Brno’s new clock provokes colourful reactions

Photo: CTK

The south Moravian city of Brno has a new attraction. The city hall recently unveiled a new clock in the central Freedom Square which officials hope will become a new symbol of the city. But many locals snicker at the six-metre tall object, and not just because it’s quite hard to tell the time from it.

Photo: CTK
Every day at 11 AM, people gather around the new clock at Brno’s central square, trying to catch a glass ball that comes out of it, only once a day, at this particular hour.

The new object, a six-metre tall obelisk made from shiny black granite, stands proudly in the square but many people complain the clock does not really give the time, while others mind its provocative shape. Since its inauguration on Saturday, the tall, phallic-like object has been called a giant vibrator and even the country’s most expensive penis. Some of the people who came for the unveiling on Saturday had this to say.

“I think this is really foolish. Can you tell me what the time is? You see? You don’t know and you have to look at the church clock over there. You can’t tell the time from the new clock. For 12 million crowns, they could have done something better.”

“The granite is nice; otherwise, I can’t see much. It’s there, on the top, I don’t think I’ll be able to see what time it is.”

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But Brno’s new clock, which took three years to build and cost some 12 million crowns, has also many supporters, particularly among the artistic and intellectual community. One of the clock’s creators is a student of architecture, Petr Kameník. He says he is happy about the response the clock has stimulated.

“Look here, it has the shape of an obelisk which has provoked people for thousands of years. Everyone can see in it what they want; it’s great that people talk about it because it’s up to them. No one can tell them what to call it. Everything needs a name, and people are coming up with their own ideas.”

The concept of the clock harks back to an episode of the Thirty Years’ War when in 1645, the Swedish army laid siege to the city for nearly three months. The invaders were about to prevail when the city was saved by the bell – which rang at 11 AM rather than noon, a deadline set by the Swedes for capturing the city. To commemorate that, the glass ball comes out an hour before noon.

As for the difficulty with telling the time, Petr Kameník says the clock is in a place where time has a different pace.

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“You need exact time at a train station and places like that. But in the city’s historic centre where people might want to stop and talk or just hang around in the square, I think that time should be measured differently. Not mentioning the fact that it does give the time although it’s a bit complicated to figure it out.”

People never know which part of the clock the ball is going to emerge from. The first ball to come out was lost when people standing by failed to catch it before it disappeared back inside the clock. Brno City Museum, which wanted to keep the first glass ball adorned with the city’s coat of arms, therefore had to wait for another.