How Slovakia’s Soviet ties led to a unique form of sci-fi architecture

6 July 2020

This article was originally published on ArchDaily.

The history of Slovakia is riddled with political unrest and unwanted occupation. Slovak people having repeatedly been denied a voice throughout history. In the years following the First World War, Slovakia was forced into the common state of Czechoslovakia; the territory was dismembered by the Nazi regime in 1938, and occupied by the Nazis for most of the Second World War, before being eventually liberated by Soviet and Romanian forces in 1945. Over the next four decades of communist rule — first by communists within Czechoslovakia itself, and then by the Soviet Union — the architecture of Slovakia came to develop into a unique form of sci-fi postmodernism that celebrated the shift in industrial influence at the time.

Photographer Stefano Perego has documented the Slovakian architecture from the 1960s–80s and shared some of his photos.

Slovak Radio Building, by architects Štefan Svetko, Štefan Ďurkovič and Barnabáš Kissling, 1967-1983. Bratislava, Slovakia. Image: Stefano Perego

Seceding from Czechoslovakia in 1939, the Slovak Republic — which was at least nominally Slovakia’s first independent state — saw a very close alliance with Germany as vital for the health of Slovakia’s first independent state. At the time, the two main opposition groups in the Republic were a democratic group with ties to the Czechoslovak government-in-exile, and an all-Slovak communist group with close ties to another communist group in Moscow. The two parties launched the Slovak National Uprising in 1944, which was largely quashed by the German forces until Soviet and Romanian forces liberated them in 1945. The Memorial and Museum of the Slovak National Uprising in Banská Bystrica, designed by Dušan Kuzma, houses military equipment and a permanent exhibition about the anti-fascist resistance movement in Europe in the years 1939-1945.

Memorial and Museum of the Slovak National Uprising, by architect Dušan Kuzma, 1963-1970. Banská Bystrica, Slovakia. Image: Stefano Perego

Following the Second World War, the Czechoslovak Communist Party was voted into power in 1948 (with their support coming largely from the Czech region of the country), in effect making Czechoslovakia a satellite state of the Soviet Union. The country was later invaded by the Warsaw Pact forces in 1968, bringing it under full Soviet rule. It was during this time that the influence of Soviet design began to appear most strongly in the architecture of Slovakia. The postwar industrial influence led to the incorporation of prefabricated structures, especially in the housing and community buildings. In Bratislava, more than 90 per cent of the city’s 430,000 residents lived in postwar industrialised housing by the late 1980s.

Residential building, by architects Štefan Svetko and Julián Hauskrecht, 1968-1974. Bratislava, Slovakia. Image: Stefano Perego

There was, however, a small class of architects who turned against the standardisation of industrialist design, and instead embraced postmodernism and “High-Tech.” These designs are what would today be associated with sci-fi and outer-space. They were accentuated by the technological advances of the time, and perhaps the Space Race between the Soviet Union and the United States during the 60s and 70s.

"UFO", by sculptor Juraj Hovorka, 1979. Restored in 2014. Bratislava, Slovakia. Image: Stefano Perego

A great example of the influence of these Soviet tendencies in Slovakia is the UFO by Juraj Hovorka. The monument is located in an area called Medzijarky, a small park just east of the centre of Bratislava. A complicated and at times neglected country, Slovakia possesses many architectural gems that not only allude to their troubled past but provide a unique contribution to the history of Soviet architecture and postmodernism in Eastern Europe.

University of Agriculture, by architects Vladimír Dedeček and Rudolf Miňovsky, 1960-1966. Nitra, Slovakia. Image: Stefano Perego

Bridge of the Slovak National Uprising, by A. Tesár, J. Lacko and I. Slameň, 1967-1972. Bratislava, Slovakia. Image: Stefano Perego
Fountain of Union, by sculptors Juraj Hovorka, Tibor Bártfay, Karol Lacko and architects Virgil Droppa and Juraj Hlavica, 1979-1980. Bratislava, Slovakia. Image: Stefano Perego
House of Arts, by architect Ferdinand Milučký, 1974-1979. Piešťany, Slovakia. Image: Stefano Perego
State Political School, by architect Vladimír Dedeček, 1972-1978. Modra, Slovakia. Image: Stefano Perego
Slovak National Archive, by architect Vladimír Dedeček, 1976-1983. Bratislava, Slovakia. Image: Stefano Perego
Slovak National Gallery, by architect Vladimír Dedeček, 1976-1983. Bratislava, Slovakia. Image: Stefano Perego
State Political School, by architect Vladimír Dedeček, 1972-1978. Modra, Slovakia. Image: Stefano Perego
House of Arts, by architect Ferdinand Milučký, 1974-1979. Piešťany, Slovakia. Image: Stefano Perego
Technical University, by architect Vladimír Dedeček, 1984. Zvolen, Slovakia. Image: Stefano Perego
University of Agriculture, by architects Vladimír Dedeček and Rudolf Miňovsky, 1960-1966. Nitra, Slovakia. Image: Stefano Perego
Bridge of the Slovak National Uprising, by A. Tesár, J. Lacko and I. Slameň, 1967-1972. Bratislava, Slovakia. Image: Stefano Perego

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