The “Karolina” mine excavation is the oldest mine shaft in Ostrava. Boring began in 1937 originally by the Moravian-Ostravian mine company, which took over operations from the Rothchild family in 1843, some 165 years earlier. The Rothchilds were a banking family originally from Frankfurt and became the owners of the Vitkovice mines and mills.
The family company was founded by Amsel Mayer Rothschild. His five sons then divided their father’s financial imperium according to location. For company control in Austria, which included today’s provinces of Moravia-Silesia, the business was held under the auspices of Saloman Rothchild, who also bought the domains of Hlucin and Silherovice. Within the Austrian monarchy, he was also able to promote the growth of the railroad. Locally in Moravia he advanced his business in mining. The name of the Ostrava excavation was taken from his wife, Karolina Sternova.
The bore reached a depth of 550m and in comparison with other Moravian-Ostrava shafts held many firsts in a range of fields. Or instance it was the first shaft to have an air smelter, steam engine and equipment for building water resistant shaft bracing. Not all firsts were of a successful nature. In 1854 there was a large gas explosion costing 14 lives.
The Karolina shaft was serviced by a mining railroad which ran to the coke plant.
The coke plant was established in 1858 and from its outset plans to expand were in progress (by the 1930’s there were 216 coke ovens in operation. Coal was delivered by an over head cable tram from various tunnels such as Karolina, Tereza, Ida and Solomon. The facility was geared to produce coke (primarily as a fuel for industrial mill ovens needing high temperature and little smoke) and coal briquettes. In 1905 an electric plant was located nearby thus delivering electricity to the facilities.
In the 20th century there was a recession in local industrial activities and in 1986 the plant ceased operation altogether. The coke plant ceased operations as early as 1964 and the electric plant ten years later. The facilities were systematically demolished leaving only two buildings standing which belonged to the electric plant, which are the head office and the electric sub station building that served the site and even a few neighbouring facilities.
Today both buildings are historically protected as relevant architectural monuments to industrial constructions. The large space main office building is unique and the sub station is chambered.
The reconstruction and transformation of these two halls to serve as cultural public educational and relax facilities is, from an architectural point of view, a very challenging endeavor. Their unique “genius loci” must be conserved, but must also allow for today’s modern uses, for example concerts with sound apparatus, theatre, exhibitions, trade fairs and sporting events, all of which demand a certain level of technological support. The project must provide a combination of delivery as a focus point for various different cultural activities but at the same time amalgamate old and new structural elements to form a coexistence between the old world and the new.