WANDERLUST
 
My Travels

- Whitehaven 2004
- Sweden 2005-6
- Scotland 2006
- Prague 2006 [HOME]
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- Vienna 2006
- Bratislava 2006

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Communist brutalism and Czech modernism

Not only is Prague a clash of the old and new styles, but a melting pot of both sublime and horrific modern architecture. The majority of the city's residents live in a Panelák: a mass-produced pre-fabricated apartment blocks in one of the city's numerous estates.

Aside from the brutal, functional exterior, these buildings can actually be deceptively pleasant. Having lived in one for four weeks, I was impressed with the roominess of these units, and the peace and quiet offered by their thick reinforced concrete panel walls, which give these edifices their names.

High density housing offers the opportunity for residents to overlook green in between each block. Concentrated populations also mean that public transport accessibility is high. Perhaps communism's focus on the inner value of buildings and people was symptomatic of how and why it failed against a more superficial west?

Anyway, Prague does boast numerous modern buildings of architectural note. The Czech flair for design also notably extends to public transport: the Prague Metro (1960s-) and newer extensions to the tram network demonstrate this.

Malostranská metro station interior, several metro stations share this décor Creative design of overhead wire catenery at Sídliště Barrandov
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  1. Malostranská metro station interior, several metro stations share this décor;
  2. Creative design of overhead wire catenery at Sídliště Barrandov;
  3. Subtle but effective detailing at tram stop on Sídliště Barrandov extension

The pièce de résistance of Prague's modern architecture is "Tančící dům" ("Dancing House"), designed by Czech-Croat architect Vlado Milunić in collaboration with Canada's Frank Gehry. It is given the nick-name "the Fred and Ginger building" because the straighter, more regular half is supposed to be Fred Astaire, and the curvy, sleek half Ginger Rogers.

Other modern buildings that caught my eye, for better or for worse, were:

  1. Česká spoŕitelna (bank) offices, Vinohrady;
  2. Some kind of air vent or police watchtower outside Strahov stadium;
  3. The sorry-looking façade of Strahov stadium, the largest in the world;
  4. Český Telekom, Žižkov;
  5. Olympic/Romanesque "victory gates" near Strahov stadium: very communist!

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