In case you’ve ever looked at the Prague skyline and wondered how and why the Žižkov Tower got there, here’s the deal.

The Žižkov Tower was completed in 1992, designed by architect Václav Aulický and structural engineer Jiří Kozák. Aulický’s portfolio of work comprises mostly of post-modern, brutalist looking buildings, including the Zirkon Office Centre in Karlín, and the Česká televize (Czech Television) building in Prague 4. 

It was erected by the Communist regime without a lot of debate because debates weren’t really a thing back then. The tower serves as a hotel, a restaurant, a meteorological observatory, a colocation data centre, and a radio transmitter. 

The restaurant is called Oblaca and arguably has the nicest view of anywhere in the city. Also. there are simple viewpoints on the tower where anyone can admire the city from 93 metres up. 

“A crime against the old town”

Žižkov Tower, Tv Tower, Prague, Zizkov, Architecture
By Guyfromthesky via Pixabay

Critics generally consider the structure as at best out-of-place, and at worst a bit rude towards Prague’s otherwise medieval, fairytale-like skyline. In 2002, Radio Prague interviewed Martin Krise, an architect with the Club for Ancient Prague, who referred to the structure as a “crime.”

“The TV tower is a crime against the old town, or the historical town, as it’s very tall and on the horizon of the town, the value of which is that it has in scale very small spires and roofs and trees and hills.”

Architect Aulický said that the tower was purely utilitarian in nature, and never mentioned anything about purposely trying to undermine European heritage and the social fabric of the Czech Republic. 

“It’s like a bridge or a tunnel. It simply serves a function in terms of radio and television communications. Some people like it, some don’t. The more orthodox somebody is from a preservationist perspective, the more they are against it. On the other hand, the more modernist people are in their outlook, the more positive their attitude to the tower is.”

Idea behind the crawling babies

Photo of the crawling babies by: Raimond Spekking / CC BY-SA 4.0 (via Wikimedia Commons)

When you’re up close to the tower, you may notice black, faceless babies crawling up and down it. These are the work of David Černý, who Aulický admires as an artist. Černý is also the author of “Piss,” which is the two statues urinating into a pool shaped like the Czech Republic in Malá Strana. Perhaps, the most recognizable piece from Černý is Kafka’s Rotating Head outside of the Quadrio shopping center. 

“The idea of putting up the babies was David Černý’s, it wasn’t my idea, I have to admit. David Černý was looking for a place for his babies – ‘computer babies’ as I call them. I’ve got to say I was really into the idea because I like his work a lot. The idea of combining those ‘computer babies’ with a technical building – I can’t imagine anything better! I helped him a lot when it came to actually affixing the babies to the tower, and I really hope they stay there.”

Featured image is by David McKelvey via Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Alex Richardson

Alex Richardson

Originally from Vancouver, Canada, Alex is a writer and trader living in Prague. He likes economics, anthropology, and cactuses.
Alex Richardson