Many moons back now (but have just rediscovered pictures) I drove with friends from Berlin to see this Space Age wonder, the Jested Tower in Liberec in the Czech Republic. Designed by Czech architect Karel Hubáček it was built as a television transmitter and hotel.
I’d seen a model of the tower in the brilliant ‘Cold War Design‘ exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London in 2008 and since then had been itching to see it, so was thrilled when friends from Berlin agreed to drive us there, to Liberec a town near the northern border.
The tower was surprisingly high up with spectacular views. It was quite thrilling to start to see it appearing through the trees like a Bond villian’s lair…
The tower has received a range of accolades, including being voted the most successful domestic architectural work of the 20th century by Czech architects and the transmitter being listed by UNESCO.
Karel Hubáček wanted to design buildings that could “survive morally for a long time without affecting the tastes of the next generations” and pioneered the design of a single structure to house a hotel and television transmitter. It’s shape was a rotating hyperboloid made of reinforced concrete, which had not yet been used in architecture. The form was chosen to extend the silhouette of the hill and to cope with the extreme climate at the mountain summit. The design process took place between 1963 and 1966, with construction finished in 1973.
The form of the tower led to later recognition from the prestigious Auguste Perret Award who cited it’s “harmony associated with the surrounding landscape, sophistication of silhouette and resourceful use of construction means”.
Once up close, it was striking how space craft-like it looked, like it had just landed.
Unfortunately it was a grey day so these pictures aren’t the best, here is a nicer one (source: wikipedia) on a blue sky day!
Once inside, it was super to see that lots of the original Space Age fittings were still in place. Interiors were designed by Otakar Binar (b.1931) who also worked on some high profile cinemas and theatres in the country. The hotel and the restaurant are located in the lowest sections of the tower, with some super views and cosmic styling.
The tower is 1012 metres above sea level and was so high up that felt like we were hovering and floating serenely in the air at times
Loved finding this old postcard on the Hotel Jested website showing the tower in it’s retro glory
Hearty Czech food….which we swiftly aborted mission on, abandoning it for reliable chips.
Before we left, we snuck upstairs to look at the hotel and were cheered to see some stylish reproductions of 1960s style egg chairs and lights, all in keeping with the era it was built in.
A last look at the view before we started on the descent.
I really recommend a trip to this little visited region of North Bohemia for a backwater budget break with some oddball sights. Formerly inhabited by Germans, after the war the entire 3 million German population was deported and it was resettled by Czechs from outide the region, meaning it still has a slightly deserted feel to it (which to me always makes somewhere more interesting). Eastern Europe often reliably delivers on striking colours, inpenetrabe languages of intrigue, strange signage and juxtapositions and this region was no different
Intriguingly, many shops and houses in nearby towns seemed to have some kind of puppet in the window. We focused on not finding it sinister.
Some super colourful Eastern Bloc blocks too
This sleepy region is also great for walks, nature, interesting rock formations and fairytale castles, with very few tourists and low prices as a result. We stayed in these very cute wooden huts by a lake which cost peanuts.
Really recommend a Modernist jaunt to Jested if you fancy exploring a sleepy unusual corner of the Czech republic as a contrast with the tourist masses of nearby Prague.
Hotel Jested has very reasonable rates for retro rooms with a view, starting at around £67
Liberec can be reached by bus from Prague in about 1 hour 40, or driven in just over an hour.