Bratislava was once a lively city with lots of different neighborhoods mirroring its ethnically mixed population. From 1918 until 1939, Bratislava was a part of the First Czechoslovak Republic, one of the few true democracies in Europe of those times. Enjoying its proximity to Vienna and having a direct tram connection from the city centre to the city centre, it attracted Wieners coming for culture and fun. The city centre as we know it today was only a small part of the larger city centre in that age – comprising also of Vydrica (home of the Jewish population and lots of well-known brothels) and Zuckermandel (the most western part of the former Old Town).
When the communists came with their sick idea(l)s, they decided to destroy the large part of the city centre after the World War II. They didn’t stop by the destroying of larger part of Zuckermandel and whole Vydrica, but also torn down the unique Jewish synagogue built in Moorish style that shared a wall with the St. Martin’s Cathedral. Communists sacrificed larger part of the former city centre to build the New Bridge. The bridge that was originally planned as a highway passing through the city centre.
There weren’t many regulations enforced after the fall of the communism in 1989 (so called Velvet Revolution) and the city of Bratislava (as well as the whole country) suffered from the widespread corruption without any exceptions in the field of construction. Many new buildings have been constructed without any consideration regarding their surroundings or people living nearby. Same early wild capitalism flowered in the late 1990′s and the beginning of 2000′s, often having citizens left out of the construction planning and comment phase by the corrupted city bureaucrats. Parks and green areas have been often sacrificed during these years leaving citizens with only two larger green areas in the city centre (Sad Janka Krala by Danube river and Medical Garden near the old cemetery).
Now, there have been lots of interesting new developments (Bratislava has been taken unprepared by the development boom during the past few years), some of them designed by the famous architects, some designed by the local ones. Some respected the number of storeys in the neighborhood, some ignored them attracting anger of the locals.
The explanation why many citizens of Bratislava are afraid of the new developments should be therefore clear already – history have taught them that most of the larger construction changes come with the destroyal of even older history, buildings and public spaces they once used to enjoy. The level of the past destruction brought fear of any new developments, specially when architects, developers and the corrupted city planners have been often caught trying to evade their duty to consult the neighbors during the planning phase.
Way out? A responsible developer should be prepared to do a few public hearings to better understand the fears and expectations of the future neighbors. They should be prepared to behave as they behave in their home countries (Austria, United Kingdom, Netherlands etc.), although local regulations often contain loopholes and could be worked around. They should also be prepared to keep the neighboring streets clean during the construction, which is again one of the frequent violations. And the last but not least, a responsible developer can do something for the community to fight the fear – maybe to plant more trees than regulations require or leave one of the green courtyards open for public to enjoy during the day.