The city of Bratislava bears now so little resemblance to its old communist face that inhabitants have almost forgotten the past. Little remains to remind them of the sense of decay , of wanton destruction of historical treasures and mindless erection of architectural monstrosities that reigned during the communist era. The city is being given a new look, as high-priced projects proliferate around the capital.
But who exactly is deciding what the new Bratislava will look like?
The people behind these projects, the city's architects, often have a different vision of the future of the city's general look than do City Hall representatives. "At times we come into conflict with these modern thinking architects," said Milan Vajda, spokesman for the mayor of Bratislava, but added that when it came to old buildings, City Hall and the architects saw eye to eye.
"In the old town center, we try to preserve the historical look," he said. "Modern looking buildings are more suitable outside the historic core." Limits on the height of downtown buildings, he said, were one tool for enforcing conformity. "For example, near Tesco, they cannot exceed nine floors," Vajda said.
Architects working under the supervision of City Hall usually try to adapt their ideas to the appearance of the city. "The buildings that are constructed downtown should fit in with the surrounding styles of buildings,'' agreed Martin Kusý, an architect with BKPS Bratislava. Kusý and his team are working on the new Slovak National Theater building, on Hviezdoslavovo namestie. Con-struction of the new theater is now stalled due to lack of finances.
Vajda said he expected that the vicinity around the Slovak National Theater, and the neighbouhood of the tall VÚB bank building near the bus station should be future construction hotspots.
"Karadžičova Street is being planned as Bratislava's financial center," Vajda said. "There is also a plan for construction of multifunctional centers in Petržalka on Einsteinova Street [close to the Danube River].'' Vajda added that these locations are the places where modern thinking architects "can let their imaginations fly."
The area near Tesco is set to become a hot spot as well. The real estate community has been abuzz with the rumour that a Sheraton hotel was to be built there. But Vajda said that the individual with the leasing contract for the Tesco area didn't have enough time to develop the property. "It is unlikely that this plan will take place," he said.
But not everyone is happy with dowtown height limits. "These limits can be very frustrating sometimes, because you can not fully explore your idea," said Juraj Molnár, an architect with the Bratislava-based A&D Studio, adding that separating the city into architecturally distinct areas was unnecessary. "I think that it should be obvious which period the building comes from," Molnár said. He and his coworkers planned the reconstruction of the Agrofert building in Palisády, a once noble part of the city near the castle, and are in process of planning an additional building for Volksbank in Bratislava.