Sputnik: Work of Art as a Climbing Frame
Only people in the know can tell where to find Sputnik in Prague. It is no longer possible to go on a Sputnik trip because the object is now located in a private garden in de Baba district.
In the 1960s, when the Sputnik stood in Stromovka Park, this spacecraft captured the imagination of many children who climbed a ladder to the ‘stomach’ to slide down. The sputnik climbing frame was inspired by the first space satellite launched into orbit in 1957.
Sputnik in Stromovka Park
Sputnik is a work of art that weighs five tons and consists of a three-meter high steel-reinforced concrete ball with spikes. It is a combination of art and a kids’ climbing frame with a slide.
The sculptor is Zdeněk Němeček (1931-1989). There are three more of his works in Prague: at the Strahov Stadium, the Topsport Stadium and in the Folimanka Park. All three are sculptures of athletes. Němeček was also known outside Czechoslovakia and his sports-related sculptures are at stadiums in Mexico City, Munich, Milan and Moscow.
Until 2003, children climbed Sputnik and slid down. After the plastic layer of the slide had weathered, rough concrete remained and this resulted in many torn pants. Modern health and safety standards, and not the ripped pants, were the reason to prohibit access to the slide, Iron bars were put in place preventing children from climbing onto sputnik.
The sculpture was no longer an attraction for children and it gradually fell into disrepair. In 2008, a little boy climbed up in spite of the blocked entrance and got stuck sliding down. The fire brigade had to rescue him. The climbing frame was declared too dangerous and was therefore no longer allowed to stand in a public place.
New Owner for the Work of Art
Art collector Rudolf Břínek asked the city council if he could have Sputnik. He was given permission on the condition that he would restore the sculpture and put it in a place where all can see it but no one can access it publicly. Sputnik moved to the garden of his villa in Na Babě Street 9, and is clearly visible from the street.
Sputnik: Art in Brussels Style
Foreign art connoisseurs saw the Brussels style in Sputnik. This style is a continuation of socialist realism but allows more creativity from the artist. A life-size photo of the Sputnik hung in the Museum of Modern Art in New York (MoMa), while the artwork was despised in its own country. The museum had wanted to have the real sputnik on display but it was too heavy to be shipped. The Prague City Council clearly had not taken into account the sculpture’s artistic value when they removed it from Stromovka Park.
Sputnik in the Baba District
The Sputnik is now in good company. In the Baba district there are about forty villas, all in a functionalist style. This district is located on a hill and was built in 1932 for the wealthier middle class. The houses are diagonally opposite each other so that every house has a view.