Ješ ted Telecommunications Tower and Hotel
Introduced by Jane Pavitt, Curator, V& A
This is the Ješ ted telecommunication tower and hotel in Liberec, which is to the north of Prague in the Czech Republic.
The hotel is situated on top of a mountain. It was built in the mid-1960s as the telecommunication point of the Soviet state network.
The telecommunication towers were a unique building form of the Cold War. With the advances made in satellite technology after the launch of the Soviet Sputnik in 1957, and the ever expanding electronic network of communications around the world, these structures became necessary. But in producing designs for them, particularly in the Eastern bloc the telecommunications tower could also be used to serve as a symbol of a great technological modernity. They would become a kind of symbol of power and it was a way of establishing that the Eastern bloc had a claim on the technological future, had a claim on this vision of modernity, and I suppose that's why we see structures like this as the essence of Cold War Modern.
This mountain has been a place of local walks and visits for hundreds of years and there had been a structure here pre-dating this futuristic tower in the 1960s, a nineteenth century building that was a hotel and café , a kind of walking lodge really, that burnt down in the early sixties. And so in 1963 a proposal was put forward for an architectural competition to propose a new building that wouldn't only have this leisure function but would also allow the authorities to place this huge aerial effectively, on top of the mountain.
Many local architects, many Czech architects entered the competition. The brief was for a telecommunications tower and a hotel, and most of them responded to the brief by suggesting two buildings. However the winner of the competition, Karel Hubá cek, a very prominent local architect, who was head of the state architecture department in Liberec, proposed the merging of the two functions. So the form of the hotel would be determined by the necessary technological infrastructure for the telecommunications tower.
The building was designed as a tall thin tower, really in the shape of a rocket. It sits on top of a sharp peak and effectively the shape of the tower completes the peak. On the lower levels you have several circular floors that contain viewing galleries for visitors, restaurants and cafes, and then an internal core which holds the services for the building.
There is an upper level with guest rooms all of which have this extraordinary curving window-scape, which is rather like being inside a spaceship.
We selected the Ješ ted tower to be included in Cold War Modern for very particular reasons. Primarily it is probably the most technologically ingenious of all the buildings that we include, due to its extreme location on top of a mountain.
The architects who undertook the commission saw themselves, in a sense, as the inheritors of a modernist vision, a utopian-modernist vision, and in fact borrowing from other industries to complete their visions of these extraordinary space-age buildings.
The reference to the space-age is not only simply because this tower looks like a rocket landed on top of some kind of 'Thunderbirds' landscape. These architects saw science and technology as one of the key drivers of the Socialist economy in the 1960s and this was part of a very widespread vision. That, in the space-age, in the race to compete with the West, to demonstrate progressiveness, to demonstrate coherent vision of the future, then engineering structures, space-age materials, and the language of symbolism of the space-age, could be employed in a building like this.