Unplanned city: modern urban conceptions in a traditional urban structure Cover Image

Neplánované mesto: moderné urbanistické tradičnej mestskej štruktúre
Unplanned city: modern urban conceptions in a traditional urban structure

Author(s): Katarína Andrášiová, Matúš Dulla, Katarína Haberlandová, Henrieta Moravčíková, Laura Pastoreková, Peter Szalay
Subject(s): Fine Arts / Performing Arts
Published by: Historický ústav SAV, v. v. i.
Keywords: city planning; 20th century; unplanned city; modern movement; traditional urban structure;Bratislava;

Summary/Abstract: In our thinking about the city and about city regulations, land-use and/or spatial planning, several independent lines of argument have emerged. One of them is the artistic-compositional stance, derived from the traditional central principle of architectonic creation, focusing on the production of an aesthetically pleasing functional-structural whole. This result has the character of an inclusive artefact, evaluated as an artwork. The second line is the scientific-analytical, focusing on the rational side of the examination and planning of cities. It combines spatial and urban planning, grounded on extensive data sources and thus on the possibility of scientific quantification. Third in the series is the line that looks neither to a rationally quantifying scientific basis nor to the realm of artistic creation, but to the area of history. It emerges from an attitude of respect and a conservative adherence to tradition, with its essential basis lying in the protection of heritage.The first two lines, in short the artistic and the scientific, set off in notably separate directions, differing in their trust in the possibility of an analytical-rational comprehension of the problem. The analytical-scientific line took its stance on quantitative research: e.g., in investigating urban processes through computer-simulation models, the planning of cities made its shift from the design of “physical structures regarded as artistic work” towards planning based on inductive science. The third possibility represents a kind of alternative. In reaction to the modernist refusal of the traditional city and the gradual destruction of its substance, it upholds the importance of memory, bringing to mind history, often quite specifically local narratives and tales.The currents of opinion that we have here attempted to articulate and define within contemporary urban practice have been, and still are, reflected not only in the urban plans and the discussions surrounding them. No less can we find their traces directly within the urban organism. In essence, plans are not the only area, despite their growing power, extent and complexity, where urban activities are formed.An essential impact on the transformation of the urban structure was also had by the mechanism of planning. In the first half of the previous century, the construction of the city was determined by regulatory plans. After 1948, these were replaced by more complex tools in the form of urban studies and land-use plans. In the conditions of non-democratic political orders, when the greater part of real estate was in state ownership, the urban-planning documents assumed a sovereign role. With the start of the 1990s, a significant change was worked in the planning of cities in the countries of the former Soviet Bloc. Democratic procedures made it more difficult to push through large-scale massive intentions, and the discussions around the formation of the city attracted the newly returning actors of individual owners of land and buildings, as well as the completely new role of an active public sector which entered into the discussion in a manner never before seen.Hence the urban plans for the city of Bratislava have themselves undergone complicated development, and we can find within them reflections of all the previously noted intellectual lines for considering the urban form. The first regulatory plan of the city dates from 1850. However, the start of modern city planning can be said to lie in the 1920s, during the era of the first Czechoslovak republic. It was then that regulatory committees were established, and the tools for urban regulation created. Yet a full application of the era’s Functionalist principles in construction only was found in individual sections at the then urban periphery. The radicalism of modernist conceptions is most clearly notable in the character of the regulatory stipulations. These partial tendencies were to have been incorporated and transformed into the broader vision of a new regulatory plan, emerging out of an international competition in 1929. The intentions presented, however, remained largely unrealised. A much more immediate effect on the form of the city came through the results of a number of competitions held by the Czechoslovak (and subsequently independent Slovak) ministries in the 1930s and 1940s.In judging the phenomena and processes determining the development of the urban structure in the past century, it has become usual to list as the most significant the interventions of postwar modernist planning in the 1960s, and more notably, the 1970s (though foreshadowed by projects and realisations from the first half of the century). These efforts brought to Bratislava not only massive construction of modern high-rise housing estates at the city’s edges, but also huge interventions in the city centre. Yet once again, the majority of the plans were realised only in part, or else finished after 1990 in a completely different material form, already providing a critical reaction to the modernist principles of city-construction.Nearly all of these urban-architectonic stages are visible in the structure of Bratislava, and continue to exert a latent influence on the environment. Those that had absolutist ambitions or were based on far-ranging presumptions were, however, essentially doomed to fail in their absolute scope, leaving behind only fragments or relics of the intention. There are so many of them, and so frequently encountered, that it is possible to draw the conclusion that this relic-pattern and this partiality of urban plans is essentially more of a principle in and of itself than any overarching process of planning. In this sense, we are justified in speaking of the phenomenon of the “unplanned city”.In the present study, we examine several selected Bratislava localities, representing definite typologies of urban situations, and attempt to use them to capture this contradictory state. We place side by side historical development and its consequences, while also following innovations not on the level of citywide planning but on that of the architectural-planning situation. Through a comparison of planned and realised changes on the city territory, in terms of the form and function of buildings, we use the evaluation of selected architectonic achievements to identify the breaking points in the development of the city structure and the parameters of this breakage. As well, we hope to uncover the factors for the stability and the instability of urban construction.The first type of situation is the Danube embankment, representing the fragile boundary of the natural and cultural, as well as a highly exposed public space. It is characterised by the vitality of a compact block massing, which has been repeatedly supported in the face of diverging urban conceptions. The second type is represented by the situation in which the original organically formed historic structure was completely replaced at the start of the 21st century by new construction generated from the basic principles of the original urban structure. Between the original and the generic, nonetheless, there lie several layers of never-realised conceptions reflecting social preferences in this prestigious locality. The third type of situation is the example of the gradual change of the linear street-space of the provincial town into that of a non-linear, multipolar city space. This change, it must be said, was programmed by the only partially realised regulation of the land in the interwar years, while the large-scale projects from the second half of the 20th century were almost left outside of the city’s visual form. The final type of situation is characterised by the hybrid combination of the gradual change of organic urbanperiphery fabric into block construction, and the promotion of the abstract thought of a diagonal axis, as reflected by the installation of monumental modernist freestanding volumes.As the analyses of the selected situations reveal, the city of Bratislava is a combination of part-realised plans and unplanned realisations. Though it might seem that the individual aspirations and plans remain only in an incomplete or damaged form, it becomes clear that certain of their components, ideas or principles have had a surprising response in designs from several decades later. Their very survival has confirmed their vitality and sustainability in the city organism. The example of Bratislava thus shows that in the urban structure there are relatively frequent instances of conflict between opposing development processes. And these produce a city that is in a state of permanent indecisiveness – or even of indecidability.

  • Issue Year: 49/2015
  • Issue No: 3-4
  • Page Range: 216-239
  • Page Count: 24
  • Language: Slovak