Friday, June 15, 2012

More Communist-era Architecture in Bratislava That Jeff Likes

One or two of you might remember this post, in which I went into some detail about several post-war Communist-era buildings in Bratislava/Slovakia that I happen to dig. There were a couple of buildings that I neglected to cover - the Slovak National Archives and the Kamzik television tower - because they're located in out of the way corners of the city. I finally got the chance to check these out, and I really do think they are visually quite striking and unique.

First is the Slovak National Archives, located up on a hill on the other side of Horsky park from downtown. What can I say? It's a good example of the sort of thing one could expect in the 1960s/early 70s when Communist-era architects were allowed to be more imaginative and possibly had slightly better budgets to work with. It's stylishly futuristic and pretty unique. The red on the non-marble surfaces is a nice touch (and is made up of little tiles, which are easier to make out in person). It's a little blocky, heavy, and intimidating in a way that is endearingly Communist, yet the lines add a cool sense of detail, even if they don't totally offset the dense heaviness of the thing. It's a striking contrast from its lush, green hillside setting. I like the way it looks like four massive, perfectly aligned panels. The bulk of the thing definitely gives the impression that the archival documents inside are safe from any catastrophes or natural disasters. The building reminds me of some of the things I drew in my Art 1 drawing class back in college for vanishing point perspective assignments. 

Notice the Kamzik radio tower on the hill in the distance.
This thing really is kind of in the middle of nowhere (although there is a suburb on the other side of it). 

I wish they'd designed panelaks to look more like this. If they had, Petrzalka would look so much cooler. 

I'd love to have gone inside, but I wasn't sure if I was really allowed to or if it's open to the public. The photos I've seen look similarly impressive. When I was walking around the building snapping photos, a big, burly guy with a shaved head came out and yelled something at me. I have no idea what he said, obviously, but at that point I was almost finished, so I just ignored him, kept snapping photos, and went on my way. I mean, c'mon, I know I'm not the only stupid foreigner to make the trek up to this thing and photograph it. Get over it, buddy!

Then there is Kamzik, the old television tower that sits on one of the highest peaks in the Bratislava hills, and which can be seen from pretty much all over the city below (kind of stealing the spotlight from Slavin, on a lower hill closer to the Stare Mesto). It was completed in 1975, and again, is fairly futuristic looking, albeit in a totally different way from the Archives building. Kamzik has a pleasing, kind of elegant and slender form, looking a wee bit like something you'd see jutting up from the top of Cloud City. It has to be one of the nicer modern television towers I've seen (certainly easier on the eyes than San Francisco's Sutro Tower, to name one example). It's difficult to really get a sense of its form from up close, as the only vantage points from which you can see the entire tower are from directly below, at its base. From anywhere else on the hill, Kamzik is obscured by the trees of the surrounding forest. I suppose it looks a little more elegant from a distance, where one can really appreciate its overall shape. 

Terezia and I did go inside back in late April, when her brother Tony was kind enough to drive us up there one evening. There are two restaurants which I believe are located at or just above the bulge. Unfortunately, those two restaurants are all there is in the tower; there's no public observation deck or anything, and if you want to check out the view you have to spend money in either restaurant. Luckily, the cheaper of the two will let you come up just for drinks if they have tables available. And the views are incredible - it almost feels like being in an airplane. Bratislava looks tiny from up there. Because I'm an idiot, I didn't take any photos of the views from inside, but clicking here will give you an idea of what it's like

What's nice about both of these structures is that, as far as I'm aware, no historical sections of town were demolished to make room for them, so they can be enjoyed guilt-free!


  1. National archives looks like gigantic filing cabinet with some drawers open!
    Kamzik makes me think of Samuel Delany's book DHALGREN. In fact, all of Bratislava makes me think of that dear monster book... ( )

    1. Ha! That's a perfect description of the National Archives. Makes it seem even more appropriate. I haven't read Dhalgren, I will have to check that out as it sounds intriguing.