Address at the ceremonial opening of the Cultural Centre of European Space Technologies – KSEVT
Vitanje, 6.9.2012 | speech
Official address by Dr Danilo Türk, the President of the Republic of Slovenia, at the ceremonial opening of the Cultural Centre of European Space Technologies – KSEVT
Vitanje, 6 September 2012
There are many reasons for joy and satisfaction at today’s ceremonial opening of the Cultural Centre of European Space Technologies (KSEVT). It is not very often – particularly recently – that a new cultural centre opens its doors, especially one so exceptionally innovative in its programme and architecture.
But then, a cultural centre of space technologies which combines science and art, vision and reality, dreams and truth has never been opened anywhere before. This ambitious project is also important for being located in the idyllic and exceptionally beautiful Slovenian town of Vitanje, as it puts this town on the map of the universe. Yes, from this day forward, Vitanje is on the map of the universe, and not only of the Earth.
Recently, when we were commemorating the great space explorer, the recently deceased Neil Armstrong, allow me to paraphrase his famous words and emphasise that today’s event represents “one small step for man, but a giant leap for Vitanje, Slovenia and the entire world”.
The Vitanje ‘Space Odyssey’, as we could poetically describe this project, dwells in visions. The Slovenian and European pioneer of space technologies, Herman Potočnik Noordung, had a brilliant engineering mind. But without his bold, open and also ethical thinking, he would not have been able to develop the answers and visions which he left to humankind: on space travel, life in weightless conditions, extraterrestrial human habitation, the return to ‘native’ Earth and on the means of transport and constructions that enable all the above. Herman Potočnik was not only a leading engineer in steel spacecraft, but also a prophet, who – although he lived for only 36 years – was followed by American, Russian, European and other researchers.
Designing bold visions and ‘wild’ ideas is not easy. For example, it is difficult to plan something that has not yet been proven in practice and which exists only in an abstract, unverified area. An exit from standard, predictable and conceptually safe thinking is necessary. Therefore, not fear, but courage is needed. Such an exit can undoubtedly contribute greatly to art, which should never be underestimated, reduced, limited, subdued or even ridiculed.
Art broadens the horizons of the mind and spirit, enriches life, and connects and strengthens society, also in terms of the economy and development. This has already been proven in Vitanje, where the first smaller memorial room dedicated to the pioneer of space travel was visited by key scientists, artists and astronauts from all over the world. The flow of ideas, intertwining of visions and their realisation will only grow with the installation of the permanent exhibition and accompanying activities.
The Cultural Centre of European Space Technologies (KSEVT) in Vitanje is an excellent example of an open perception of culture, science and society. The building itself – the work of young architects from four architectural offices – is a kind of replica of Potočnik’s Living Wheel – which displays a noble union of culture and nature. As if, in this beautiful green valley protected by numerous belfries, a spacecraft had landed and opened its modern door to all: researchers and local residents, artists and local associations, dancing and singing, word and image, high technology and handicrafts.
This connecting and intertwining is also important because it is not happening in an urban centre, but on the seeming periphery, which is very important for the state. One of the great advantages of Slovenia is that its cultural infrastructure is distributed evenly and decentralised. This networking of cultural institutions is valuable, as it enables broader and more equal access to culture for everyone.
I have been keeping a watchful eye on the Vitanje project, and I have supported it throughout in carrying out my, particularly diplomatic, duties. I admit that I was nevertheless surprised by the way in which all the main protagonists remained positively and constructively connected throughout the project, despite the numerous obstacles presented by the uncertain situation in the construction industry.
I thus congratulate the local community, Slavko Vetrih, the Mayor, Srečko Fijavž, the Administration Board Director, Dragan Živadinov, the spiritual driving force, Miha Turšič and the Ministry, which has shown an understanding of good projects co-financed by European funds. Let me point out that these projects are not unusual, and are, in the spirit of decentralisation, happening throughout Slovenia – from Vipava, Celje, Vipolže, Novo Mesto, Maribor, Ptuj and Brestanica, where the renovated Rajhenburg Castle was opened recently. The sensible utilisation of European funds must continue. We must continue to ensure that European funds do not remain unutilised due to incompetence or exaggerated saving.
In the 1920s, Herman Potočnik Noordung designed the first architecture in space. There, conditions are quite different from conditions on Earth. All directions in weightless conditions are equal; at least that was what Potočnik said in his book ‘The Problem of Space Travel’. From this special ‘disorder’, as he called it, he derived his pseudonym, Noordung.
And a part of this special ‘disorder’ has now been brought to Earth with the desire and the will to see that paths of equality would also be realised on Earth and not only in the sky. Directions of equality – also in conditions of gravity and not only of weightlessness – should remain our common value and political credo. Vitanje is proof that this is possible.
In conclusion, let me point to the important quality that Potočnik advocated about a hundred years ago: his pioneering research on the conquest of space was undertaken with peaceful intentions. Let these intentions also guide our direction forward, so that it is peaceful, bold, courageous and creative.