The most dynamic urban reconfigurations in Bratislava is occuring around Kammanné nam, the large open space & circulation region in front of the city center Tesco. Economic and social systematic collision sprayed out across architecture in years of slow motion change.
The square lies just outside the old city center, adjacent to the main arterial traffic and tram junctions, fringed by decaying Communist blocks. There is loads of foot traffic. This place feels like it has centuries of utilatarian importance, an unstructured zone outside the constricting walls. Perhaps they used to hold markets here, I’d love to know the history.
The visual advertising clutter rivals anything anywhere. There’s just no regard for it. In case you lose sense of where you are, there’s sky high mapping ads to help you.
Slovaks don’t really seem to mind or take notice; they’ve seen so many waves of new regimes and rulers, they seem to greet Capitalism and EU with a sceptical shrug, moving as usual. What was a huge complex of Communist shopping, is now a huge complex of economy-of-scale Tesco, with chaotic stock in every conceivable retail sector. Towering above it all is Hotel Kyjev, the old Intourist hotel now the ginormous billboard for Orange mobile.
The communist town clock plays automated tunes. This summer, unexplained, “Strangers in the Night” rang out every hour. The clock was recently joined by this coffee loving lady. She loves to wear her lingerie, listen to Sinatra, and drink coffee — any time! Now I have actually seen older woman visibly shudder when trying to ignore such huge displays of flesh.
Look closely here, and you’ll spot a Hammer and Sickle. Not every Soviet monument has been removed in Slovakia; usually they are black marble and gold monuments fallen Soviet soldiers in the liberation from Nazi Germany. This one dates from 1977, commerating …? Mercifully in this shot, the monument blocks view of a Cow Parade cow. I hate the Cow Parade.
Across the Danube sits Au Park, a more modern retail flavor, highly styled Shopping Mall and all-in-one Entertainment destination. There’s a spa and playgrounds and bowling and and and. All summer, huge Sin City posters of toungues, guns and strippers in blood red draped across every entrance and blank space in the mall. You had to walk through Rosario Dawson’s mouth to go shopping. Now I loved the film, but I have absorbed years of culture in preperation for seeing it. How do the conservative minded Slovaks, more used to images of John Paul II, react to the bequeathment of commercial public space and graphic sex and violence? What unconcious role does murder and nudity play in encouraging people to conspicuously spend with their new Visa cards?
I’m eager to see what architectural and economic wave rolls through in another 25 years time, how old and decrepit the current order will look then.