There is a European capital whose crowning glory is a flying saucer that stands larger than the Statue of Liberty — however this sci-fi metropolis is not troubling anybody’s checklist of the continent’s most visited locations.
Anybody visiting Bratislava, capital of Slovakia, will discover it exhausting to overlook the aptly named, 95-meter excessive UFO Tower which has seemed out over the River Danube since 1972. Proper reverse Bratislava’s historic Outdated City, its rooftop panoramic terrace and restaurant supply the perfect views of the town and the encircling area.
Remarkably, the otherworldly aesthetics of this tower aren’t that uncommon in a metropolis which was as soon as a testbed for a number of the boldest architectural tasks behind the Iron Curtain.
Greater than three a long time later after the autumn of Communist regime the bodily legacy of that period nonetheless dots the streets of Bratislava, the place it stands in stark distinction to the classical concord of the Hapsburg period downtown and the fashionable excessive rises which have sprung up in recent times together with Slovakia’s newfound prosperity.
The Soviet pyramid
You simply have to enterprise just a few hundred yards past the tidy, café-lined streets of the Outdated City to come across a very distinctive construction that’s unlikely to depart anybody unmoved.
The Slovak Radio Constructing is an 80-meter-high inverted pyramid.
That is precisely because it sounds: Ranging from its floor degree vertex, this rust-colored constructing, which homes the nation’s nationwide broadcaster, will get wider with every ascending ground.
This architectural extravaganza was accomplished in 1983 after practically twenty years within the making and, to today, it polarizes opinions amongst architects and most people alike.
Whereas some contemplate it a masterpiece and it has loved protected heritage standing since 2017, others deplore its seems and discover it a darkish reminder of the communist previous. The UK’s Day by day Telegraph newspaper even included it in its checklist of the world’s ugliest buildings.
Its architect, Štefan Svetko, was additionally the creator of a number of residential tasks that encapsulate the aesthetics of that period.
One of the vital outstanding, Medzi Jarkami, in-built 1979 within the jap outskirts of Bratislava, consists of a number of residential blocks, specified by round and virtually tangential patterns. The open area inside the largest of these circles is fitted with one more UFO-themed monument. On this case, the flying saucer is at floor degree, as if it had crash-landed when arriving from outer area.
Watch the skies
UFOs had been a recurring theme on the time. The vault protecting the grand corridor of the Slovak University of Agriculture can also be paying homage to a flying saucer. This constructing, accomplished in 1966, is positioned within the metropolis of Nitra, some 60 miles from the capital. Its architect, Vladimir Dedeček, left his imprint in and round Bratislava with different brutalist-style works, such because the Slovak Nationwide Gallery, the Slovak Nationwide Archive in addition to the State Political Faculty, in Modra, a close-by city.
Whereas a few of these sights require a devoted tour, a brief stroll within the middle of Bratislava is all you might want to get a snapshot of the nation’s socialist-realist heritage. Simply across the nook from the pyramid, for instance, you may discover the colorful mural adorning the facade of the Slovak College of Know-how or the early Eighties Fountain of Union, in Námestie Slobody (“Freedom Sq.”), a flower-shaped piece of steel city decor that transmits robust sci-fi vibes.
The fountain’s present state of disrepair solely provides to its dystopian seems, however this can be momentary, since, on the time of CNN Journey’s go to in July 2022, restoration work was ongoing at Freedom Sq..
Avenue artwork and daring new structure
In recent times, this Communist-era heritage has proved amenable to reinterpretation. A living proof is Bratislava’s centrally positioned Lodge Kyjev, which has been closed for round a decade.
In 2018, as a part of the Bratislava Avenue Artwork Competition, a visible venture by artist Awful Auber managed to remodel one aspect of this drab Nineteen Seventies Soviet-style excessive rise into an eye catching landmark that’s seen from miles away.
To take action, 17 painters abseiled concurrently from its roof as a way to cowl the constructing’s western-facing facade in geometrical white and brown patterns.
Change would not cease right here. Consistent with the nation’s transformation and financial development of the final couple of a long time, a spattering of up to date buildings have been rising up far and wide.
An early instance of this new architectural wave leaving its mark within the Slovak capital is the Strabag building, the native headquarters of an Austrian building agency. Inbuilt 2007, it includes a cottage-style home hanging the wrong way up from the aspect of the glass and metal construction.
Even bigger in scale is the newest addition to the Bratislava skyline, courtesy of the famend agency Zaha Hadid Architects.
The primary stage of the Sky Park improvement was accomplished in 2020 and contains three residential towers. It incorporates into its grounds a pre-existing workplace block in addition to the reconstructed Jurkovičová Tepláreň heating plant. The second stage of this venture, which is predicted to open quickly, will embrace a fourth residential tower in addition to a 120-meter workplace constructing.
One in every of Europe’s youngest capitals
The marked distinction between all these apparently antithetical kinds is much less a novelty than a characteristic on this metropolis that all through its historical past has usually discovered itself on the dividing line between cultures and blocs.
Bratislava has, in any case, at completely different occasions in its historical past been recognized by its German and Hungarian names (Pressburg and Pózsony respectively), reflecting its numerous cultural combine, which additionally included a big Jewish group.
We may, in reality, go all the way in which again two millennia when the Roman “limes” handed by way of these lands (there are stays of Roman garrison forts at a number of spots on the Danube’s south financial institution close to Bratislava) or, extra just lately, the divide between the communist and capitalist blocs, which ran round a few of Bratislava’s suburbs.
These days, with open borders, a standard foreign money and, maybe much more importantly, the EU’s free cellphone roaming space in place, touring from Vienna in Austria to Bratislava in Slovakia — that’s between Germanic and Slavic-speaking Europe — is a seamless expertise that takes lower than an hour on a suburban practice.
This shut proximity to the Austrian capital (Bratislava and Vienna are two of the world’s most intently positioned nationwide capitals), could have additionally hampered Bratislava’s efforts to determine its personal credentials extra firmly as a Central European vacation spot.
Look no additional than the town’s air hyperlinks: whereas Bratislava has its personal airport, most guests arriving by air accomplish that by way of Vienna Worldwide Airport, positioned barely 30 miles away and boasting a a lot bigger variety of connections.
As one of many continent’s youngest capital cities — it earned its standing in 1993 — it would not have the popularity of the opposite Habsburg capitals close by, akin to Prague and Budapest, or the customer numbers.
On the plus aspect, this geographical and cultural porousness, which so prominently extends to the architectural area, has formed the Slovak capital into the edgy metropolis it’s immediately, a spot stuffed with surprising treats which might be ready to be found by the discerning traveler.
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