Prague's Petřín Tower getting improved technology for colored lighting

The city is expanding the number of special color patterns on the Petřín Tower and installing colored lights on more landmarks

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston Published on 17.07.2019 11:56:00 (updated on 05.10.2020) Reading time: 4 minutes

Prague’s Petřín Tower will become colorful more often. It is getting improved computer controls for its banks of LEDs, which will make it easier to implement a special color pattern.

The new system should be in place by the end of December, according to city company Technologie hlavního města Prahy (THMP), which oversees the lighting of 140 attractions in Prague, among other things.

New lighting banks, cables and control computers will also be available in the near future at the Rudolfinum and some Prague bridges. Next year’s city budget is expected to invest millions of crowns in lighting landmarks.

The city is concerned about too much nighttime bling, though. “We consult with hygienists and conservationists. As a service organization, we also make sure that the ever-increasing use of special lighting does not cause excessive light pollution and that it does not create a big a wasteland like in Las Vegas,” THMP director Tomáš Jílek said, according to daily Pražský deník.

The 63.5-meter-tall tower on top of Petřín Hill since 2015 has been equipped with a forty LED banks spread out on four levels, which allows lighting the tower in many color variations. These are computer controlled, but the patterns have to be loaded at the tower from a laptop. The new system will eliminate the need for someone to have to go to Petřín every time the color pattern is changed.

Several lighting patterns are already planned for the summer. Colors of the flags of the three Baltic States — Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania — will be projected over three nights at the end of August.

At the end of the year, the colors of six countries from Central and Eastern Europe will be projected to mark 30 years of freedom.

Special lighting on the tower used to be quite rare, but the pace is increasing. “The symbolic lighting of the observation tower for the anniversary of the Velvet Revolution or even the World Blood Donor Day expresses the attitude of the city’s leadership,” THMP director Jílek said.

Petrin Tower
Petřín Tower lit for St Patrick’s Day. via Raymond Johnston

“The past ad-hoc program began to be handled systematically, and the current one is even more intense. Today, these special lighting effects appear on the Petřín Tower for one whole night, roughly once a month,” he added.

Aside form marking holidays, charitable causes and historical events, the tower has been lit to respond to news. It was lit up in the colors of the French flag April 16, 2019, after the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris to show solidarity. It was also lit up in the French colors after the terrorist attack in Paris in November 2015 and the British colors after the Manchester terrorist incident in May 2017.

The tower has participated in an international event to light monuments green for St Patrick’s Day since 2014.

The Petřín Tower (Petřínská rozhledna), sometimes called the Little Eiffel Tower, opened to the public on Aug. 20, 1891. The idea to build the tower was launched in 1889 by members of the Club of Czech Tourists who had visited the Exposition Universelle in Paris, where they saw the actual Eiffel Tower.

In 1889, the tourist club members set out to raise money from the public and get permission from the city to build the tower in time for the 1891 General Land Centennial Exhibition, which also saw the construction of new buildings at Výstaviště in Holešovice. The funicular in Petřín was built at the same time.

The foundation reaches 11 meters below ground, and overall some 175 tons of steel was used. Inside there were 299 steps and a gas-powered elevator. Originally the tower had a copy of the Czech crown on top. The tower top was damaged by fire in July 1938. In 1953 it became a TV tower and antennas were installed. It remained a TV tower until the Žižkov Tower started operation in 1992. The tower was fully renovated in 1999.

The tower actually has little in common with its Parisian namesake. The Prague tower has an eight-sided base, while the Paris one is on a square base. The Prague version is also smaller, just 63.5 meters tall compared to 324 meters for the original. Petřín Hill, though, rises to 318 meters, so the height of the observation decks of both above the respective city’s basic ground level is comparable.

Both are steel towers with exposed frameworks, but the Paris one stands on four legs with an open plaza at its base, while the Prague one has an entry chamber filling its base. Stone and brick was more popular for towers at the time, so both towers being steel was enough to link them in people’s minds.

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