Vítkovice steelworks gets a place on the European Culture Heritage List

Photo: CTK

The north Moravian city of Ostrava, once known as the steel heart of Czechoslovakia, has now become the first Czech site to be included on an EU list of European Culture Heritage, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Wawel castle in Krakow or Cluny Abbey in France.

Photo: CTK
It was quite a surprise. The first Czech site to be included on the European Culture Heritage list is not a picturesque city or a castle, but a run down industrial complex, with its defunct blast furnaces. What exactly makes the Vítkovice steelworks so unique? Benjamin Frágner is the head of the Research Centre for Industrial Heritage at the Czech Technical University.

“The Vítkovice industrial complex is a symbol of the industrial development of Ostrava. But what makes the site really unique is that it represents a complete production process, from coal mining to steel processing. This is what makes the site really unusual when you compare it to similar places across Europe.”

Photo: CTK
The European Culture Heritage List is a relatively new project put together by the culture ministries of several EU member states. Inspired by the UNESCO list of world heritage sites, they are working to create a similar list of European sites. I asked Benjamin Frágner why it was important to make an official list of cultural and industrial monuments.

“These sites enable people to understand the past. The younger generation has no idea what the production process looked like. It also says something about the cultural and economic development of a certain area and it is definitely part of the memory of the city. The Vítkovice industrial complex is actually called the Hradčany of Ostrava. It is a symbol of an era.”

One of the reasons why the Culture Ministry decided to nominate the Vítkovice complex for the listing is that the owner of the same name has already come up with a project for the site’s renewal. The company plans to turn it into a cultural and social centre, including a university complex and public sports grounds. Benjamin Frágner says it is very important to approach the renewal with respect.

“It is quite common that industrial sites are used for different purposes but it should never go against the historical value. What is important in the case of the Vítkovice industrial complex is to maintain the authentic environment, so that it always bears witness to the past. The new development should never suppress the value of the original building.”

Apart from the Vítkovice industrial complex, the Czech Republic has also nominated the modern centre of Zlín, the Kynžvart Chateau in west Bohemia and the town of Vysoká u Příbrami for a place on the European Culture Heritage List.