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National Gallery of Slovakia

Bratislava, Slovakia
1 of 6Hertha Hurnaus

Vladimír Dedeček National Gallery with its sluggish building process and its difficult exhibition spaces is certainly the least popular building of its time and has been facing demolition more than once.

In 2003, a competition for reconstruction was held, but the renovation proved too costly, and the museum is still falling into decay. Justified criticism aside, there is an undeniable fascination and strong clarity to Vladimír Dedeček's cubist monuments like the National Archive and the Trade Fair complex in Bratislava.

All of them vary his approach of arranging façade openings into strong horizontal lines with sharp contrasts of light and shadow, which are layered, bent and merged and, in the case of the National Gallery, bundled together to form a bridge spanning 70 metres between the two side wings of a 17th century courtyard.

The complex of buildings in Bratislava is made up of the original structure of the Baroque Water Barracks with an additional structure (the bridge and administrative building from the 1970s) and the Esterházy Palace (built in 1870).

In 1963, The Association of Slovak Architects was asked to design an additional structure for the Slovak National Gallery in Bratislava. Four teams of authors participated in this competition and the commission evaluated them in the following order: the design of arch. V. Dedeček was the best; the team of prof. E. Kramár took second place; the team of professor prof. J. Frágner finished third and the team of arch. M. Beňuška (town-planning design) was fourth.

The final design differentiated the individual structures and floors according to height and mass. The architect opened the view in the courtyard and the Water Barracks by lifting the river bank wing of the building so that the structure on the columns was replaced by a bridge construction, i.e., “the bridge” (designed in cooperation with the engineers from Mostárne Brezno factory).