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A Unique Piece of Street Furniture
Havel’s Place is a memorial dedicated to Václav Havel, the last Czechoslovak President and First President of the Czech Republic. It’s not just in Prague. A “Havel’s Place” can currently be found in nearly 20 Czech Towns and International locations as part of a worldwide project sponsored by a former Czech Ambassador to the USA (Petr Gandalovič) working closely with Czech architect and designer Bořek Šípek. Václav Havel died in 2011, the photo above was taken after the death of the designer in 2016. The heart decoration on the chair is symbolic for the fact that Bořek Šípek was famous for working with glass and that the heart was also strongly associated with Havel.
Seen from a distance it’s a couple of chairs next to a small table located underneath a tree. Look more closely and you’ll see that the table is directly connected to the chairs and the tree is growing through the centre of the table. Look even more closely and you’ll see that the chairs are angled slightly towards but not opposite each other (but the angle can be altered by swivelling). What does it all mean?
It means Dialogue, getting people to talk to each other to resolve their issues peacefully and constructively. The worldwide “Havel’s Place” project was coordinated and implemented by the Václav Havel Library. The aim was simply to create a network of places in public spaces that could contribute to meetings and holding of genuine dialogue – places where it will be possible to hold discussions reflecting the spirit of the ideals and philosophy of Václav Havel.
The fourth Havel’s Place (pictured above) was unveiled on the Maltese Square in Mala Strana on 1 May 2014 which was the 10th anniversary of the Czech Republic’s accession to the EU. The first was unveiled in Georgetown, Washington on October 3rd 2013.
It’s quite difficult for me to put into words what Václav Havel stood for so let me just take this one quote from a letter to the last Communist party leader:
The overall question, then, is this: What profound intellectual and moral impotence will the nation suffer tomorrow, following the castration of its culture today? I fear that the baneful effects on society will outlast by many years the particular political interests that gave rise to them. So much more guilty, in the eyes of history, are those who have sacrificed the country’s spiritual future for the sake of their present power interests.
Václav Havel: Letter to Gustáv Husák – samizdat essay, April 8, 1975
I guarantee that any two people sitting in the chairs will begin to talk to each other and if you sit down in Havel’s Place then note the wording around the table “Truth and Love Must Overcome Lies and Hatred”. An inspiration for us all.