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MagazineAuthors of VYDRICA8 MIN

Vydrica aspires to be visually unified

Navigation signs and features in the new neighbourhood below Bratislava Castle have been designed by graphic designer and architect Barbora Šajgalíková. A comprehensive design manual, developed in close collaboration with a team of architects and experts will unify Vydrica’s visual communication. This will ensure the emerging new neighbourhood will be homogeneous, pleasing to the eye, and full of references to the historical, cultural and artistic heritage of this unique site. The design of the navigation system is part of the comprehensive cultural and artistic strategy of Vydrica.

What is included in the unified visual concept of Vydrica and why is it important?

My task was to create a design for the navigation system. A design manual of several hundred pages was produced to unify visual communication for all navigation signage and features in the new neighbourhood in close collaboration with a team of architects,. It addresses navigation through public spaces, as well as inside office and residential buildings, garages and retail premises. We wanted to make sure that all areas and premises were signposted in visual harmony.


What is the cultural, artistic and historical legacy that Vydrica will convey?

The investor’s ambition is to make Vydrica an integral part of Bratislava’s “cultural mile” that runs along the Danube embankment from the Slovak National Theatre through the Slovak National Museum to the Slovak National Gallery. The Water Tower will become a new venue for urban culture. We also wanted to avoid a recent phenomenon – the haphazard installation of artworks in public spaces. All these insights and inputs have been combined in a document which should put Vydrica on the cultural map of Bratislava in line with the city’s cultural strategy. The emphasis we have placed on art and culture in the design process is very rare in the private sector.


How will Vydrica showcase its rich history? 

At Vydrica, a cultured investor met a sensitive team of designers. They both knew from the start that the place where the new structure of Vydrica was about to emerge had its own history which needed to be respected. We agreed on three principles of working with this historical footprint. The first one is preserving. The team of architects was extremely sensitive to all of the archaeological finds and historical artefacts in the area. The second principle is making accessible. Wherever possible, the objects have been preserved where they were found or in their historic location. Some relics and artifacts have been moved to more appropriate locations to make them more accessible to visitors. The third principle is retelling the story. These are the information panels that retell the story of Vydrica from its beginnings to the present day.


How did you come up with the navigational features and descriptions of historical fragments that will be installed in Vydrica? 

The rupture caused by the demolition of the area under the castle hill, both in the fabric and emotional history of the city, was enormous and became the starting point for designing the navigational signage. This rupture has become a key visual element, and one that is echoed in the architecture of Vydrica. The navigation signs and features should not compete with the architecture, but rather complement it in a minimalist way and with the high quality of the materials used.


The design manual also addresses the branding of retail establishments. Is it binding or only recommended? Is this the way to make sure that Vydrica will be visually “clean” and free of visual smog?

The branding of retail premises is an important component of Vydrica’s design manual and will be binding. Retail owners can choose from several alternative solutions to ensure, on the one hand, that the neighbourhood does not look uniform and monotonous and, on the other, that the design of individual establishments does not overpower the materiality and expression of Vydrica’s architecture. We would like to see Vydrica become a vibrant city neighbourhood that significantly extends the existing pedestrian zone and reconnects the violently severed ties between the castle and the city, one that emphasises human scale, urban and architectural quality, and artistic and historical legacy rather than commercial advertising. The investor insisted that advertising space in Vydrica be kept to an absolute minimum. The design manual includes only a few advertising boards that are to be used exclusively to promote cultural events and content.


A guiding – storytelling line etched into the pavement will run through Vydrica. What does it stand for? 

This guiding line can have a number of different interpretations. I see it as a parallel to the Japanese principle of kintsugi, the art of repairing broken porcelain by mending the cracks with gold. It’s not just a visual reference. This principle is at odds with the current trends of throwaway consumer culture, i.e. it makes sense to fix things. The result is an object that bears both the scars of the past and the delicate, yet evident, mending. With this care, the “mended” object becomes more valuable than the original. I believe this is a very accurate symbol of Vydrica. The line contains inscribed fragments of poetry that reflect the authentic relationship of a young generation of poets to the city at a time when the original Vydrica was still an inherent part of it. The artistic reflection of this relationship is one of the points where the historical and cultural legacy meets to retell the story of Vydrica to its contemporary visitors.


How did you choose the poets and their texts that will tell the story of Vydrica?

We have chosen specific texts that reflect the birth of a new era – the period of our first republic. At that time, a new Slovak intelligentsia began to form in Bratislava, and their relationship with the city is the starting point of the contemporary history of our city. We asked Michal Habaj from the Institute of Slovak Literature at the Slovak Academy of Sciences, who is an expert on the period, to help us with the selection.


Which poems will be part of public spaces in Vydrica?

Bratislava underwent a national revival and modernisation after the break-up of the monarchy and became the centre of the new Slovak intelligentsia. Reading the literary topography of Bratislava takes us through this period and gives us an insight into how the young generation of poets, who were captivated and enchanted by the city, felt about and experienced the new era. In addition to Ján Poničan and Štefan Žáry, whose poetic works will meander through Vydrica, there will be the work of Ján Smrek, who reflected on this period in two of his poems, Village and City and The City Beckons Me. However, I was most touched by the surrealist poems of M. M. Dedinský, The Heart of Bratislava I and II. These iconic poems describe his relationship with the city and excerpts from them will be displayed as plastic artworks in the entrance halls of residential buildings. We would also like to make them available to the public via an interactive mobile app.


Ján Poničan

Evening Lights, dedicated to Ľudovít Fulla 1933














Poems in public spaces are a rare sight. What can poetry convey to the residents and visitors of Vydrica?

The city and its genius loci is an extraordinarily complex structure that evolves over time, and these literary images help us to better understand both the city and the society in which we live today. An investor’s understanding of this kind of multi-layered work with the past is something that has only few analogies in our public spaces, and I am very glad that we have found such an investor at Vydrica.


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Office premises at Vydrica


Retail premises at Vydrica