UrbanHIST Košice team spent 3 days of November in Bratislava, searching to better understand the perks of urban planning, un-planning, re-planning and de-planning. Agnès, Jovana, Ondřej and Adam attended the scientific colloquium “Planned unplanned cities”, aimed at fostering international scientific networking and interdisciplinary research in the field of urban development. Using Bratislava as a lens through which contemporary challenges of the city planning and unplanning can be seized, the conference provided a space for exchange on variety of topics related to the urban transformations, (dis)continuity and fluidity of contemporary city, as well as the process of repositioning the role and activity of urban practitioners.
While the colloquium itself provided the opportunity to integrate a group of architects, historians, urbanists and planners from Bratislava and other Central European cities, remaining time was just as important in order to discover history, architecture, culture and lifestyle code of the Slovak capital. Having Agnès, almost a local, as a guide was a guarantee that Polish, Czech and Montenegrin visitor were about to experience Bratislava in its best, immersing into variety of places, activities and stories only locals can share. Thus, generously accompanied by some November sun, the team went into exploration of the Slovak heritage of socialism, witnessing the urban transformations of the town and architectural consequences of different political, economic and social movements. One of the breath-taking experiences, other than the visit of the famous Castle area, was the guided tour of the Slovak Radio Building, famous inverted pyramid often competing for the title of the world’s ugliest building, fascinating in so many ways due to its history, architectural and cultural value.
Other than variety of academic activities, ESRs engaged in critical evaluation of the Bratislava food scene, tasting as many traditional and modern breakfasts as one can have in few days, theoreticising contemporary risks related to burger consumption and reflecting on the Asian-Slovak gastronomic fusion surprises. Proud members and representatives honourable of the urbanHIST name, researchers insisted on gathering only in cafes, restaurants and bars with the “urban” prefix (and they are quite a few in town!), using their spare time in Bratislava to learn more about mainstream and underground culture of the Slovak capital.
Practicing collaborative critical thinking over drinks in the evening hours, ESRs engaged in a number of improvised team building activities, out of which the one named “one thing you didn’t know about me” revealed number of fun facts, weird habits and crazy trivia about each other. Thus, throughout the visit of a tiny, dusty, dark basement of Slovak Radio with a meter-high ceilings it became evident that Jovana is slightly claustrophobic, but quite fond of sky bars and rooftop restaurants, while train conversation revealed that for Agnès the ability to use profanity ends with the “Jezus Maria”-kind-of-curse. Other than regular urbanHIST idea flows, the team was practicing complicity by recollecting some of the funniest personal and professional memories, accomplishments and challenges, and by trying to anticipate what sorts of anecdotes, reflections and stories we’ll be sharing in three years´ time. Can’t wait to see!
Text and photo: Jovana Vukčevič