For some drab, unattractive concrete, for other exotic and full of interesting contrasts – what buildings were left behind by the Communist era?
The years between the end of the Second World War and the Velvet Revolution in 1989 saw the creation of both valued buildings and buildings that maybe shouldn’t have been built in the first place. Amongst the former is, for example, the television transmitter on Ještěd Mountain and amongst the latter, the grey characterless buildings with zero imagination, is Restaurace Expo 58.
Tower blocks and ‘Pakul’
The most visible buildings from the Communist era are the tower blocks and vast housing estates surrounding town peripheries. These structures have received a number of unflattering nicknames, from concrete jungles to steel cities. You’ll be lucky to find at least one town without a tower block in the Czech Republic. These structures are, unfortunately, extraordinarily long-lasting and they’ll be with us for a years to come.
The Congress Centre, labelled oversized, was received with mixed reactions, too. The building of the former Federal Congress – now the New Building of the National Museum – at the upper end of Wenceslas Square in Prague, designed by architect Karel Prager, has been called a scar on the face of Prague. At the same time, however, it has its supporters, being a first-rate example of the architecture of its time.
A special status is enjoyed by the Hotel Crowne Plaza, built in the Stalinist style and inspired by similar structures in Moscow; even at the time it was built, it didn’t fit in with Prague architecture and, despite all efforts, still doesn’t.
Structures with and without a question mark
Amongst the structures accepted with minor reservations (but reservations nevertheless) are, for example, the New Stage of the National Theatre, the Kotva department store on Náměstí Republiky in Prague and the TV tower in Žižkov, at 216 m the tallest structure in Prague, which makes up for its shortcomings with its restaurant and terrace with its fantastic view; Praguers have just had to get used to it.
Amongst the best Communist-era buildings in the Czech Republic is the TV transmitter on Ještěd Mountain, awarded the prestigious Perret prize, and the former Expo 58 restaurant in Letná park in Prague, which carried on from the Czech avant-garde tradition.