Healing waters: take a long, hot bath at a communist-era Slovakian spa resort

18 August 2016

For a relatively small country, Slovakia boasts a rich array of mineral springs. By the end of the 19th century it was already home to over 100 spas. Spas increased in number after Slovakia declared independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918, and were eventually nationalised into the healthcare system in the 1960s, when yet more were built. Fascinated by the legacy of these health resorts, photographers Andrea Kalinová and Peter Kuzmin visited the communist-era spas together with architect Martin Zaiček.

“Usually spa recreation was prescribed for 21 to 28 days. Patients could only get a healing voucher with a recommendation from a doctor or by fully paying themselves. After 1993 the central state spa company (known as Slovakoterma) was divided into smaller parts and privatised,” explains Zaiček.

Though many of the spas are still in operation, Zaiček reveals that renovations have altered the original intentions for the buildings. “Ongoing renovation and reconstruction works are changing the form and program of the original architecture. The socialist ideas about collective spa recreation have been replaced by standard hotel services,” says Zaiček.

Hot Modern builds on Kalinová, Kuzmin and Zaiček’s earlier collaboration, which drew attention to the architectural heritage of the spa town of Trenčianske Teplice through public workshops. Broadening their interest to the whole of Slovakia, this series hopes to revive the ideology of these palaces of health, which continue to restore and rejuvenate their local and international visitors.

Text: Liza Premiyak
Image: Andrea Kalinová / Peter Kuzmin