HEAT EXCHANGERS ARE CONVERTED INTO CULTURAL HUBS AS PART OF ECOC 2013

Culture gets new homes in Košice

IF YOU have ever walked around the housing blocks found in any Slovak town, you may have noticed some mysterious cube-shaped grey buildings with narrow windows. Purpose-built to house heat exchangers, they are now mostly abandoned as the original bulky machines have been replaced by smaller devices. But the city of Košice has decided to take advantage of these spaces to promote another kind of exchange, namely the cultural variety. The process began recently with the opening of the first of a group of such cultural mini-venues.

Once a heat exchanger, now a cultural hub. 
 Once a heat exchanger, now a cultural hub. (Source: Courtesy of Košice ECOC 2013)

IF YOU have ever walked around the housing blocks found in any Slovak town, you may have noticed some mysterious cube-shaped grey buildings with narrow windows. Purpose-built to house heat exchangers, they are now mostly abandoned as the original bulky machines have been replaced by smaller devices. But the city of Košice has decided to take advantage of these spaces to promote another kind of exchange, namely the cultural variety. The process began recently with the opening of the first of a group of such cultural mini-venues.

The heat-exchanger experiment is part of SPOTs, one of two key projects being implemented in Košice as part of the city’s role as a European Capital of Culture (ECOC) in 2013. While the other project, Barracks/Kulturpark, is intended to renovate the premises of a former military barracks in the city centre, SPOTs is focused on spreading culture to the outskirts.

“Being closer to residents and involving them in reshaping their own environment have been our main goals from the beginning,” said Zora Jaurová, artistic director of the Košice 2013 team. “SPOTs, with its network of new cultural hubs, is in keeping with this ambition because it helps to create space for communication and gives people the chance to take an active and creative part in what is happening around them.”

Jana Krajkovičová, spokesperson for Košice 2013, explained that there will be three different types of exchangers. Residential exchangers will host artists who will create their works of art directly on the spot; community exchangers will become a place where people from the neighbourhood can meet to take part in shared activities; and specific exchangers will combine these and several other functions.

“By 2013, seven heat exchangers should have been renovated to meet the needs of the project, requiring an investment of €1.6 million,” she told The Slovak Spectator.

Just like the city’s other ECOC activities, this one will be covered by the total budget of almost €83 million, injected into the town by the EU as a result of Košice’s selection.



Everything will be easier



Even before the first exchanger opened its doors at the beginning of March, a few volunteers living in the area created an informal association entitled ‘The Neighbours’ and have since organised various events such as sports matches or exhibitions of children’s works.

“We wanted to organise something in our area much earlier, but there were no public spaces to meet and discuss our ideas,” said Ladislav Tomčík, a retired volleyball coach who decided to join The Neighbours in order to be among young people and make them interested in meaningful pastimes. “Now that we have the exchanger and the support, everything will be easier.”

Located at Obrody Street in Terasa, one of Košice’s largest neighborhoods, the new cultural centre has, in its first month of operation, attracted several dozen curious visitors.

The very first event to be organised in the exchanger was Future City Game, an international project designed and managed by the British Council aimed at inspiring people to think of ways to improve the quality of life in a specific area within a city. A few days later, a literary soirée was held in the exchanger where visitors could present and exchange their favourite books as well as listen to the verse of Slovak poet Dalimír Stano, and discuss it with the author himself.

The exchanger’s programme continues this week with an Easter-egg-painting workshop and folk music performance on March 31, between 15:00 and 17:00.

However, it is up to the inhabitants of the towns themselves to fill the cultural calendar of their communities, Christian Potiron from Košice 2013, who is in charge of the SPOTs initiatives, emphasised.

“Exchangers are about transformation through community participation, which is something that has not really existed in Slovakia so far,” he told The Slovak Spectator. “Yet this is the only way for people to learn how to be independent and creative in the unexpected situations they have to face in their everyday lives.”



Those interested can either contact the SPOTs team via phone or e-mail, or go to see them in the Terasa exchanger every second Wednesday of each month at 16:30. For more information on how to participate, visit www.spots.sk.


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