The Panel Story project has been made possible through Carleton College’s Mellon-funded initiative Public Works: Arts & Humanities Connecting Communities.
The Panel Story aims to engage the living legacy of cooperative community-building through times of change, as experienced in the U Opavice 2-4 neighborhood in the small Czech town of Opava. The project author, Iveta Jusová, was raised here.
Consisting of three seven-story “paneláky” (prefabricated apartment buildings), the neighborhood community at the center of this project dates back to the early 1960s. Many of the current inhabitants of this paneláky development have lived here since the beginning when the apartment blocks were first built, and their active participation in that process of building first grounded and connected them to this place.
In terms of physical urban geography, the tall multi-story paneláky might be described as vertical suburbs. But while paneláky, similar to the US suburbs, tend to be associated with uniformity and monotony and their images have been used to buttress the stereotype of Eastern European socialist life as grey, anonymous and lamentable, the U Opavice 2-4 coop has managed to create a strong sense of belonging and connection to the place, which perseveres to this day and continues to be actively nurtured.
The texts and photographs presented in the following pages are based on nineteen interviews conducted with twenty eight project participants in July and August of 2018.
Authors would like to thank:
- Mellon Public Works Project Grant and Carleton College, MN, USA
- Susannah Ottaway, Professor of History, and Kelly Connole, Professor of Art, Coordinators of the Public Works Project, Carleton College
- Celeste Sharpe, Academic Technologist for Instructional Technology, Carleton College
- U Opavice 2-4 residents interviewed for this project
- Vojtěch Kostka, Head of the U Opavice 2-4 Coop Unit
- Jan Hampel, Director of SBD Stavbař
- Pavel Lyko and Karel Lyko, archival photographs
- Jarmila Smolková
- Michaela Weiss, Slezská univerzita, Opava, help with translation
- Státní okresní archív Opava