Preview: Different City Experience
Prague not alone this year in getting communities to meet on the street
Posted: September 18, 2013
Courtesy Photo: Jan Krčmář
Bio Oko is again participating in the program taking place on Františka Křížka Street in Letná as part of the Different City Experience.
For the eighth year running, the nonprofit civic association Auto*Mat is overseeing a citywide outdoor event in the capital that aims to improve life in public spaces by bringing communities together. The event takes place Saturday, Sept. 21, in more than 30 different areas spread out across Prague and is titled "Zažít město jinak," or Different City Experience (ZMJ).
"[This project] provides an opportunity for the public to envision a different way of life in their neighborhood, with less space for cars (moving or parked) and more for social life, local businesses and community activities," says Anna Strejcová, spokeswoman for Auto*Mat.
The event started in 2006, when it was held on Smetanovo nábřeží in the heart of the city. Three years ago, the concept underwent a transformation, as the focus became more community-oriented and the event was spread around different parts of the city. Auto*Mat invited other initiatives, nongovernmental organizations and local groups to make their own festival in their street with their own program, while Auto*Mat is in charge of publicity, official permission and other technical details.
Last year, the event was held in 22 different areas in Prague, and this year it has branched out to Ostrava and Olomouc, as well as some 35 locations in the capital.
When: Saturday, Sept. 21, throughout the afternoon
Where: More than 30 venues in Prague; also in Ostrava and Olomouc
The festival coincides with European Mobility Week, celebrated Sept. 16-22, which is an initiative supported by the European Commission that encourages people to use alternatives to automobiles, a goal shared by Auto*Mat since its inception, as it seeks to promote the "modern, healthy and sustainable development of the city of Prague," according to the association's website.
As part of this week, which highlights the advantages of using public rather than private transport, Auto*Mat is involved in many other programs that complement their ZMJ. One event in particular that sounds like great fun is a challenge to get as quickly as possible from Modřany to the National Theater during rush hour using different kinds of transport, including tram, car and bike. The event starts Wednesday, Sept. 18 at 8 a.m., at the KOTI Hyacint residential complex in Modřany, and participants should be there around 7:30 a.m.
Friday, Sept. 20, the evening before ZMJ, Bio Oko in Letná will screen The Human Scale, a documentary about the initiatives proposed over many decades by Danish architect Jan Gehl to create car-free spaces in urban areas, and hold a discussion about sustainable urban development.
Františka Křížka Street, directly in front of Bio Oko, will host a number of events Sept. 21 thanks to the involvement of one of the area's best-known theaters, Alfred ve dvoře, which is located a small distance farther down the road. This will be their third year of taking part, and on offer will be stalls from the neighborhood selling their (mostly edible) wares, and the opportunity for you to show how well you can cut a rug by shaking your hips at a makeshift dancehall in the street. Barbora Šlapáková, spokeswoman for the Alfred ve dvoře theater, which organizes the program in this street, says they have been planning the day for the past five months.
The social enterprise Pragulic, which organizes unconventional tours on which homeless persons are the tour guides, will also offer tours at this event.
One block down, in Veverkova Street, Bistro 8 will serve as the backdrop to a neighborhood picnic hosted from 2 p.m. onward, to which you are more than welcome to bring your own food and drink - and in a spirit of neighborliness, participants are encourage to share their homemade provisions with their fellow residents.
Prague 8 will be abuzz with activities in many areas scattered across the neighborhood, taking place between 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. In Karlín, Hybešova Street, at the eastern end of Křižíkova Street, will have DJs, book stalls, foosball and neighbors grilling meat, while the focus at Karlínské náměstí, just 10 minutes' walk to the west, will be all be more sporty. Here, visitors can play pétanque, table tennis and badminton, and even engage in such nostalgic activities as playing marbles or skákání přes gumu, or jumping across a rubber band!
In Libeň's Na Žertvách Street, close to the Palmovka transit hub, there will be a site-specific photo exhibition, music and theater, a 30-min movie projection at 8 p.m. and a discussion about the future of the area, which may soon see a highway being built to carry some 20,000 cars per day. Here, the day's varied program starts at 1 p.m.
This is just a small selection of all the activities that will be taking place all over the city to bring people together by tuning out the noise of the inner city.
"These street activities show that even something that has been considered impossible may become reality if people put their strength together, offer their skills and respect each other," Strejcová says. "Only [together] can we work toward an improved quality of life in our city."
A map with a full list of the Prague sites where the events will take place can be found online at Zazitmestojinak.cz/praha.
André Crous can be reached at
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