Winning Prague cable car design looks sleek while solving connection problem
The city of Prague recently published some striking visualisations showing what the cable car connection stretching across the Vltava from Prague 6 to Prague 8, planned for 2025, is supposed to look like.
The lack of a decent public transport connection between Prague 6 and Prague 8 has long been a source of consternation for local residents. At the moment, although it looks to be only a short hop across the river on a map, if you want to get from Podbaba to Bohnice you have to take an extremely circuitous route that weaves around and across the Vltava and takes around 40 minutes.
But a new cable car slated for completion in three years’ time will decrease this travel time down to only 15 minutes – making it even quicker than going by car. There will also be an intermediary station in Troja, which will be located by the future new entrance to the zoo. This should solve another transit issue, as at the moment, accessing the zoo by public transport is similarly taxing, as it is currently only served by the overcrowded bus link 112.
In May, the Prague public transport company DPP announced an international open architecture competition for the design of the new cable car connecting the districts of Podbaba and Bohnice, consisting of three stations and five pylons. They received 23 applications from nine European countries. The jury shortlisted five teams and invited them to Prague in June to see the location and surroundings of where the future cable car will be, and the winner, announced in early August, was London architecture firm William Matthews Associates, who are the brains behind the design of the cable car in London as well as the modernization of London Bridge station.
Architect and director of the firm, the eponymous William Matthews, told Radio Prague that each of the three stations where passengers will board and disembark are slightly different from each other.
“The three stations are in three very different areas. They’re very different types of environments and the stations had to be sympathetic to all of them – in particular Troja. It’s a nice little valley with a zoo, and the cable car station is quite a large building, so we had to think how we could minimize the impact on the surrounding area.”
According to Matthews, this is not always necessarily the case, as architects may choose to favour internal homogeny and consistency over sensitivity to individual environments.
“Sometimes designers are less contextual, and decide that it’s more important that there’s a similarity between all of the stations, that you give an identity to the transport infrastructure, so you’d have all the same bus stations everywhere, all the same tram stations. We took a slightly different approach here – although each station is clearly related in its design, there are differences between each locality.”
However, it is not only stations that are part of the design – there are also five rather hefty pylons required for the cable car, up to 40 metres tall and stretching over the river and up the hillside. As Matthews points out, they will certainly be seen.
“I think one of the reasons they had the architecture competition was because they didn’t want just a standard pylon or mast that you see in most locations like in ski resorts or something like that, where it’s just galvanised steel put together in the most efficient way. Here in Prague, they will be visible, so they had to have a certain sort of artistic or sculptural element to them.”
The firm’s entry was successful partly because it addressed this issue particularly in its design, Matthews believes. The firm has in fact been successful in not one but three Czech architecture competitions in the last year, submitting the winning design not only for the cable car, but also for the railway administration’s headquarters in Prague’s Smichov district and for a bridge over the Svitava river in Brno.
The cable car will accommodate up to 35 passengers in one cabin and with a total of seventeen cabins, it will be able to carry up to 2,300 people per hour in one direction, spanning a distance of 2.24 kilometres and travelling at a speed of 6.5 metres per second. According to a spokesperson for the Prague public transport company DPP who spoke to Czech news site Novinky.cz, construction should begin in 2024 and should not cause any disruption to local traffic.