Výškovice apple tree

Výškovice – Wischkovitz

Finding the right answer to the subject of recovering the former Výškovice landscape is no easy feat. Most likely, it will be a task for several following generations because the question does not lie in the form of one single place. The roots of this issue go way back, concerning our past and present, our present-day society, our identity and last but not least also the state of our landscape.

The Výškovice village is but one of many vanished communities in the Sudetenland. Their names often exist only in historical maps, the last evidences of the human presence slowly disappearing in self-seeding trees and luxuriant weeds. The nature is taking back what has once been taken from it with hard work. Ironically, long centuries of conscientious husbandry had turned this region into a cultural landscape in the true sense of the word.

The purpose of our work should be to find a way of letting one abandoned place that has for a long time been neglected and left to its fate speak again. Let it speak through its pathways, trees, through the open space in front of the chapel. And bring back at least an echo of the phrase culture of landscape. Those who are willing will be able to listen, discover, recognize…

Recovering landscape and place Výškovice – Wischkovitz Vít Rýpar & Eva Wágnerová

Panel II. – The Path

There is more than just one perspective on Výškovice. Although in the past the village has not differed significantly from those in its surroundings, its fate has attributed it many more meanings. And so even though most people today consider Výškovice to be only a name in the landscape – a stop or a place for a stroll – to many others it still represents a lost home, a pleasant or bitter memory, a disappointment or regret.

By being chosen as part of the Pilsen – The European Capital of Culture 2015 project, the importance of Výškovice has risen unexpectedly. The village has become an important symbol, not only a representative of all the vanished settlements in western Bohemia, but also of the current state of landscape in the Czech borderlands. This fact is also very vital to the proposal of the future form of the village. The way this fact will be deal with will create a precedent, a possible example to be followed.

For whom is the new face of the Výškovice landscape intended? Not even this question comes with an unequivocal answer. Výškovice is located in the stunning area of Slavkovský les which is sought after by tourists from both sides of the border. It also lies in the vicinity of villages with active communities. It is therefore presumable that it will become the destination of a diverse range of visitors.

We envision the new design of Výškovice mainly as a place for reflection, a place for uncovering forgotten order, a place of discovery and healthy curiosity. We propose to employ minor interventions to uncover the locality so that we are not the last ones who can hear it talking.

Výškovice also has another meaning. For the local inhabitants it is a fixed part of the structural landscape of their home. That is why it also has to be easily accessible so that it is worth visiting and so that after getting to know the place, people could adopt it. The time spent in the landscape with our eyes open can be a forever enriching experience.

People will approach Výškovice in different ways. They can make a stop on their car or bike trip, but some of them will come here on foot with a concrete goal – and for those visitors we are proposing a path. The point of view of a wayfarer might help us realize the connections; enable us to tangibly feel that we belong somewhere.

Výškovice lies between two lively communities: Boněnov and Ovesné Kladruby, and from both these villages it can be reached by less than 40 minutes of walk on foot along the flank and across the top of a ridge that offers beautiful view of the country. The walk can already be taken today. All that is needed to define it further is to supplement it at several points: a restored cross, a lone tree, a bench on a vista or a wicket fitted into the pasture enclosure, an invitation to keep on walking.

By lucky coincidence, this path connects the parish church in Ovesné Kladruby with the church in Boněnov which is presently being renovated by the locals. The chapel of Virgin Mary in Výškovice stands right in the middle. This offers an opportunity to create a new pilgrimage route, with an annual festive ritual that would connect the two existing communities and also give Výškovice another appreciable meaning.

Recovering landscape and place Výškovice – Wischkovitz Vít Rýpar & Eva Wágnerová

Panel II. – Výškovice

At first glance, it would appear that aside from one house, the chapel, a lime tree and a pond, nothing of the old Výškovice village has survived. But it is not so, not yet. All we have to do is get to know the place better and the image of Výškovice will rise up in our mind. We can still identify the village square between the trees and ruins of stonework. Locations of many houses and homesteads are marked by the massive maples and ash trees that used to grow near the barns on the yards, serving as important sources of fodder in times of crop failure. Cherries and apples ripen on the southern hillside overlooking the village, where the orchards used to be. We can find remnants of gardens on the slope under the tip of the forest. Although the inhabitants are long gone, the traces of their homes are still alive today.

We are looking for an intervention that would cause no further damage. For sensible help, for a solution that could age well and would not become an unbearable burden for those willing to lend a helping hand.

Time is running out and the old trees are slowly passing away. We are proposing to prolong the lives of at least those that are characteristic of the village, by treatment of their crowns. This would not only concern the memorable lime tree and the old chestnut avenue flanking the road, but also the fruit trees in the former gardens and orchards that are now disappearing in the weedy birch vegetation. It is the white, noticeable blossom of fruit trees that has always been one of the typical signs of inhabited, cultural landscape. That is why a symbolical additional planting of such trees in the place of the original orchards and alongside the roads is a part of our design

The successful renovation of the Marian chapel would be a great success not only for Výškovice. The chapel’s open shelter could protect from foul weather all those who might need it during their stay in the valley. Its vicinity can once again become a natural meeting point during social events, eventually also a place where a pilgrimage service could be celebrated. This space is today adjoined by two heaps of debris from the torn down buildings. It is a place for assembled stone walls, an opportunity for a sit-down, and plenty of the ever blooming Vinca minor, which will in time mercifully cover and overgrow all that was left of the homesteads.

A memorable lime tree stands by the chapel, and although it is nowhere near its final days, it is time to think about its successor. We propose to plant a new lime at the crossroads by Goethe’s stone. The stone will also get a new partner – an apple tree, the tree of knowledge from the poet’s literary legacy.

To the opposite side of the chapel, at a beautiful vantage point, grows a pair of fruit trees. Together with the new wooden platform they have been chosen to form a shaded place with an intimate atmosphere.

We have also picked two other shaded places beneath the grand crowns of the full-grown maples in the former yards. Vantage points that can be easily completed by a massive table, benches and armchairs of contemporary design. The material and locality references the doorsteps and yards of the former dwellings. Here, we might find a view of the valley and the stream similar to the one the locals used to have.

Another important feature is the new footbridge at the site of the original small bridge, connecting the lower part of the village square with the road. It will also re-establish the ancient circular shape of the village square. The redefined centre of the village under the pond dam will have to be rid of the invasive hogweed and other self-seeding woody plants. Connecting the pond with the adjoining pasture would secure its new look, since livestock raised for meat is a time-tested method of fighting hogweed.

Even in late summer, we found cymes of forge-me-nots on the banks of several local springs and on the damp meadow. We would like to see a larger amount of this flower on the village square, growing along the regulated meander of the northern spring and also in the shaded central part of the village. We propose to plant them at places where they will have favourable conditions for expansion.

Recovering landscape and place Výškovice – Wischkovitz Vít Rýpar & Eva Wágnerová

Panel III. – Land Art

Village Square

The central point, the centre of crystal of any locality is the village square, and it is highly probable that both the original Slavic round settlement and the later German village were at the same place. For centuries, the paths of many generations of local people intersected here, here they experienced joy and sadness, they met here and said goodbye. Up to now, we can sense the powerful energy of the human crossroads. This is also where we place a white sign. A white circle, visible from the nearby pathway above the stream.

A fragile white sign. A symbol of connection. Maybe also a healing bandage laid out at the bottom of the valley.

Birch trunks of uneven diameter, layered into three segments of a circle, with three passageways. From the chapel, from the footbridge, and downhill, to the meadow along the stream. In the circle stands a white object. It will shine whitely among the trees, just as the whitewashed buildings used to.

Around the circle a blue flood of forget-me-nots, the gentle house plants of remembrance.

Orchard

Fruit trees and human dwellings have always belonged together. Wherever people settled, they started orchards. Such was also the case in Výškovice. Several trees from the ancient orchard still survive on the hillside above the valley, but they are oppressed by the birches and ashes, left at the mercy of those vital self-seeding trees.

In the distant past, one apple tree with a gravely wounded trunk rested its branches on the ground and came to life again. It could almost be a symbol of the locality – once nearly destroyed, it still grows and bears fruit. As if it possessed an unexpected strength. It is beautiful again. It will be a privilege to sit on the bench under its crown and take a long look down the valley. As a sign of respect for the tree we would like to uncoil a white “ribbon” of birch trunks leading from the apple to the meadow. Every year at the time of bloom the white of the apple tree will connect with the ribbon on the ground, becoming one whole, easily recognizable from afar.

OBJECT A – White circle on the village square

Birch trunks of unequal diameter, 250 cm long, pieced together in two layers into regular segments of the circle, diameter is 18 m.

A symbol of a house – ground plan 3 x 5 m, height 2,5 m, wooden frame made out of small beams 140/140 mm, outer shell made out of birch trunks of unequal diameter. Spaces between the trunks 0,1 m wide at maximum. In the shorter front wall facing the centre of the circle is an entrance opening, taking up the entire height of the wall, 100 cm in width.

Outside the circle on the meadow is a plantation of Myosotis sylvatica /forget-me-not/ 500 pieces.

OBJECT B – Old apple tree

A simple massive wooden bench beneath the existing apple tree with the healed trunk. Beneath the bench is inserted a line of birch trunks of the same length but of unequal diameter.

Plan 1 (jpg) | Plan 2 (jpg) | Plan 3 (jpg) | Documentation CZ / EN (pdf)

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