Few European cities boast such a distinguished orientation point as Bratislava's Castle Hill above the Danube River. Although the castle itself was massively reconstructed in the 1950s and 1960s, the castle's hill has experienced accute deterioration. In its heyday, the Under Castle area consisted of an urban quarter to the south along the Danube and on the east slopes from where it flowed into other parts of the Old Town. Another urban area was located on the northern slopes.
The south area is called Zuckermandl. The area between Zuckermandl and Rybné Námestie (Fish Market Square) is called Vydrica. The settlement on the east slopes was called the Mikulasske Podhradie (Nicholas's Under the Castle) with Židovská ulica (Jewish Street) beyond. The northern Under Castle had Zámocká ulica (Castle Street).
One of the most bizarre places was a quarter west of the Castle near Vodný vrch (Water Hill) where tiny streets resembled the renowned Golden Street in Prague. The streets were destroyed in favour of the construction of the new parliament building.
Construction and social devastation of the Under Castle area began before World War II. Most of the original inhabitants from the Jewish community who used to live in the Jewish quarter were deported to Nazi prison camps. After 1945, the original German population also had to leave.
The population boom in the capital city during the 1950s and 1960s, as well as anti-historic feelings held by leading representatives of the communist public administration, furthered the creeping decay of the Under Castle area which was capped by the construction of New Bridge (1967-1973). The whole Fish Market Square, Jewish Street as well as 228 other houses up to Suché Mýto had to be demolished to make room for the construction.
Only a few houses were rescued around the small church of Holy Trinity at Zuckermandl as well as an archaeological site at the Water Tower (Vodná veža) that was discovered while tearing down the original housing. On the eastern side, the House at the Good Shepherd's and two other mansions remained untouched. The space not ultimately used for the bridge and adjacent roads remained undeveloped.
Before 1989, the first architectonic studies of the Under Castle area redevelopment came to light. They all respected historic urbanism and the design of the area. Such reconstruction was desired by a vast majority of Bratislavans after 1990. These studies, however, found that New Bridge was simply too important, and that it had to be retained in its current function and form.
In 1994, the city prepared the reconstruction of Castle Street (Zámocká). A new urban plan was approved by the City Council changing the zone from high-capacity parking lots for tourist coaches to the construction of underground garages and new houses at street level. They should resemble the original urban quarter. The project is being developed by a company called Garden. On the east, new houses have been built on the corner of Jewish Street and Castle Steps, funded from bond issue earnings.
As to the southern Under Castle area, some 90 interesting ideas for redevelopment by young European architects have been compiled from the EUROPAN 4 international architectonic contest in 1996. They comprised avant-garde proposals, e.g. glass-and-steel skyscrapers, along with the exact copies of the former housing.
There are private, state, church, as well as municipal properties in the Under Castle area. In the near future - according to the approved urban study - anyone can begin construction. It is a large area with almost 100 separate parcels worth several billion crowns. However, the area does not have the necessary infrastructure. Potential investors will have to join first in order to build sewage systems, roads, energy networks, and so on.
Architects also considered how to solve the problem of the New Bridge and its incorporation into the new housing. Some advocate the removal of the bridge altogether, or moving the Staromestská Street under ground. But such projects may not be feasible - Bratislava needs the bridge and its road network. The issue remains a challenge for the city and architects.