Priorities of Ostrava:
Taking Care of Culture and Senior Citizens
Ing. Zbyněk Pražák, Ph.D. is one of the designers of post-1989 Ostrava. He has been involved in local
culture and social issues for many years. He stood at the origins of numerous projects with distinct
architectural features which enhance the style of our city, such as the Ostrava Puppet Theatre.
He is also very agile in improving the system of care for seniors and the development of social facilities.
Mr Pražák, a few years ago, Ostrava competed to win
the title of European City of Culture. What are the
current qualities of culture in Ostrava and what is the
vision for the city?
Ostrava is a city with a great range of excellent quality
culture taken as a standard, which is why the city entered
the contest for the European City of Culture. There are
a huge number of cultural institutions such as theatres,
philharmonic orchestras, galleries, libraries, museums as
well as many events and genres of culture.
Ostrava is also the centre of many projects in culture
which indivisibly belong to the city’s profile. Dozens
of music and drama festivals are best represented
by Mezinárodní hudební festival Leoše Janáčka (the Leoš
Janáček International Music Festival), Svatováclavský
hudební festival (St. Wenceslas Music Festival), Colours
of Ostrava, Beats for Love, Folklor bez hranic (Folk Music
sans Borders), Letní shakespearovské slavnosti Ostrava
(Ostrava Summer Shakespearean Festival), Cirkulum,
and many others.
The city council invests about 10% of its budget in culture.
In the past decade, many projects have been completed,
such as the renovation of Kulturní dům Akord (Akord
House of Culture), the extension to the Puppet Theatre,
the revitalization of the exhibition halls of the Museum
of Ostrava, and the recent renovation of George Myron
Theatre. Another investment has just begun, and that
is the renovation of the historical buildings of the City
Slaughterhouse, which is to become home to the new
gallery of contemporary arts, Plato.
For 2020, we have increased financing to pay for
the planned construction of a new concert hall, now
valued at almost 250 million CZK. The hall will be built
on a design by a US studio, Steven Holl Architects, in
close collaboration with Czech architects. Ostrava will
thus have one of the most modern concert halls in
Europe with first-class acoustics.
contains even the most important multicultural festivals
with long histories, such as Colours of Ostrava, Beats for
Love, Cirkulum, Ostrava v plamenech (Ostrava on Fire)
or Folklor bez hranic (Folk Music sans Borders). Organizers
of these festivals, typically prepared a long time ahead, are
in a difficult situation. We understand these events have
a European reputation, therefore we are looking for ways
to help them get over the most critical time and to support
the continuity of these festivals in the future.
Culture experienced a shock during the COVID crisis,
not only in Ostrava. The City Council is the founder and
promoter of many organizations and events in culture.
How do you intend to revive cultural programmes?
Ostrava set up a series of measures to help culture get
over the difficult time of the COVID-19 pandemic. There
was a special programme supporting organizations
operating in culture, education, sports and non-profit
activities. The council has also approved support to local
Many events promoted by the city have shifted towards
autumn, but I am very sorry to say that this year, some
will not happen at all. The list of cancelled events
The current crisis will seriously affect the economy
of the city. Will it influence your visions of senior care,
The situation is not easy; we are missing a great deal of
income, and due to extraordinary expenses, we will have
to apply some economic measures. Yet I believe that our
principal targets in social spheres will not be affected.
Currently, Ostrava has a capacity of about 2,130 beds
in senior homes, 1,611 of these in city facilities. The
remaining capacity is non-state and private institutions.
Still, this is not enough to cover the demand, therefore
we are preparing projects intended to increase the
capacities of residential social services for seniors,
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The high level of a society can easily be told by how
it treats its elderly citizens. Is Ostrava a cultural city
in this view?
The culture of a society is not expressed only in the scale
of theatre and music performances or the number of
museums. It consists of other aspects of at least the same
significance: the environment we live in, our homes,
the quality of infrastructure, and much more. Last but
not least, it matters how we treat one another, the care
we pay to citizens that depend on help from others,
We realize this is our responsibility in Ostrava, therefore,
as a long-term policy, we promote an active approach.
Within the Senior Council, there are regular meetings
with representatives of organizations for seniors. Each
city quarter runs a Senior Club, all twelve city districts
provide so-called Senior Taxis, which is transport with
lower fares. In cooperation with the city police, we
provide seniors with “safety buttons” to quick-dial first
responders in need, organize lectures on safety in the real
world and on the Internet. They may study various fields
at the Universities of the Third Age. Seniors also take part
in specialized programmes and courses organized by the
Museum of Ostrava and the City Library of Ostrava. We
promote active seniors through annual awards of the
Senior of the Year and Senior Club, and we also sponsor