Museum commemorates 100 years of Prague Sewer

Eco-technical museum in Prague-Bubenec

It was around this time 100 years ago that the modern sewer system of Prague was completed and went into operation. The Eco-technical Museum commemorates the event with tours run by well informed volunteers.

Eco-technical museum in Prague-Bubenec
The Eco-technical museum in Prague-Bubenec, which is but a stone's throw away from the Hradcanksa metro station, is based in the former sewage works that was the centrepiece of the Prague sewer system completed 100 years ago.

Led by tour guide Martin Slovik, I walked through labyrinthine passages into enormous brick caverns that were veritable underground cathedrals, with elliptical shafts stretching towards circular skylights. The utter precision required to construct such a complex structure must have been formidable, for its effect upon the eye is awe-inspiring.

Upon the tour's completion, I asked Martin why the museum decided to commemorate the sewer.

"Because it's its 100 year anniversary, and it was actually a very important step in Prague's history from a technical point of view. It was one of the most advanced sewer works in Europe at that time, so it is definitely a thing to celebrate.."

Eco-technical museum in Prague-Bubenec
So it may be hard to believe, but towards the end of the 19th century, Prague was in dire straights with regard to its sewage. The city lacked a modern sewage system and the river Vltava served as an open sewer. If the powers-at-be did not solve the situation quickly, infection and disease would surely engulf the city, as often happens with improper sewage treatment. After two unsuccessful design competitions, Englishman William Heerlein Lindley's dual-level design was approved, with construction beginning in 1896 and finishing in 1905. Operations began a year later. Today there are over 3,500 kilometres of sewers in Prague.

Eco-technical museum in Prague-Bubenec
The old sewage works where the museum is currently housed went out of operation in the mid 1960s and remained vacant until the 1990s. Martin Slovik told me how the Museum was founded.

"I think it was founded in 1991 because at that time this was an abandoned building, and no one was here. They were only using part of the separation basins up until the 1980s. Some people found this place interesting and wanted to make something out of it, because there was protected machinery and everything was in good shape. So that's how it started, with a few people as a hobby and it's still some kind of hobby for all the people here."

The museum is holding tours of the sewage works between the hours of 10am and 5pm daily, with the 100 year celebration concluding this Saturday.