The Istropolis culture and congress centre close to the heart of Bratislava might become a mere memory in a short period of time. Its owner, developer Immocap, has announced that it has acquired valid permission to remove the building, with the demolition work expected to start in mid-January. Immocap plans to replace it with a project named New Istropolis.
Architectural experts are against the demolition of the building.
“With the demolition of Istropolis at Trnava Mýto in Bratislava, Slovakia will lose an iconic architectural complex and at the same time the largest cultural and social centre in the country,” wrote representatives of the Slovak arm of the international organisation Docomomo, which deals with the history and preservation of modern architecture.
They added that its expert arguments as well as a petition with almost 11,000 signatures failed to persuade the developer and representatives of responsible institutions of the value of this architectural work.
Istropolis, the former House of Trade Unions, is a complex that encompasses a cultural and congress centre, an office tower, a science centre, a theatre, some other adjacent buildings with an atrium and a fountain on a 3.7 hectare plot. It features the biggest congress hall in Slovakia with a capacity of 1,280 people, originally designed to host the congresses of the Communist Party. The complex, designed by architects Ferdinand Konček, Iľja Skoček and Ľubomír Titl, is located on a lucrative place at the edge of the city centre. Trnavské Mýto is now one of the most important traffic points in the city.
“However, the demolition of Istropolis is bad news not only for lovers of modern architecture and the cultural community but also for the whole society, which together with the building also loses a significant part of its own historical memory,” they write in their stance.
Yet, the announced demolition of Istropolis will most significantly affect the capital, the experts noted. They describe this as “a direct attack on its fragile identity and a painful confirmation of the historical experience that the character of the city is influenced by several private actors and not by a public consensus”.
The Association of Slovak Architects (SAS) also expressed its disagreement with the demolition of Istropolis. In its open letter to Prime Minister Eduard Heger (OĽaNO), Culture Minister Natália Milanová (OĽaNO) and Finance Minister Igor Matovič (OĽaNO), it stated that it considered the attempt to demolish this late modern architectural monument in Slovakia to be an uncultured act. It calls on the government and the ministries concerned to prevent this.
It considers Istropolis the third most important cultural institution in Bratislava after the Park of Culture and Recreation on the Danube embankment and the amphitheatre on Búdkova Street. These buildings are victims of the power of money and the absence of natural respect for basic social values, it added. SAS calls on the government not to support the construction of the planned National Cultural and Congress Centre in the Trnavské Mýto locality at the cost of demolishing Istropolis.
The project New Istropolis envisages the construction of a modern cultural and congress centre, two residential buildings, three administrative buildings and a congress hotel. The developer faces a €5 million fine from the Nové Mesto borough if it does not build a cultural facility within four years.
“We have been working on the preparation of the project for more than four years; we have organised a large international architectural competition, the winners of which are renowned Dutch studios,” said Immocap CEO Martin Šramko in the press release. “We are bringing a project to Trnavské Mýto that will significantly improve the lives of Bratislava residents in many ways.”