November 26, 2013

Socialist Realism in Ostrava

nothing against serbia
Sport Hall Ostrava

Ostrava is the third and most eastern city of the Czech Republic.
Exploitation of high quality black coal deposits during the communist era of Czechoslovakia gave the city an industrial look and the nickname “steel heart of the republic” 
Though many of the heavy industry companies are being closed down or transformed and the city is one of the most polluted in the European Union, the city surprises with some good examples of soc-realist architecture.

Socialist realism in architecture (called SORELA in communist Czechoslovakia) is characterised by monumentalism and historicism seeking inspiration in the Renaissance and Classicism. Many buildings were inspired by Russian Stalinist style, which represented the then-peak of perfection.

In the town center of Ostrava there is a unique display of architecture and urban planning from the turn of the 20th century.

Elektra Palace (side facade)
Soc realism and strange art
The house was built in the thirties of the last century, and has been a cultural and social center since the beginning. In 1996, after a complete reconstruction of the building it was declared a cultural monument. It is now a Hotel.
The spaced out piece of art in front of the building makes an interesting combination with the soc realism statues of the facade!

The House of Fine Arts

The House of fine arts at Jurečkova 9 in the center of Ostrava
In 1923, the Association for the Establishment and Maintenance of an Exhibition Pavilion in Moravian Ostrava was created, and held a design competition. Two second places were awarded, one to architect Kamil Roškot, the other to the team of František Fiala and Vladimír Wallenfels. It was the later submission which was eventually realised in 1926. The House of Fine Arts, built in an unusually original yet simple style, was the most modern building of its kind in the region at the time. 

The New City Hall
The new City Hall at Prokešovo náměstí 8 in Ostrava center
The new building from the 1920's was to house not only the administration of greater Ostrava, but regional offices as well. Brno architect Vladimír Fischer was awarded the contract for the simplicity and balance of his design. His project was later completed by František Kolář and Jan Ruby. From 1925-1930, the new four-storey functionalist building with two three-floor wings and a lookout tower of light steel was built that would come to dominate the centre of Ostrava.
It's the largest City hall in the Czech Republic with the country’s highest City Hall tower (85,6m high with a lookout 72m above Prokeš Square). In the late 1990’s, the building underwent a considerable reconstruction, including the council room and mayor’s office.

 Sorela in Ostrava-Poruba

The Stalin Baroque a.k.a. SORELA a.k.a Socialist Realism in Architecture is what the official style of the Communist era in the Czech Republic was called. A good example is the Ostrava borough of Poruba. 
The ground plan of streets and squares forms a regular pattern full of right angles. Blocks of flats are of the same height and form virtually closed complexes of residential buildings of light sand colour, with the large courtyards typical of Russian urban buildings. The sorela style includes a number of actual or implied Classicist columns and triangular or stepped gables, as well as historicising elements on the facades of buildings, celebrating national motifs and the building of a new country. Despite this, sorela does not have only negative aspects; the positive aspects include spacious boulevards, sufficient greenery and a traditional system of street blocks. Life in Ostrava-Poruba is definitely more pleasant than, say, on high-rise housing estates.
(excerpts from

Air View of Ostrava-Poruba (
Monumental, historicist, symmetrical, decorative and full of Stalinist ideology – this is Socialist Realism, or ‘sorela’.

old industrial building in the Ostrava suburbs

This is the third post of my little itinerary through Eastern Europe Prague-Brno-Ostrava-Krakow-Zakopane-Presov-Beograd.
First post: Soviet Style Architecture in Prague
Second post:Brno Architecture

November 18, 2013

Brno Archtecture

Interesting highrise facade in the suburbs of Brno
Brno is wellknown as the City of Bauhaus, Functionalism and Modern Architecture with the Villa Tugendhat and Hotel Avion as main pilgrim places for architects.
For the enthusiast of functionalist and modern building the following site provides 14 architecture trails to visit the most important works.

House Tugendhad by Mies van der Rohe
Villa Tugendhat from the entrance (visits only by appointment)

Hotel Avion
Hotel Avion how it looks today

Avion Hotel logo by Emanuel Hrbek
Miroslav Kostelecký, a restaurant owner, decided to modernize his restaurant in Česká Street in 1926 and had a new hotel designed by Bohuslav Fuchs built in place of a former ground-floor inn. The architect had to deal with the extremely narrow, originally medieval parcel (8 x 34 m). Fuchs use of a ferro-concrete skeleton resulted in remarkable spatial effects in the interior.

Besides those architecture classics there are some less known buildings that got my attention:

Hotel Intercontinental Brno
This Hotel, once a state run representative house is now operated by the Best Western company. Above the building in an old postcard. 
The dining area how it looks today (with witnesses from the past)
The facade today (source)

Brno–Tuřany Airport Departure Building
View of the Construction of the check-in airport terminal Brno-Tuřany built September 2005 – September 2006.
The departure lounge consists of a steel structure covered by specially developed Titanium-Zinc hexagon template which creates a compact roof and facade tiles at the same time.
The building was awarded with the title “Building of the Year 2007” by an expert panel. The lounge was also appreciated by the public, as it received the title “Prize of the Public – Building of the Year 2007”.

Length and height of the hall: 112m x 13.3 m

And here two buildings that I photographed around the city that grabbed my attention..and couldn't find out more about them.
renovated building in the old town center

Námesti Svobody (Brno's central square)
This is the second post of my little itinerary through Eastern Europe Prague-Brno-Ostrawa-Krakow-Zakopane-Presov-Beograd.
(The first stop was Prague featured in my post: Soviet Style Architecture in Prague

November 12, 2013

Soviet Style Architecture in Prague

Metro Station Staromestska

The city of Prague will not like this, but what I'd like to share in this post is not the picturesque old town and the majestic palaces along the Vltava river but the witnesses of the great Soviet style and Czech Brutalist Architecture that impressed me while visiting the Czech capital.

Metro station Jiriho z Podebrad

The first great surprise are the tunnels of the Line A of the 1970's Prague Metro Stations that are covered in a colorful patchwork of metallic tiles in flat, convex and concave shapes in hues of gold, silver, green, blue and red. This color concept is made by artist Jaroslav Votruba and the color scheme differs by station to make them recognizable.
On this site you can find analyzes of the color composition:

The Kotva Department Store

 kotva department store by vladimir & vera machonin
 kotva department store by vladimir and vera machonin

The Kotva Department Store (Revoluční 655/1) is famous for its strange Communist era architecture and for its separate kiosk stores located inside. Kotva designed  by Vladimir & Vera Machonin was finished in 1975 and consists of an iron and concrete skeleton that is divided into six units giving the building a unique design. Each of these six units features different shops and different spaces but put together form a rather dynamic space. This extraordinary building sticks out in Republic Square as it was built in between historic houses and is neighbored by some of Prague’s Art Nouveau masterpieces.

 kotva department store by vladimir & vera machonin
 kotva department store by vladimir and vera machonin

The Zivkov TV-Tower

Czech artist David Cerny added the crawling babies on the tower (not so sure if it was a good idea....)
The Zizkov Television Tower with 216 meters is the highest structure in the city of Prague. Built between 1985 and 1992, started by the Communists, the tower was once resented by local inhabitants, as the megalomaniac tower forever changed the skyline of Prague and also destroyed part of a centuries old Jewish cemetery where the foundations of the tower are located. 

the tower has a panorama restaurant and a one-room Hotel

eero aarnio chairs at the observatory platform
The lounge of the observatory 

This building is famous for being the second ugliest building in the world (I couldn't find out which one is number one) and of course it's not ugly at all (I mean for me) and it makes a fantastic lookout point to enjoy Prague's skyline from the observatory floor.
For more information:

The lounge at the entrance
the tower entrance

The former Czechoslovak Federal assembly

The building of the former Czechoslovak Federal assembly was designed by Karel Prager in the 1960's and built around 1972.
Prager designed the Federal Assembly as a „house over house“. He then developed the principle into a „city over city” when he suggested using bridge structures to grow the city into a third dimension instead of its growth out into the surrounding areas.
A symbol of its time – often hated and ignored – it was declared a cultural heritage in 2000.

Nova Scena Theater
Another project by Karl Prager from 1983

The brutalist buildings in Czech Republic are often associated with the soviet domination period (which lasted until Spring 1968, however most of the brutalist building were built after that) so they tended to have a bad reputation in a very Western oriented Czech Republic.

(This is the first post of my recent Eastern Europe Tour. Here in short the itinerary: Prague-Brno-Ostrawa-Krakow-Zakopane-Presov-Beograd.)

July 18, 2013

Travel tips for Serbia 2013

When I decided to travel to Serbia for the first time (that's quiet a long time ago...) you could not find ANY advise for travelling there, but just recomendations to NOT go to that area of the world. The war was over, the NATO agression fresh in the back an internet was not yet sharing many links regarding that area.

Today it's easier, tourism is wide spread also in Serbia and even less informed people know that the entire Balkan region is not only of a stunning beauty but also a safe place to explore and makes it also a good and cheap place for simply spending a vacation.Of course you can just jump into a plane and land in the middle of Belgrade and have a perfect stay without even knowing where you are. 

The advise I'm giving here, is for a traveller like me, the one that enjoys the preparations and getting inspired for the journey as much as the travelling itself!

If you wish to have the best of the Serbian experience, here my advise:

Preparations for visiting Serbia

1. read something about serbian history

Serbia is a country with an important history and everything you see is loaded with history! So I suggest to read at least this historic summary, that will put the things you see in the right historic contest.

2. learn the serbian cyrillic alphabet

Learn to read cyrillic characters or at least print this cyrillic alphabet out and carry it with you. Most of the signs are written in cyrillic, however in Belgrade and where big communities of hungarians (in northern Vojvodina province) or albanians (in Kosovo and Metohija province) live, you'll find a lot written also in the latinic alphabet.

3. learn about serbian cuisine

The Serbian eating style is something that delights tourists the most: it's absolutely fantastic! In this overview about serbian food you find an explanation to all the dishes served in restaurants, a good guide to drinks and eating habits. (For vegetarians, well what to say? if you decide to eat meat once in your lifetime, do it in Serbia...)

Since the food is so good you might come back from Serbia and have the wish to cook the nice things yourself. So here my 4 favorite links to serbian recipes:
astal - Vera's recipes from the Vojvodina region
palachinka - serbian food in stunning nice pictures
mezze - my favorite cooking magazine from Serbia (my favorites are the ethno recipes in each issue)

moje grne - The vaste recipe collection from Dragana from Bor

Љубав на први залогај - the recipes from Dragana from Belgrade

kad ja kuvam - Irena from Montenegro has good recipes with great pictures

Formal matters for Serbia

Here some general information to get the administrative things right when entering and leaving Serbia. It's not complicated, but it's nice to have it here all in one place:

French embassy in Belgrade (vis-a-vis Kalemegdan)

1. Here a list of all foreign embassies in Serbia (listed by countries)

2. Here is an overview for Visa regimen with the list of countries
Foreigners should register their arrival in Serbia (if you're staying at a Hotel, they will do that automatically for you) with the competent authorities (according to the place of residence of the foreigner - the police department). It's not a big deal and it doesn't cost much (a couple of cents for the papers).

3. It's never a bad idea to check border customs (here an overview) As a tourist you shouldn't have any troubles with customs officers. Be just sure to get an "Entrance to Serbia stamp" in your passport, that will avoid troubles when travelling out of the country again.

That's what I usually bring out of Serbia! 

General advise for Serbia

1. It's forbidden to take pictures of any military facilities.

2. Don't panic if you read some bad facts about Serbia.It's still some anti-serbian propaganda going on, and whatever unpleasant happens in Serbia is displayed as a big thing in western european medias (there are however some sites, like at de-construct and Serbia's Ambassador to the world oposing against that). Remember that statistically it's more likely you happen to get harassed in a western european city that somewhere in Serbia. Be respectful and you get respected!

3. Stay out of politic debates and go easy on spreading your opinion about themes like Balkan Wars, religion, Kosovo and gay-parades.
In the entire balkan region people are still very sensitive about war themes and if you're not part of them you can not 100% understand it. So keep the good advise for your diary and not for the table at the local Kafana. If you are interested in following politics in Serbia (and it's really entertaining) here an overview of the political parties, their leaders and their ideas.After these more general links, the next few posts will be about 4 itineraries to discover Serbia.After these more general links, the next few posts will be about 4 itineraries to discover Serbia.

With these basics you just need to get your itinerary and depart!

Ideas for itineraries in Serbia:

Travel tips for Belgrade
Travel tips for Kosovo and the Raska region
Travel tips for Tara National Park and Kopaonik
Travel tips for Ethno Villages in Serbia
Travel tips for Fruska Gora Monasteris

Stara Planina (the old mountains -heart of the balkan)
Vranje (the city of Bora Stankovic)
Sremski Karlovci (beautiful town at the border of Fruska Gora National Park)
Zasavica Nature Park (Nature, Ethno, Food, Culture)

May 24, 2013

Architecture of Bus Stations in Serbia

Central Bus Station in Niš (picture from wikimapia)

I got inspired for this post by Yomadic's blog entry: and his beautiful picture of the Niš Bus station.

Since in the Balkans, particularly in Serbia, Railway travelling was never so popular like traveling by bus, some Bus Stations got a lot of architectural attention when they were built.

I found pictures from some interesting Bus Stations and hope to expand this collection soon!

Niš Bus Station

Entrance of the Bus Station (picture wikimapia)
One of them is the Bus Station in Nis (Ниш) built in 1977 and one of the most modern Bus Station of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia with 18 platforms. Nis-Ekspress AD was the main investor.

Ćuprija Bus Station

Bus Station in Čuprija

A lot of inhabitants of Ćuprija work as "Gastarbeiter" in Western Europe, so really lots of Bus Lines serve this little town. That explains the big Bus Station at the entrance of the town.
A close up shows the lamellar structure of the roof supported by precast columns arranged in a semi-circle.

Novi Pazar
A postcard from the 70's of Novi Pazar's Bus Station
Another interesting Bus Station  is the one in Novi Pazar built in the 1970's. The first time I visted Novi Pazar I was fascinated by it's frivolous architecture (read it in my post about Novi Pazar).

A newer picture on
The Bus Station fits in that style, and though it shows signs of age and people complain about its flaws it still looks charming.

Loving this combination: the bus station and his "soliter" a stand alone highrise building (from


Zrenjanin Bus Station (from

In Zrenjanin the Bus Station has a relief-like Fassade like in Niš. It/s not a big station, but with this detail it looks almost like an airport.