“For my diploma thesis, I had to create something in the style of Socialist Realism. I didn’t want to, of course, I fought against it tooth and nail. But Pifl told me: ‘You have to do it!’ And Karfík brought me the drawings of a thirty-story Polish house. He said: ‘Copy this out and present it as your thesis and that’ll be that.’”
“It was good to work in the Soviet Union. You enjoyed incredible prestige there. I was a Czechoslovak, an architect, a specialist. I came to the construction site, and I couldn’t even afford to speak with the workers. I was used to crawling all over the place and being friends with everyone. That was out of the question there, I was Mrs Architect there.”
“When the ČKD building was complete, I was finally spared of the strong attacks that had been targeting me before. Before it was finished, people would come to my office to berate me. Say, one man came to me and said: ‘Are you the one painting this crap?!’ They yelled at me, they were angry. As soon as they noticed something was being drawn, they would come to scold me. Ordinary people from the street!”
“A meeting of the whole faculty, where they expelled Šrámková. They called a plenary meeting expressly because of me. I cried the whole time, I just couldn’t understand why they were doing it. The Youth Union called me out on to the stage. They wanted me to account for it. I had no idea what I was supposed to account for. For individualism. I didn’t know what that was. I had absolutely no idea what they wanted of me. It was ugly; in the end they just kicked me out.”
Alena Šrámková, née Cafourková, was born on 20 June 1929 in Prague. She grew up in Slovakia from the age of two; she attended grammar school and studied architecture and construction at the University of Technology. She graduated in 1952 and then worked as the head architect at Chemoprojekt in Bratislava for some time. In 1955 she applied to the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague because she felt that she still needed to improve her education. While studying she married and gave birth to her son Michal. In 1959 she took part in a Czechoslovak exhibition of glass in Moscow, where she was tasked with building one of the pavilions. Upon returning to Prague she was employed at the State Commercial Design Institute. In the 1960s she joined the Sociaty of Engineers and Architects in Liberec (SIAL). She worked with her husband on the construction of the subterranean section of the main train station in 1972-1977. A turning point in her career was the construction of the ČKD building on Wenceslas Square, where she was given considerable creative liberty. After the revolution, she was a member of parliament for a short time. She worked as a professor at the Czech Technical University, and also built a new faculty building. Alena Šrámková was often described as the first lady of Czech architecture. She received many awards for her professional achievements. Alena Šrámková died on March 10, 2022.