a few min­utes from the cen­tre of Prague. There is a cof­fee shop here, a cin­e­ma, a sand pit, a gallery, a camp­fire pit, a bar with a club and thriv­ing cul­tur­al and social life.

The premis­es were opened to the pub­lic for the first time in June 2017 dur­ing the cel­e­bra­tions of the 200th anniver­sary of Karlín.

If you want to learn more about the his­to­ry of the bar­racks or about our activ­i­ties, just grab a drink and make a tour of the exhi­bi­tion in the courtyard!

What does Kasár­na Karlín’s future look like?

Our enter­prise has been endan­gered sev­er­al times. Since the spring, we have had to deal with ten­ders that aimed to rent Kasár­na as a com­mer­cial busi­ness, and it was not clear whether we would be able to con­tin­ue. What is the cur­rent situation?

We have a signed loan agree­ment with the state (that owns Kasár­na) until March 2022. Until then, we can the­o­ret­i­cal­ly con­tin­ue as before. At the same time, the state tried to lease Kasár­na twice com­mer­cial­ly in a ten­der. How­ev­er, the con­di­tions are so unfa­vor­able that none of them end­ed with the sign­ing of a con­tract with the win­ner. We did not par­tic­i­pate in these ten­ders. Pay­ing a com­mer­cial rent would mean the end of our enter­prise, which aims at prices low­er than those usu­al in Kar­lín, the devel­op­ment of Kasár­na and host­ing events for only a vol­un­tary admis­sion. We’ve already offered greater finan­cial involve­ment. How­ev­er, the rel­e­vant amount of rent is unre­al­is­tic for us. Although the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion is uncer­tain, we have the sup­port of both the pub­lic and politi­cians, and we believe that we will be able to stay here for at least anoth­er two years.

There­fore, many thanks to all of you who come to us reg­u­lar­ly: every cof­fee sold, beach vol­ley­ball game or cake pur­chased allows us to open Kasár­na for you every day!

The Kar­lín Bar­racks as seen by Matěj Velek, the head of our team:

What peo­ple or groups fall under the name Kar­lín Barracks?

The Cul­tur­al and Social Cen­tre Kar­lín Bar­racks is oper­at­ed by the NGO Pražské cen­trum z.s. (Prague Cen­tre) that con­sists of a team of approx­i­mate­ly fif­teen peo­ple of dif­fer­ent occu­pa­tions and pro­fes­sions (pro­duc­ers, dra­maturges, jan­i­tors, man­agers, pub­lic rela­tions peo­ple and secu­ri­ty guards. There is also a large num­ber of exter­nal col­lab­o­ra­tors, such as peo­ple from the legal ser­vice, accoun­tan­cy, graph­ic design or IT. The atmos­phere of the place itself is cre­at­ed by the bar­tenders, baris­tas and of course all the wage work­ers and volunteers.

What expe­ri­ence do you have?

In 2013 Diana Vávrová and I cre­at­ed a cul­tur­al cen­tre at the Freight Train Sta­tion Žižkov, which we ran until the end of the 2015 sea­son. In this way we have put a vir­tu­al­ly unknown func­tion­al­ist build­ing list­ed as his­tor­i­cal­ly impor­tant on the hypo­thet­i­cal map of Prague. But our work was lat­er appro­pri­at­ed by the direc­tor of the Nation­al Film Archive Michal Bre­gant and we had to leave the train station.

How is it pos­si­ble that an NGO gets to man­age the hugest build­ing in Karlín?

It was a com­bi­na­tion of sev­er­al cru­cial and unre­peat­able cir­cum­stances and also thanks to our rep­u­ta­tion and expe­ri­ence with huge premis­es list­ed as his­tor­i­cal­ly impor­tant. But let‘s take it chrono­log­i­cal­ly: in 2014 the Min­istry of Defence can­celled a dis­ad­van­ta­geous sale. In 2016 the bar­racks were made over to the Min­istry of Jus­tice who want­ed to build a palace of jus­tice here. At the begin­ning of 2016 I was approached by Petr Vil­gus, the vice-may­or for Prague 8, about the idea of a tem­po­rary use of the for­mer bar­racks premis­es. He arranged for me to meet with the then Min­is­ter for Jus­tice Robert Pelikán, who gave the project his sup­port. After that we pre­pared a plan for the use of the premis­es as a cul­tur­al and social cen­tre. It took a year to nego­ti­ate the con­tract conditions.

What exact­ly falls under your man­age­ment and how long is the con­tract for?

Our orig­i­nal aim was to man­age the whole premis­es, includ­ing the so-called old bar­racks build­ing. At present we have a con­tract until the end of 2020 for the so-called new build­ing and the court­yard. We are still nego­ti­at­ing the exten­sion of the con­tract and the inclu­sion of the old build­ing in it. Keep your fin­gers crossed then! We have big plans! Yet already the area now in use has cost us a lot of mon­ey and ener­gy. I still can­not believe the amount of work we achieved in only one year. We equipped the for­mer army cin­e­ma with the tech­nol­o­gy for dig­i­tal pro­jec­tion and we mean to bring back here pro­jec­tion from film­strips. The for­mer army gym became the Kar­lin Stu­dios Gallery. The garages were turned into a club used espe­cial­ly for live music con­certs and for small­er the­atre plays. We also built the back office for the bar and a suf­fi­cient num­ber of bath­rooms. What demand­ed the most work was to make acces­si­ble the for­mer pool and cre­ate a cof­fee shop in the for­mer chang­ing rooms. And then there is the whole court­yard on which we are now focus­ing again before the begin­ning of the sea­son. We hope it will become even more hos­pitable and wel­com­ing to all our visitors.

Do you have any cre­do, set of rules or val­ues that you want to observe as to whom the Kar­lin Bar­racks should serve?

What we want to do is show that the use, even tem­po­rary, and acces­si­bil­i­ty of unused build­ings can ben­e­fit both the own­er– be it a state, a state-owned com­pa­ny, a city, etc. – and the gen­er­al pub­lic. The state saves mon­ey and the pub­lic gets a spe­cif­ic type of civic facil­i­ty of clear­ly region­al sig­nif­i­cance. We take pains to make the place acces­si­ble to the pub­lic in the broad­est sense of the word: we keep entrance fees and prod­uct prices on an afford­able lev­el and we also organ­ise free-entry pro­grammes. We are cre­at­ing a place devoid of visu­al smog — the Bar­racks are an island with­out ads. We oper­ate with max­i­mum con­sid­er­a­tion, we recy­cle matériel and are rig­or­ous in waste sort­ing. How suc­cess­ful we are in all of this will best be judged by each vis­i­tor her/​him self. Accord­ing to what we see and hear, we have found the gap in the mar­ket”. We are hap­py to see peo­ple return to us and sup­port us in what we are doing for improv­ing the qual­i­ty of life in the city.

How do you finance the project?

All the ini­tial pay­ments were done by the pri­vate mon­ey me and my wife had. We had to bor­row from friends and secure finan­cial and mate­r­i­al sup­port from our busi­ness part­ners and we count­ed every crown. The post­pone­ment of invoice pay­ments was a big help too. Our main sources of income are the cof­fee shop, the bar and the refresh­ments. That is why we keep explain­ing to peo­ple that they shouldn‘t bring their own food and drink here. To put it sim­ply, every cof­fee sold helps us cre­ate a bet­ter and more acces­si­ble Bar­racks for every­one. And this year we also received grant mon­ey from Prague 8, from the City of Prague, from the Min­istry of cul­ture and from T‑mobile‘s Talk togeth­er. This cov­ers the clean­ing of the court­yard, the run­ning of the cin­e­ma dur­ing the autumn and win­ter months, the music dra­matur­gy and a research project on the his­to­ry of the Bar­racks, or maybe the whole of Kar­lín and its com­mu­ni­ties. In coop­er­a­tion with Prague 8 we are plan­ning a huge exhi­bi­tion about the his­to­ry, the present and the future of the Kar­lín Bar­racks. Inter­views with wit­ness­es will be a part of it.

What will you do when every­thing is finished?

I would like to know that myself! But seri­ous­ly there is still a lot to be done and it is amaz­ing what so few peo­ple can man­age and still enjoy it and that we have still not giv­en up. It still is only a tem­po­rary ven­ture and none of us has a pen­sion plan in the Bar­racks. One day we will have to leave here, will­ing or not, and the whole thing will end. The deci­sive force is the speed with which the project of the recon­struc­tion and con­ver­sion of the bar­racks into a palace of jus­tice will begin. If it is in ten years, it will be a hypo­thet­i­cal time­line for us as well, of when our enthu­si­asm will run out and the joy turn into rote. It sim­ply must ful­fil us or we can­not do it as well as up until now. What is key now is how fast we can pay off all the debts and when the moment comes that we can real­ly focus all of our atten­tion on the pro­gramme. And we still haven‘t giv­en up on the plan to use the his­tor­i­cal build­ing of the bar­racks. And that would be a big step to take.

Matěj Velek, 2. 4. 2018