David Černý’s “locomotive bridge” to connect two Prague buildings

Visualisation of the walkway in the form of a nineteenth-century train crashing through one building into another, photo: Archive of David Černý

A bridge in the form of a locomotive crashing from one building to another is the latest project by Czech artist David Černý, known for the black sculptures of babies crawling up Žižkov’s TV Tower or a statue of St. Wenceslas riding a dead horse in Prague’s Lucerna passage. The design of the bridge was inspired by a real incident -the derailment of a train in Paris in 1895.

Visualisation of the walkway in the form of a nineteenth-century train crashing through one building into another, photo: Archive of David Černý

The latest piece by David Černý and his colleague, architect and urban designer Tomáš Císař, is a walkway between two buildings in Prague’s Vysočany district. Inspired by a real-life train crash at the Montparnasse train station in Paris, the bridge will take the form of a nineteenth-century train crashing through one building into another.

The “locomotive” bridge will be erected near the former ČKD Kolbenka factory, which used to be one of the largest producers of locomotives in Prague. Tomáš Císař outlines the details:

“Emil Kolben was a famous inventor and industrialist and his factory is near the place where we are planning to build this bridge.

David Černý, photo: Elena Horálková, ČRo
“As a matter of fact, the investor, Mr. Eugen Roden, is actually just working on a documentary about Emil Kolben.”

“As a Jewish industrialist, Kolben’s life ended in the Terezín concentration camp and as we know, locomotives were closely linked to these transports. So that was another level of inspiration we had.”

When constructing the bridge, Černý and Císař drew inspiration from the locomotives produced in the Kolbenka factory. They were also inspired by the iconic photograph capturing the Paris derailment.

“We were thinking of how to connect the buildings. We needed some contrast between the ordinary buildings and the locomotive itself.

“The inspiration came from the real crash that happened in 1895 in Garre Montparnasse, the Paris train station, when a locomotive failed to stop and crashed through the window onto the pavement.

“So this famous photograph actually served us as the main inspiration for the shape connecting the buildings.”

The train crash in 1895 in Garre Montparnasse, photo: public domain
The design of the “locomotive bridge” is in fact not the first ‘wreck’ designed by David Černý’s Black’n Arch studio. Just a few months ago, they unveiled plans for a skyscraper in Prague’s district of Nové Butovice, with a rusty ship wreck embedded in its structure.

“We are trying to find a new language in the context of architecture. And the connection between the architect and the artist, between me and David, is based on the idea that we need to do functional buildings and at the same time come up with some special point of view. We also like to work with hyperboles. So I think it is not about crashes; it is about a new architectural language.”

The buildings connected by the “locomotive bridge” will be designed by renowned architect Zdeněk Jiran and will include both residential and office spaces on the premises, as well as a gallery and a café. If everything goes according to plan, the project could be completed within two years.