In 1891 Prague hosted the World’s Fair (what would become called EXPO) in the Prague 7 Exhibition Grounds. One of the structures built for that fair was the Little Eiffel Tower. For the 100th anniversary of that event the Society for the Czechoslovak General Exhibition returned to the same place and commissioned another celebratory structure.
Originally the Prague Metronome was seen as an artistic but temporary exhibit in the larger General Exhibition and it’s ultimate job was to open the event so it began operation on the first day of the fair on May 15th 1991. It’s only after the event on the Czech independence day 28th October 1991 that they decided to make it permanent. The story of the Prague Metronome is included in my Old Town and Jewish Quarter Walking Tour.
The location for the Prague Metronome on the edge of Letna Park was infamous in that for 7 years between 1955 and 1962 it had hosted an extremely large statue of Josef Stalin looking across the Cech Bridge in the direction of Paris Street and ultimately the Old Town Square. The blowing up of that statue in 1962 had caused one issue though. Could the foundation of the old Stalin Statue, possibly damaged by the explosives, hold the weight of the Prague Metronome? That answer was yes. What was not known was whether it could take that weight PLUS the weight of any crane required to position it. This they were not sure about that so when it came to the heavier parts of the construction they used a military helicopter.
The whole Prague Metronome construction is 23 metres tall and it’s kinetic i.e. it has a winding mechanism and a counterweight just like a grandfather clock so the red bit that you see moving from side to side is the pendulum. The thing is that the counterweight in your average clock doesn’t weigh 2 tons. If you’re wondering how fast it is, that is one 60 degree arc every 10 seconds or 6 beats per minute so you can’t exactly dance to it.
The architect of the Prague Metronome was Vratislav Novák who just happened to be a teaching professor at UMPRUM, the Academy for Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague (so no pressure there then!). In interviews he described his interpretation of the Prague Metronome as “the relentless passing of time” and that’s written on a plaque at it’s base. Put up for approval in the year 2000, the city chose NOT to recognise it as a cultural monument.
Even before it was formally opened the area around the Prague Metronome was, and still is, a magnet for skateboarders, roller skaters and in-line skaters because of it’s flat granite surfaces.
If you look at the Prague Bike Tours post then anything that mentions Letna Park will stop here.
In 1996 when Michael Jackson was on his “History” tour he had a 17 meter tall statue of himself installed in front of the Prague Metronome.
In 2003 during the build-up to a referendum on joining the European Union, the word “Yes” was on one side and “No” on the other.
In 2017 a drunk tourist tried to ride the top of the Metronome and got stuck. The Fire Brigade had to stop the Metronome to get her off safely and it did not work properly until thorough maintenance was completed in 2020.