The building of “Fatra House of Arts”, listed as a National Monument, ranks among the most important architectural objects of Žilina with Secession elements on its facade. Due to its artistic and historical significance, as well as its central location, it is included in the basic itinerary of guided tours of Žilina. It is closely surrounded by other monuments and attractions with high number of visitors – tourists and locals.
Concerts and events organized by the Slovak Sinfonietta Žilina, as well as other social and cultural events take place there. The current state of the building – in terms of both its exterior and its interior – is not at all consistent with its significance and with its role: it serves as the seat of a state-funded music ensemble with a high number of visitors and with a continuous, year-round production. According to the opinion given by the restorer Ján Janda and by Vladimír Majtán, expert advisor of the Regional Monuments Board in Žilina, the structure is in a state of disrepair: the graphic and plastic decoration on the facade falls apart and creates a hazardous condition for passers-by. Without an immediate intervention, the damages will be irreparable.
Concert patrons, professional public and residents of Žilina have an acute perception and awareness of the bad condition of Fatra House of Arts in terms of both its facade and its concert hall. According to their statements, as well as according to city officials, local and regional entities and tourism experts, the renovation is indispensable: there is a wide consensus about this urgent necessity. They believe that the building renovation will contribute to making the historical centre of Žilina more dignified and to increasing its attractiveness and its attendance, thus enriching the cultural life of the city and improving the quality of cultural experiences.
Project objective is to create conditions for an improved art experience and for increasing the usability potential of Fatra House of Arts, by renovating its exterior facades and by refurbishing its internal facilities.
The restoration includes two fundamental stages, indispensable for a general renovation: A. Historically authentic renovation of facades and windows, where the art elements on it will be fully renovated, the original inscription “Grand Bio Universum” on the main facade attic will be restored and the doors and windows will be entirely replaced according to historical sources, with the addition of double-pane insulation glass. It will attract more new visitors and will delight the views of tourists and residents of the city.
B. Renovation of the concert hall according to the requirements of KPÚ Žilina (Regional Monuments Board). It includes a) Update of the lighting system; b) Stage expansion; c) Flooring renovation and reconstruction; d) Renovation and addition of seats.
The stage is lit irregularly, in some sectors the players cannot see their music, in others the lights blind the patrons. An intimate atmosphere cannot be achieved, as effects lighting is missing altogether. Lamps are disparate, and incompatible with contemporary standards and needs of a modern event production. The solution we propose will create a lighting system of higher standards, better quality and versatility, resulting in a more refined environment, and will provide a sufficient stage lighting with effects and concert lights, while saving energy. Its design prevents the blinding of the patrons and offers a better sheet music readability for the performers, in conformity with the monument preservation principles.
In case of concerts involving a full orchestra and another ensemble (musical, vocal or dance), the space conditions are very constrained as of now; in some cases, the intended performance had to be renounced. The stage expansion project was prepared by the Slovak Sinfonietta already in 2010, but until now we have not been able to find sufficient financial coverage. After the update, the stage will be expanded mostly on the sides and will ensure a safe moving environment for the performers, in particular during events involving various types of performing ensembles. The hardwood flooring on the stage and in the auditorium is from 1980s and has never been renovated. It creaks, disrupting the performances, it is worn out and visually unpleasing. A complete renovation of the flooring is indispensable. The seats in the auditorium, in the balconies and boxes are disparate and of different designs. In order to provide the patrons with an unobstructed view and to maintain the escape routes design it is necessary to unify and complete them, as well as to modify their arrangement. The existing seats in the auditorium are in workable state, although because of their age they require a wood preservation treatment and reupholstering.
ŠKO produces several types of cultural events in terms of focus, target group or size (from recitals and chamber music concerts to big orchestra performances). Considering the technical limitations and the layout of the concert hall, it is currently impossible, despite our will, to carry out all of our intentions and to produce events in line with contemporary trends such as cross-genre combination of live music, visuals, light, spoken word, dance or singing, fusion between sound and video techniques or concerts featuring several ensembles on one stage.
Besides the building renovation, the project output will also consist in production of several concerts exploiting the new potential of the restored monument, full-scale utilisation of the new technical possibilities: video projection, light and sound equipment, expanded stage. They will be mutual concerts with Norwegian musicians, presenting the music of Norwegian composers, an orchestra concert featuring a Roma band and a choir, concerts presenting different cultures. At the same time, project events will contribute to the fight against radicalism and hate speech, and the presentation of the cultural heritage of minorities, connecting diverse cultures and genres as well as familiarising the general public with them. They will be designed for various target groups, public, youth, schools, children. All types of events will continue in the future as well.
Reconstruction will make it possible to significantly increase the use of the building for cultural activities promoting cultural heritage through music, video (projection with music), dance and spoken word, to combine it with innovative elements (thanks to new lighting and picture) that enrich visitors’ experience, increase their interests to attending events and increase visits to the restored monument. Also the media promotion of the reconstruction and all key activities that will start to use the renewed equipment and present it to the public will be helpful to achieve that goal.
The project will be implemented in cooperation with two partners – civic association MUSICA CLASSICA Žilina, that will participate in the organization of concerts, other events and publicity of the project and private company Potfaj A3A from Norway, which will ensure the participation of Norwegian artists in mutual concerts, including their preparation.
The main added value of the partnership consists in the direct involvement of non-professional music lovers in the project implementation, mutual organization of events and promotion and, on the other hand, development of cooperation between musicians of different cultures, exchange of experience, mutual preparation and study of works and bringing the music of Norwegian authors closer to the Slovak audience, as well as providing a framework for event production and publicity. The civic association connects people with a positive attitude toward classical music, willing to support the development of artistic efforts of ŠKO Žilina; one of its explicit goals is the preservation and the restoration of Fatra House of Arts.
Other partners collaborating on and participating in the project activities as well as created networks with local players will be used too.