The European Commission and Europa Nostra revealed today the winners of the 2017 European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage, Europe’s top honour in the heritage field. Among this year’s winners are two outstanding accomplishments from Czech Republic: the rehabilitation of the Baroque Complex and Gardens in Kuks and the Educational programme for Czech cultural heritage.
Independent expert juries examined a total of 202 applications, submitted by organisations and individuals from 39 countries across Europe, and chose the laureates. The 29 laureates from 18 countries are being recognised for their notable achievements in conservation, research, dedicated service, and education, training and awareness-raising. “I congratulate all the winners. Their achievements demonstrate once again how engaged many Europeans are in protecting and safeguarding their cultural heritage. Their projects highlight the significant role of cultural heritage in our lives and our society,” said Tibor Navracsics, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport.
Citizens from around the world can now vote on-line for the Public Choice Award and rally support for the winning project(s) from their own or another European country. Voters have the chance to win a trip for two to Finland and be a special guest at the Awards Ceremony that will be held in the historic city of Turku on 15 May. During the ceremony, the seven Grand Prix laureates, each of whom will receive €10,000, and the Public Choice Award winner, chosen from among this year’s winning projects, will be announced.
Baroque Complex and Gardens in Kuks
The Kuks - Pomegranate project was initiated and coordinated by the National Heritage Institute in the Czech Republic and with support from the European Regional Development Fund. The site, built in the early 18th century, is comprised of the residence of Franz Anton von Sporck, built close to the medicinal springs of the nearby river Elbe as well as a spa, a hospital, a church, a cemetery, a pharmacy and sprawling gardens with herb garden, follies and fountains found within. Much of the complex was in an unfortunate condition with the vast majority of the buildings completely unsuitable for use.
The complex represents an outstanding example of Baroque architecture and interior decoration and embodies Baroque ideals in its symbolic physical arrangement. The Baroque fascination with opposites, life and death is evident in the way in which those buildings dedicated to youth and life, that is the chateau, the theatre and spa are located on one side of the valley while those devoted to spirituality, aging and death such as the hospital, church and cemetery are located on the opposite bank. “The restoration work of the Kuks hospital, an integrated project of building and landscape conservation, is of the highest quality. Its multi-, interdisciplinary approach is commendable and should serve as a strong example for conservation projects across Europe,” said the jury.
“The building and its history are important in a European context as the site tells a story which is conveyed through its educational program. Its continued use in a pharmaceutical function is significant. Hospitals frequently present a complicated set of issues in conservation as they are continually in need of restoration and technological advances. The Kuks – Pomegranate project presents a solution which is well adapted to the new demands of the building while preserving what is present of its history,” commented the jury.
Educational programme for Czech cultural heritage
This research based project, through determined and diligent work, has created a comprehensive system of programmes aimed at experiential educating various target groups in immovable and movable cultural heritage. They achieved this in close cooperation with partners from pedagogical faculties of two universities in the field of informal education at all levels and with a strong methodological approach, the results of which have been widely disseminated both nationally and internationally.
The project was funded by the Ministry of Culture in order to establish a quality system of heritage education and learning in the Czech Republic. The educational programmes have enabled the optimum use of many of 100 heritage sites and objects in state property with most of the programmes were realised in the authentic environment of heritage properties. So far, the programmes have reached approximately 31 000 participants from diverse backgrounds.
The programme has had considerable success in raising awareness and appreciation of Czech cultural heritage, which in turn contributes to a deepened understanding among the participants and a greater desire to protect this heritage. The jury noted this aspect of the project stating that “the overarching approach to enhancing cultural heritage by using educational projects is truly impressive”. The project reflected foreign trends in heritage education but was equally successful at creating their own innovative strategies which were positively received abroad and in academic circles.