Ještěd Celebrates Fifty Years!

Ještěd Celebrates Fifty Years!

Zauber Kleines Dreieck

»The unique structure on Ještěd mountain has been a kind of "lighthouse" for the Liberec region for 50 years, its silver-white cladding still reflecting the sun's rays tens of kilometers away. Today, most residents are proud of the Ještěd hotel and transmitter, but in the mid-1960s, when the public was asked to comment on individual proposals for the new building, this very project was fundamentally rejected and contested by Karel Hubáček.«

On September 21, 1973, exactly 50 years ago, the gates of the mountain hotel and television station on Ještěd were opened to the public for the first time. However, the official completion and handover of the building took place a little earlier, on July 9, and a television signal was broadcast from the 96-meter-high tower as early as May 1, 1971.

The Ještěd Tower in the shape of a rotating hyperboloid elegantly reflects the original silhouette of the mountain when viewed from a distance, becoming an inseparable landscape element in the hilly area of North Bohemia. The building also became a symbol of the entire Liberec region and Liberec itself was nicknamed "The city under the Ještěd".

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Designed by Liberec architect Karel Hubáček, the structure's uniqueness is evidenced by the fact that the Ještěd was awarded the title of the most significant Czech building of the 20th century in the year 2000 and has been a National Cultural Monument of the Czech Republic since January 1, 2006. Currently, the nomination of the Ještěd for the title of UNESCO World Heritage Site is in progress.

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For the citizens of Liberec and the inhabitants of Podještědí, Ještěd (1,012 m) has always had a magical significance. Since the middle of the 19th century, refreshments were served in various huts on the peak itself and one could look over the mountain world from a wooden lookout tower. The German Mountain Association for the Ještěd and the Jizera Mountains decided to build a representative stone hut on this spot. It was inaugurated on January 31, 1907 and enjoyed great popularity, especially when a cable car brought visitors up from 1933. However, on January 31, 1963, the hut burned down as a result of careless pipe drainage.

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As a result, it was decided to build a new hotel with a restaurant and also to use the tower for television broadcasts. A total of 11 projects were submitted for the architectural competition. The expert jury finally declared the project of engineer architect Karel Hubáček (1924-2011), from the Liberec office SIAL the winner. Architect Hubáček's design was the only one that did not meet the conditions of the architectural competition. The brief required that two buildings, a transmitter and a hotel, should stand separately on Ještěd. However, it combined both functions in one building. Besides the main architect, it was engineer Zdeněk Patrman (1927-2001) who carried out the structural design and architect Otakar Binar (1931) who designed the interior and, in addition, other leading Czech artists and designers who contributed to the success of the building.

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The foundation stone for the new building was laid on July 30, 1966. The construction of the building was entrusted to the company Pozemní stavbě Liberec and the cost amounted to 64 million Czech crowns. Even during construction, the extraordinary hotel and broadcasting station building attracted the attention of the international architectural community. In 1969, the International Union of Architects awarded Karel Hubáček the Auguste Perret Prize. However, the communist regime did not allow him to receive the prize in Argentina.

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A few days after the Warsaw Pact troops invaded Czechoslovakia and on August 21, 1968, free radio was controlled by the Soviet troops. Radio Svobodné studio SEVER broadcasted from Ještěd between August 25 and 27, despite the state ban. On Tuesday, August 27, the last day of broadcasting, the actor Jan Tříska and the playwright Václav Havel, later Czech president, spoke on the program. In memory of them, a memorial plaque was placed at the site.

38 years later, in 2006, the futuristic hotel was the setting for the full-length comedy "Grandhotel," directed by David Ondříček, based on the novel of the same name by Jaroslav Rudiš. The shooting of the love story about the janitor Fleischmann and the chambermaid Ilja lasts three months and leads to unique shots around and from the hotel Ještěd.

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The North Bohemian Museum in Liberec is currently hosting an exhibition commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Ještěd, which will be on display until October 18. Visitors can see models of all unselected designs and also many photographs from the period, which are exhibited here for the first time.

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Half a century after its inauguration, the landmark on Ještěd remains an expression of modern architecture. And even though it will be another year before operations resume after the cable car crash in October 2021, visitors can get there on their own just as they did 100 years ago, choosing various routes from the Liberec Basin, but also from the picturesque Podještědí region. When you reach the top, the mountain allows a unique view over the ridges of the Krkonoše and Jizera Mountains and across into the distance to Poland and Germany.

Photo: Pavel Vinklát, Matyáš Gál, Jan Pikous, Jan Schejbal, archives Severočeského muzea