The 27th European Capital of Culture title is this year shared between Košice in East Slovakia and the Marseille-Provence region in France. Both have an extensive programme of events throughout 2013. The areas are also embracing a gateway theme, with Košice acting as the door to Eastern Europe and Marseille-Provence as the gateway to the Mediterranean region.
Marseille-Provence's yearlong programme concentrates on the wider region rather than just on Marseille and has been divided into three stages: Welcoming the world, Open sky and Land of diversity. More than 400 events will be taking place during the year with the main emphasis on European-Mediterranean culture.
In addition to the rich cultural programme, some 660m euros have been invested in building and renovating cultural spaces and museums. For example the 26 000 sq m Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations, designed by architect Rudi Ricotti, is due to open in May 2013. Some other new projects include Villa Méditerranée - an art and project space designed by Stefano Boeri - and the J1 - a huge renovated warehouse space overlooking the seafront in Marseille. The latter will also act as one of the main information hubs of Marseille-Provence's capital year as well as host an array of exhibitions.
Košice's plans for the year are equally exciting. The programme will act on three levels - local, national and European with the aim of transforming a once heavily industrial city into a post-industrial creative hub. In addition to the array of music, theatre and multi-media events, Košice is also investing in new cultural infrastructure.
Perhaps one of the most exciting projects is the transformation of an old disused indoor swimming pool into a multi-purpose cultural centre. The Kunsthalle - Hall of Art - will be the first of its kind in Slovakia and will be hosting international art exhibitions and new media installations among other events.
Košice is also transforming old central heating exchanger stations throughout the city into local cultural centres in an aim to involve the suburbs in the activities as well.
Marseille-Provence's year as the European Capital of Culture commences on the weekend of 12-13 January, with Košice following a week later, on 19-20 January.