DREAMING OF BRNO IN THE 21ST CENTURY

I enjoy playing with the idea that a city is the result of events of which, after a certain time, only the structure remains - buildings, squares, streets and parks, in short, things created by man. For me these visible, material objects represent shell-like containers inside which life pulses, a medium at once separating the invisible worlds of individual people and their society from the natural world outside them and enabling these worlds to interact. This is how I think of Brno, the city where I live. I try to understand something about people who have not been present here physically for a long time now, but who left traces of their lives in the city's ''shells", in the sediment of past human experiences and deeds, I thereby hope to understand better what I myself am experiencing and doing, what I should devote my own limited time to.
 I imagine the city as a construction site, perhaps something like the Tower of Babel. The principles and grounds on which the city arose and continues to rest may be imagined as pillars, whose vertical axis is time: the past below, the future above. What kind of pillars are these that hold up this structure of ours? 0ne of them is likely to be the concentration of manufacturing and trading opportunities here. The opportunity to work the soil, for instance, to obtain something of use under local conditions - wood from the forest, minerals from the ground. And, finally, even to defend the city's rapidly accumulating property from unfavourable natural influences, as well as enemies. The places that people chose to establish their settlements afforded them a resting place (after crossing a river, for instance), a chance to meet with others, to talk about what was new, to trade, to eat and stay a while in safe, agreeable surroundings. It also allowed people to settle down and make a living in other ways than by trading or offering services to travellers. Cities emerged along the roads where people flowed by with their goods (material property) and their information and beliefs (non-material property). I imagine how throughout history cities arose around the fords of rivers, at cross-roads and in places where goods were reloaded (ports), sites which could be defended. That is, their origin was tied to geographically well-defined channels and places where material wealth was accumulated. All such activity was physically demanding, with natural conditions clearly playing a decisive role. 0ne pillar, or principle, on which our abstract model of the city rests is thus the accumulation of material wealth, ensuring people's material and, indirectly, even non-material needs.
 The second pillar is the sense of the significance of a place - its genius loci. 0ne source of this may lie in the ancient cult status of a place, which was connected first of all with its natural location. Another source is the process whereby settlers started to identify with a place and think of it as their home. They began to transform it, gradually giving the place a more human form. These two features intermingled in the minds of later generations, so that the strength of the "spirit of the place" grew or else diminished, or even changed its meaning. Yet the feeling of a place's significance, the sense of identification with it and of belonging to it, remained. 
I imagine the lives of generations as accumulating layers, horizontally connecting the two pillars of this abstract structure. I see them as dynamic vortices, and the city as a magnet, a place that has attracted generations of people who work and live in it. They draw from it the resources they need to live, and in turn invest their strength in it. The energy invested is greater than that which is exhausted, and the structure of these layers increases in volume and complexity - it grows. The attractive power of the vortex intensifies with the strength that people lend to it. The city is, quite simply, a dynamic ensemble of relations between citizens and organizations, a highly varied network through which information, money, emotions, services and inspiration flow in the form of numerous feedback relationships. But what makes the attractive force and dynamism of the vortex grow? The strength of the vortex grows along with the number of those factors that make up a sort of overall idea of what ''quality of life'' is in any given period. This naturally includes not only employment opportunities but also the influence of the natural environment, even a favourable climate. And, finally, the strength of the vortex also grows as the city's inhabitants consciously formulate and cultivate their vision of its future, laying the foundations on which future development may take place. 
I include together with these historical layers all the manifestations of life that proceed from both the support pillars. This includes the specific manifestations of material culture as well as the values we acknowledge, all the various "isms" that have ever been dreamt up, their transformations and the conflicts between them that still trouble us. Here also are the wars through which we destroy the tower - only, paradoxically, to speed up work on it as a result. We likewise find here all the social rituals we maintain, continually the same, all the forms of the endless struggle for power over the human herd. There are the names of the organizations and institutions that man has created in his society, and even the hectic pace and lifestyle of the present day.
Of course it is our own time that we know best. Our own experiences are part of it, and so it seems the most colourful of all to us. Looking back further into the past, the colours fade, and the experience of past generations becomes more and more difficult for us to understand. And the precise structure of future layers is something we can imagine only with difficulty. Yet the pillars of this vision, representing the reasons why the city-vortex attracts people, should remain the same, though their appearance may change. Based on this, I shall now attempt to set out a vision of the city of Brno in the future - in a hundred years, les say. 
If I extend the first pillar upwards, towards the future, how do the layers of life it carries with it change their colour? Manufacturing and trade are of key importance here. If I divide the wealth of a society into its material and non-material components, then it seems that, in contrast to earlier times, production and the accumulation of material property will begin to decline in importance. This is already happening today all the traditional manufacturing and industrial branches are being shifted elsewhere, even vanishing completely. The importance of non-material sources of wealth and information-intensive forms of production will increase considerably. And even here only those that require tradition as well as knowledge and skills that cannot be easily transferred elsewhere, someplace where labour is cheaper, will survive. I have to ask whether Brno has something like this to offer its future. And I believe that the answer is no. The fame of its textile and machine industries is already fading out. The situation is the same in the area of non-material wealth - which fields of knowledge are both traditional here and well enough developed to have good prospects of developing even in the future? I know of none that would be able to support unique, strategically important forms of production. The growth in importance of knowledge and skills, along with the decline in importance of less demanding forms of production, leads me to conclude that the guiding force in the city's development will be primarily commerce and finance, particularly in some form that involves more than merely providing services for city residents. Future layers of city life will thus proceed according to the following equation:
 potential for development = knowledge
 and skills + finance and commerce
In my view, information and money represent a much greater ''energy'' potential than material objects. But their significance lies in being exchanged; they need to flow, there is no point in accumulating them. Only by being exchanged and transformed can this potential be increased or lost. In their static form information and money are worth only as much as the medium that conveys them, a value which does not tend to be very great. Moreover, as is well known, information suffers much more from becoming outdated than money does from inflation. In contrast to things, however, information and money are not bound to trade routes and cross-roads in a geographical sense. They do not move along railroads, streets or highways, but instead travel in the form of electric impulses through a dense, unified network of capillaries (or, more and more frequently now, even without them). They are literally in the air, everywhere around us. Their cross-roads need no longer be cities. Human communities in any place whatever can provide growth potential, thus in fact negating the traditional function of the city. It will increasingly be the case that people will no longer need cities for economic reasons, whereas cities will need people for this very reason. The global race to gain an edge in economic competition need no longer take place in the city, it can happen anywhere. Cities are changing today, anyhow. the human population is increasingly flooding over the administrative boundaries of this or that city, forming urban conglomerates in a culturally transformed landscape. Capital and information know no boundaries. In order for information and money to remain a source of potential for the further existence and development of cities and continue being drawn to them, there must first be other reasons than those related to manufacturing and the economy. To find them, we must look to the second of our pillars.
 This second pillar supporting the future is the sense of a place's significance, its "spirit". This involves more than an aesthetic experience, a sense of how a place is distinguished from its surroundings. It is also a question of our relationship to the given place - our sense of belonging, often identified with the feeling of home, the bond that we have created over time through the work we have done, the ties we have formed and the experiences we have had. Over the generations a certain tradition attaches to a place, transcending the instability and brevity of life. This is, then, a wholly immeasurable and irrational factor. Is it at all possible for a city's future existence and growth potential to rest on such absurdly uncertain and subjective foundations? I am convinced that it is. With the city's defensive function already a thing of the past, and its economic role now diminishing, it is precisely this consciousness of commonly-shared values that will ensure continuity. Cities which are not beautiful, and which find themselves unable to fulfil this spiritual-cultural function, will "dissolve" into their surroundings as they expand or, in the worst case, die out completely. 
 What can I do to make my model city function even in the future, when inhabitants of the information society will have no difficulty working and living elsewhere? What do the outlines of the upper levels of the building look like, what shape will the city take in the future? Where should I seek some kind of guarantee that the city will survive and continue to grow?
 - It would seem that this guarantee lies in nothing more than our love for it and our gratitude for the sense of identity it has given us. The chief factor that ensures a city's future existence is not the economy but rather the experience of its beauty. 
 - As culture continues in large part to assume a ''mediated" form, cities will serve mainly as centres of culture that enable people to come into direct contact and communicate experiences of the values they share. Through such activities, based on people's active, personal involvement, a given culture is transmitted from one generation to another. 
 - Cities will increasingly serve as schools of social co-existence and political organization in a democratic society. Although models of behaviour in these areas can also be transmitted by the modern media, a person gains experience only through actual participation.
 - The importance of a city's historical buildings as a kind of contemplative mirror will continue to grow. This function is already served in a narrower sense by churches and other places of worship. Yet I believe that this role will be assumed in a wider and freer sense by the entire urban architectural structure. It is quite possible that, in the future, cities which have preserved their beautiful historical cores will gain importance once again. (By the way, I see no reason why Olomouc, for example, could not become the most important city in Moravia once more. The long-standing competition between these two cities will no longer take place in the political and economic sphere, but rather in the cultural one. And this pleases me.) 
 And now I would like to consider what all of this means for Brno itself. How can I help what I like about and identify with in this city to grow? What will be the principal factors in maintaining it? It seems to me that it is particularly those non-economic factors that led to the city's emergence which need to be developed intensively.
 - We shall make the city a beautiful and, above all, pleasant place to live in. As in times past, we must make sure that its public areas are suitably attractive for meetings between people, allowing them to sit down, have something to eat and watch the life pulsing in historical buildings. People should be offered all manner of services and forms of amusement in a safe, clean and healthy environment.
 - We shall add to what makes Brno unique and inimitable: 
If the city is distinguished by the fact that various ethnic cultures were always able to co-exist within it, and if there are going to be more foreigners here once again, then we should do all we can to make them feel at home, and together use our differences as the driving force behind ideas and developments. If Brno is distinguished by having retained its human proportions (the advantage of its not being the capital city), then we should make efforts to keep it from growing too large. When the housing estates that enclose Brno outlive their useful life, I would let them gradually fall into disuse. On the other hand, great care should be taken to preserve everything that has survived from earlier times. (Demographic studies indicate that the population will get smaller over the next twenty years and will, moreover, be an aging population.) Here again, my long-term view of things sees the city getting smaller, so that people can walk or ride bikes to get around. If Brno is distinguished by its geographical location between highlands and fertile plains, we should make use of the advantages offered us by this meeting of two rather distinct worlds, with their relatively undamaged natural resources. If the rivers in the south-east of the city were always an important part of Brno's system of defence, then we should make good use of the water again - this time to secure its future reputation as a city full of greenery and clean water. But Brno's uniqueness as a cross-roads probably cannot be preserved. The true cross-roads of the future are airports, and these may be built in any city. Maintaining the city's status as a place where the non-material manifestations of culture merge freely is something that depends on all these other factors. 
 - We shall invest in institutions which provide room for giving people what they cannot get at home, isolated in front of the television or computer: the experience of direct encounters
with other people, the pleasure to be found in theatres, concert halls and galleries, as well as at trade fairs, banks or stadiums.
 - While Prague's future is ensured by its status as the nation's capital and its great beauty, and that of certain other cities by their beauty alone, the situation is different in Brno. If it was industry that made Brno grow during the ''economic age'', its future in the ''information age'' lies exclusively in science and the arts and in schools of higher learning of all types. Brno's fate is tied to its evolution into a city of international standing. We shall therefore see to it that it becomes a city of campuses, scientific institutes and educational institutions - libraries, study halls, workshops, studios and other facilities where people of all nationalities can work together to generate and exchange knowledge and skills, providing models of human and professional behaviour, Although we know that true expertise resides in knowing where to get the latest information (and we do not need a city for that), we also know that satellite transmissions of lectures cannot replace direct contact between people. The potential significance of information is activated only when we take a look around and learn something from others.
 - As the only famous works of Brno architecture that have survived, namely, the city's functionalism buildings, do not do much to support a sense of its special magic or inspire people's imaginations, we must make all evidence of Brno's past accessible to the public. Špilberk Castle should definitely be used for this purpose, becoming a kind of counterpart to the Exhibition Grounds, a place for exhibits and education where one can spend whole days wandering through the city's past and future when the weather outside is bad. Here we shall open up the museum collections and archives to show what the city used to look like. I would display the provincial records here, to prove that Brno was once the setting for important Provincial Assemblies. I would show all the pictures we have of the city in the past, as well as its fortification plans. I would even finally publish a comprehensive illustrated book on the city. Tourists should be given the chance to take a journey through the city's history in multimedia form, Margrave Jošt will speak to them from a compact disc, and Karel the Elder of Žerotín could tell them of the moral trials he faced during his term of office - the difficult burden of one who remained here, and the bitter fate of his brother, Ladislav Velen, who emigrated. Jumping ahead into the present again, I would bring back the exhibition held several years ago of architects' plans that were never realised. I would like to see the Head Architecs Office transformed from a bureaucratic department into an open specialist laboratory serving cultural, political and educational functions. I would invite people there to use its computers to create their own model of the city, and teach them how to simulate its development and administration.
 - We should see to it that there are always enough "wild ideas" and fantasies around, going well beyond the limits of conventional values, standards and opinions. Ideas move things forward and, if they are powerf-ul enough, the money for implementing them will come of its own accord. I already dream of how Brno would look as a sea or river port, an important European airport, a space station or the headquarters of a world bank - even a genetic bank. I dream of ways of preserving some factories from the mechanical age as technological museums, while others would be given new life as theatres, concert halls, music studios and galleries. The Moravian Gallery will not come away empty-handed, and the old yearning for a respectable concert hall here will certainly be satisfied by some such space. I dream that soon we will no longer be afraid of big politics, and start to take an interest in politics at the local level. Political disputes will be more than pathetically provincial squabbles about who is in power, they will be about how to solve common problems in the best way. I dream of how the most dynamic people will go out into the world and even do important work there, only to come back to Brno again and (at least the most experienced of them) get involved in city administration here. They will thereby help us to see local problems from a global perspective. I dream that we will all be able to speak German again, perhaps. We will feel glad to be near to Vienna and Bratislava, and people from those cities will be glad, too, that Brno is so nearby. I dream of how the Military Academy will become an academy for UN Peacekeeping Forces, I dream that the territory stretching from Blansko's karst region to the Valtice-Lednice Landmark Area will become one great piece of paradise on earth - a place where (perhaps as the guests of some future, united Brno university) members of the Club of Rome, Nobel Prize winners, monarchs, heads of state and representatives of international organizations will be glad to return year after year during grape harvest season, traditionally marking the start of each new school year. I dream (somewhat mischievously) that the city mayor and the university rector will be so busy with protocol duties and problems with finding decent accommodation for guests that they will have no time for their work. I dream that we will learn how to look farther into the future than merely securing the material comfort of our children requires. I dream that we will achieve the uniqueness and openness the city needs in order to attract people, so that this cultural cross-roads we call Brno will not be lost in the unified Europe of the future.

Lubomír Kostroň