The Bench of Václav Havel

The space in front of the city library is decorated by a bench of the first President of the Czech Republic, Václav Havel, by artist Bořek Šípek. A round table looped around a tree trunk and two chairs are the place that is supposed to encourage dialog, freedom of speech, discussion or a simple relaxation.
Address:Rumjancevova 1362/1Liberec, 460 01GPS:50°46'17.9''N; 15°03'31.0''E[Map]

The Talking Democracy bench

The idea for the Václav Havel Bench came from Petr Gandalovič, the Czech Ambassador to the USA. He approached architect Bořek Šípek and asked him to create a work of art inspired by the democratic ideals of the late President Václav Havel. Šípek came up with a simple but very creative design: two metal garden chairs connected to a round table with a linden tree, the national tree of the Czech Republic, growing through the table’s centre. The edge of the table is decorated with Havel’s credo “Truth and love must triumph over lies and hatred.” The place symbolizes openness to the sharing of opinions, discussion and life attitudes, which was why the author called the installation “Talking Democracy.”

Havel’s benches here and around the world

The first of these benches was set up in Washington in 2013, with the first European bench unveiled in Dublin, Ireland, on World Human Rights Day the same year. Since then, the benches have decorated places such as Barcelona, Lisbon, Brussels, Lima, Athens, Hiroshima, Tel Aviv, Paris, Košice and Bratislava and also many cities in the Czech Republic. The first Czech bench (fourth in total) was installed in Maltez Square in Prague, Havel’s hometown.

Václav Havel in Liberec

Václav Havel had a special relationship with Liberec. It was there where he witnessed the arrival of the tanks in August 1968 and, together with actor Jan Tříska, joined the local resistance movement against the occupiers. In 1995, as President of the Czech Republic, he became the patron of the construction project of the current library, built on the site of the former synagogue burned down by the Nazis during Kristallnacht in 1938. The other patron of the library and new synagogue project along with Havel was Roman Herzog, the then German President, and the library therefore received an apt title – “The Building of Reconciliation.” A Václav Havel bench was unveiled in front of this Regional Research Library in 2016 as part of the 15th anniversary of its opening. Just a stone’s throw away from the Václav Havel bench grows Olga Havlová’s Goodwill Cherry Tree. The couple are thus symbolically reunited.