River Loučná embankment in Litomyšl
The small historic town of Litomyšl in eastern Bohemia is renowned for its Renaissance chateau on the UNESCO World Heritage List and for the opera festival named after the famos composer Bedřich Smetana who was born here. Thanks to the thoughtful strategy of the municipality, it has also become an important center of contemporary Czech architecture in recent years. The project deals with the redesign of the city park and part of the Loučná River embankment in the immediate vicinity of the historic centre. A significant value of the area was the natural character of the river banks and a quiet picturesque adjacent street.
The project was initiated by a local civic association that persuaded the municipality to take part in a nationwide contest for the best public park development project. The competition is organised annually by a private foundation. Thanks to a successful application, the project could be funded as a public-private-project. Although Litomyšl is well-known for numerous high-quality architectural realizations in the last two decades, this was the first project that involved participation of the public. Detailed sociological surveys and workshops became the starting point for a public architectural competition. The requirement was to solve the relation to the water, to improve pedestrian passability and to create a place for rest for locals of all generations.
The street was paved into one level and transformed into a mixed-traffic road. Right next to it, an open city promenade under the trees was created on the waterfront, designed for relaxation, meetings and childrens games. It features an artistically designed playground with musical motifs. The waterfront is lined with a low wall of colored concrete, forming the border between the city and the natural banks of the river. The green river belt was preserved in its wildness and made accessible only in selected places. Both sides of the area were connected by a new footbridge. The hinged bridge as well as small observation platforms on the river banks were constructed as light steel structures that are as unobtrusive as possible. The overgrown park on the other side was revamped and enhanced with leasure lawns. A neglected 19th century restaurant garden in the park was renovated and equipped with a steel pavilion for cultural events. The interventions into the vegetation were limited to the necessary cleansing and planting of new trees. The individual character of the place is reinforced by short texts with memories of local residents impressed in the concrete wall. Various types of seating, including benches, ledges, wooden platforms and a new terrace of an existing street café, meet the needs of all generations of users.
Public discussions, events and guided tours took place throughout the project met with high interest. Although it was the first such experience with participation, solutions were found to various problems and concerns of the local residents, particularly concerning parking and security of movement. Citizens could be convinced of the meaningfulness of the open space and elimination of barriers. An uninterrupted passage along the whole river was reestablished. Soon after the opening, the embankment became highly popular. Playgrounds are also used by children from nearby neighborhoods and villages. The civic association, which was the initiator of the whole project, evaluates the result very positively. The success of the project initiated a discussion on the modification of the following section of the embankment. Further adjustments will be needed in the future in places where the park was damaged in the 1970s by an insensitive construction of a nearby highway.