Poor Olomouc!

27 Jun 2024 - 29 Sep 2024
Olomouc Museum of Art
(Exhibition) (Workshop) (Architecture)
Vojtěch Jemelka, Fakulta architektury VUT Brno
Poor Olomouc, a poor city that turns a blind eye to its true image. It is outwardly presented as a historical jewel, which, however, becomes a lifeless kitsch. Or a typical whiff of tvarůžky, instead of believing in the oppressive stench of its "underworld". Behind the marketing bubble are the existential problems of many people in a state of material, relational and psychological distress.

FACULTY OF ARCHITECTURE, UNIVERSITY OF BRNO, STUDIO OF VOJTĚCH JEMELKA

We have entered them. A world that is very hard and raw, but at the same time fascinating and incredibly dynamic. It has proven to be very inspiring for our field, among other things. People on the street are testing the possibilities of the city’s previously unstoppable inner reserves, and it was fascinating for us to observe the relationships of dwellings to places. As well as the many qualities of the buildings themselves, be they technical, social or aesthetic. Above all, however, these people need our continued work. For this is not just a bubble of sociologists or social workers, but a society-wide issue, increasingly acute and strongly calling for awareness, acknowledgement and positive response.

In mainstream society, these people are no less overlooked and, above all, stigmatised. Here we take the liberty of quoting Alexander Dvořák from Charity Olomouc, who says of his friends, “Every person has an absolute value, and every one of them the same. Even the people on the street long for, love, dream… they have their inner undeniable qualities; they just drag a bag of shit through life that they themselves often cannot carry…” On the other hand, the “problem of homelessness” is considered the most pressing by Olomouc residents. In the words of Mayor Miroslav Žbánek, “…it is not so much in itself as in the reactions of the majority.” These are often hateful, but without deeper understanding.

We walked in small groups all over the city, especially in its backwaters and outskirts. We mapped the current settlement network of people “in substandard housing” and the places of the most frequent occurrence of people “without a roof”, we visited the underground hostels of people “without a flat” (according to the ETHOS typology). We discovered incredible collages of makeshift dwellings, their colonies or just carried out archaeology of the overgrown remains, so that the resulting interactive map counts over two hundred processed places. We experienced first-hand how disgraceful begging is and how challenging it is to build a shelter with the bare minimum to survive at least one night, as well as to find a safe place without competition or extremist aggressors.

But most importantly, we talked to people on the street about their stories, relationships, needs and desires, or just let them talk, because many of them clearly lack relationships and closeness. Some we visited repeatedly, others refused or did not respond, but we did not have a negative experience with any of them. Mostly there was an atmosphere of friendship and gratitude or we did not reach out to anyone. On the rare occasion if someone shouted or finished, they later realised with downcast eyes.

The deepest relationship of human belonging we established was with a homeless lady who died in the woods near the train station during our time in Olomouc. During our first meeting we provided her with what was probably the last service of warm closeness and after the second we installed a memorial on the spot.  It emerges from the glow of the sun penetrating the thicket on her face, reconciled but no longer lifeless. The ubiquitous glass bottles in the vicinity are signs of the unbearable hardships of the people who flush them. Shards like the essence of the wounds and at the same time a light-binding medium. We dangle them on wires from the branches of a tree to form a horizontal cloud – a colored nebula, passing through the thickets between the two meeting places, during and after life. A humble monument, rich in its poverty.


We have become a little more human again. We would like to thank our collaborators from Charity Olomouc, Sant´Egidio Community, Department of Social Affairs of MMOL, Olomouc City Police, Institute of Sociology of the Czech Academy of Sciences, Platform for Social Housing, Podané Ręce, MUO and Caritas College.

Projects

  • Barbora Škaloudová
  • Denis Kyselý
  • Filip Štancl
  • Hana Vaňková
  • Jiří Marcián
  • Lucie Štouračová
  • Matúš Bystričan              
  • Nina Gašparíková
  • Viola Tomášek
  • Žaneta Gricová

Head of studio

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