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Liberec 2028, the city surrounded by mountains

LIberec 2028 LIberec 2028

EcocNews continues the journey among the cities that are candidates for European capital of culture for 2028. After Broumov and Brno, today we discover the city of Liberec, in the Czech Republic. In 2028 it will be the third time that the Czech Republic will have a European Capital of Culture after Prague in 2000 and Plsen in 2015.

Liberec is a city in the Czech Republic. It has about 104,000 inhabitants and it is the fifth-largest city in the country. It lies on the Lusatian Neisse and is surrounded by the Jizera Mountains and Ještěd–Kozákov Ridge. The town centre is well preserved and is protected by law as an urban monument zone.

Liberec was once home to a thriving textile industry and hence nicknamed the "Manchester of Bohemia". For many Czechs, Liberec is mostly associated with the city's dominant Ještěd Tower. Since the end of the 19th century, the city has been a conurbation with the suburb of Vratislavice nad Nisou and the neighbouring city of Jablonec nad Nisou. Therefore, the total area with suburbs encompasses 150,000 inhabitants.

The settlement in this place was first mentioned in 1348 and, since it was conveniently located on the trade routes between Bohemia and Poland or Germany it gained city rights 200 years later. Liberec developed together with clothes making industry present here from 16th century but the peak of prosperity came at the end of 19th and beginning of 20th century when the city was part of Austria-Hungary empire. The majority of stunning architecture that makes Liberec so beautiful dates to that period.

Liberec's prominent buildings are the City Hall (1893), the Liberec Castle (Liberecký zámek), built in the 16th century, and the Ještěd Tower (1968) upon the Ještěd Mountain, build by architect Karel Hubáček, which became a symbol of the city. Václav Havel held a broadcast from the site of the tower in 1968; a plaque beside the tower marks this event.

Contemporary buildings of note are also to be found, primarily the work of the firm SIAL, and include the new Regional Research Library (2000) and the Česká Pojišťovna office building (1997). Neo-Renaissance F. X. Šalda theatre was built in 1871–1872. Centrum Babylon Liberec include a large water park, an amusement park, a casino, shopping court and hotel.

The North Bohemian Museum was built in 1873. It ranks among the oldest and most significant museums of nature sciences, arts and crafts in the Czech Republic. There is the sculpture of T. G. Masaryk from 2010 standing in front of the Museum.

Why did your city decide to apply for the European capital of culture? 

We decided to apply in order to be able to present Liberec’s culture in a somewhat unconventional way (because Liberec is an unconventional city) – to present what is beautiful but also interesting, special and different, something that has a story. Liberec seems to be a city carefully concealing its secrets. Culture may not be visible at first glance here, but the city has its own elusive atmosphere. Modern architecture mixes with the historical here; it is also an oasis of calm and a place where people from all over the country come for athletic activities, yet the city could also become an ideal location for the creative bustle. Liberec offers a lot of unused space, a chance for a new beginning. They say Liberec is a city you either love or hate. Thanks to ECoC, we want Liberec to be perceived as a city so captivating and of such high quality that everyone will be left with an impression strong enough to entice them to stay, return or move here without necessarily knowing exactly why.

What do you think are the keywords of your application? 

Cooperation, sustainability, nature, change, openness.

How are you involving citizens in this competition? 

There are several ways we’re doing this. As early as when the city was preparing its culture strategy, we started working with the public in the area of culture, because that had not been happening to a greater extent until then. We began to organize a public cultural forum in Liberec that was open to a wide range of visitors. The last visible event so far is called "1,000 Wishes for Liberec", in which we use collection boxes and social networks to gather wishes that people would like to see fulfilled in Liberec in 2028. It can be truly anything, and because we’re also getting children involved, we also count on receiving their drawings. However, we’re still only in the first round now, so I believe we’ll get the opportunity to answer a similar question in a year’s time – there will certainly be more that we’ll be able to reveal. 

What are the next steps on your journey?

All our paths undoubtedly lead to writing a high-quality bid book. During the summer holidays, we’ll be working on convincing the jury that Liberec should be among those who qualify for the second round.

What are your thoughts on the European Capital of Culture competition?

Like most cities, we see the competition as an opportunity. At the same time, we view it with great respect, because it is unparalleled in the world and we’re not afraid to compare it to the organization of the Olympic Games or world expos. The ECoC competition has undergone almost 40 years of development since the title was initially awarded to capitals for their beauty and sights, to the present, when it is granted to cities that are able to cut a diamond from a raw stone. And that’s the beautiful thing about the current competition – it’s not about deserving a title for merit, but about the ability to transform and achieve a set goal.

 

Serafino Paternoster

Ecocnews Founder, Journalist, repentant jazz guitarist, music critic and film lover.

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