NCSML to add an Orloj, a Prague-style astronomical clock, to its clock tower

In 2024, NCSML is celebrating its 50th anniversary of fulfilling its mission to “engage the global community with unique Czech, Slovak, and American stories to inspire individuals with universal themes of culture, freedom, democracy, and immigration.”

One of the focal points of the celebration relates to the renovation of the NCSML clock tower that was built in 1995. The existing clock tower will be repaired and enhanced with the addition of an orloj clock. The NCSML Orloj will be modeled after the famous Prague Orloj that is attached to the Old Town Hall in Prague. It is the oldest, functioning astronomical clock in the world dating back to the 15th century AD.

NCSML orloj rendering
Prague orloj

This renovation includes the complex astronomical and clock mechanism called an astrolabe. All astrolabe parts that are in contact with the outside environment are made of stainless steel. The astrolabe graphics, such as numbers, lines, and symbols are gilded with 24-karat gold. The renovation also includes adding 12 figurines (each almost 4 feet tall) on two carousels that awaken on the hour to mesmerize viewers who can watch them rotate to the music of Czech composers Antonin Dvorak and Bedrich Smetana. The twelve figurines express the stories of immigrants, with a farmer, a coal miner, a meatpacker, and other sculptures representing those who came to the United States from Czech, Slovak, Moravian, and other lands.

Andrej Harsany of Bratislava, Slovakia, is sculpting the 12 figurines, and the SPEL Company from Prague, Czechia, who is engaged with the development and production of clock electronic systems, reconstruction, and maintenance of outdoor clock types, is building the fully digitized inner workings of the NCSML astronomical clock. Neumann Monson Inc., with offices in Iowa City and Des Moines, is the project architect and Graham Construction of Cedar Rapids is the construction manager.

The NCSML Orloj Clock Tower is going to be a major tourist attraction for the entire historic and cultural district of Cedar Rapids. This unique destination is just one more way NCSML can share the universal themes of culture, freedom, democracy, and immigration to all who visit it.

Read more about the Orloj in the Cedar Rapids Gazette article written by Diana Nollen.

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