Project cards ready. Tables set up. Sound checked. Standing under the beautiful dome from the 1920s, it was impossible to admit that something would go wrong. It just can’t be!
First workshop on the future of Breda, the former department store and neglected landmark in the Moravian-Silesian Region, started very early. Representatives of local businesses started arriving already before 7:30.
“How many Poles are here?” asked one of the facilitators, wondering if we need to change the set up of tables. A Polish delegation took a roughly 45-minute drive from the town of Racibórz across the border for the same reason as others: to brainstorm how vast, empty floors of Breda could be turned into a valuable space for citizens, communities, businesses, NGOs, and others. “If there was a conference center here, we would use it as well. We don’t have such a space in our town,” said one of the Polish participants.
As the workshop went by, every table started to be filled with project cards stating different ideas of what Breda should be in the future. With the help of participation coordinators all the way from Slovakia, we could really focus on each and every suggestion and ensure the quality of the outcomes. We must say, many great suggestions were made along the way. From transforming the building into a cultural venue, through co-working spaces, to an all-year market, or a Jewish museum or library.
When taking into account all the suggestions of reuse, one thing was certain – only a multidisciplinary approach can assure that the building gets saved and will fit the needs of the local people. Countless locals have strong emotional ties to the place, so it is essential to keep them in the loop of the adaptive reuse process.
That is why we also invited architects, who can evaluate the potential of the building from an expert point of view to benefit our deliberative discussion. Besides taking a tour from the basement to the roof, we gave them the space to brainstorm and discuss the building’s value and future prospects. They all agreed on keeping sustainability in mind when dealing with Breda so that not only its life is prolonged, but also preservation of cultural heritage is ensured. It is a process of renovating the old while maintaining the historic and cultural heritage and creating a new dynamism in line with the spirit and requirements of the times.
Running the workshops in the building itself was, however, a double-edged sword. People started to get cold! Yet, even though we had to finish sooner, we are happy that we could kick off the deliberation process on the future of Breda. In the autumn, we will follow up with further meetings with the general public. The ideas and requirements of citizens will then become the basic starting point for the creation of a long-term concept for Breda.
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