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It has been suggested that this
article or section be merged Contents
with Tower block. (Discuss)
3 Paneláks today
4 Other countries
5 See also
7 External links
Petržalka, Bratislava has the largest concentration of Paneláks in the former
Panelák is the colloquial name of blocks of high-rise flats in the Czech Republic and
Slovakia constructed of pre-fabricated, pre-stressed concrete. The full name is panelový
dom (Slovak) / panelový dům (Czech), meaning, literally, quot;prefabricated-sections housequot;.
The Czech and Slovak plural is paneláky. The buildings remain a towering, highly visible
reminder of the Communist era. According to census statistics, around one in three Czechs
still live in a panelák. Similar buildings were built in all communist countries, from Poland
to Mongolia. There were also some attempts to introduce these houses to the United States
(see Pruitt-Igoe), but almost all ended in failure,sometimes disaster.
Paneláks resulted from two main factors: a postwar housing shortage and the ideology of
Czechoslovak leaders. Planners from the Communist era wanted to provide large quantities
of cheap housing and to slash costs by employing uniform designs over the whole country.
They also sought to foster a quot;collectivistic naturequot; in people. In case of war, these houses
would not be as susceptible to firebombing as traditional, densely packed buildings.
Between 1959 and 1995, paneláks containing 1.17 million flats were built in what is now
the Czech Republic. They house about 3.5 million people, or about one-third of the
Towering paneláks in the Kamýk area of Prague
In Prague and other large cities, most paneláks were built in panelák housing estates. Such
developments now domina the periphery of Prague, Bratislava and other town The
largest panelák housing estate in Prague is Jižní Město, with 200 buildings built since the
1970s. The largest concentration of paneláks in the former Czechoslovakia and central
Europe can be found in Petržalka (population about 130,000), a section of the Slovak
capital of Bratislava.
The city of Most is known for having a dominant share of people living in paneláks (aprox.
80%). Historical city was torn down because of coal mining in this place and the
inhabitants were moved into paneláks.
In comparison to prewar apartment buildings, paneláks can be truly enormous. Some are
more than 100 metres long, and some are more than 20 storeys high. Some even have
openings for cars and pedestrians to pass through, lest they have to go all the way around
Paneláks are the butt of many jokes in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Many people
criticize them for low design quality, mind-numbing appearance, second-rate construction
materials and shoddy construction practices. In 1990, Václav Havel, then president of
Czechoslovakia, called paneláks quot;undignified rabbit pens, slated for liquidation.quot; Panelák
housing estates as a whole are said to be mere bedroom communities with few
conveniences and even less character.
However, paneláks are not universally detested. Some panelák housing estates were
designed by Czech architects who aspired to follow the tradition of pre-war Czech modern
architecture, notably functionalism. Despite unfortunate cost-saving changes during
construction, some of those panelák estates do not fi the critique above.
Some housing estates do not lack other facilities, such as shopping centres, schools,
libraries, swimming pools, and cinemas. Also, architects sometimes made an effort to make
the buildings distinct, by mixing various types of panelaks, for example, or by using
different colour. Well-designed housing estates also had some environmental advantages.
By leaving wide spaces between buildings, designers created large green spaces and parks,
which are lacking in many prewar Czech neighbourhoods. In some places, paneláks were
improvement in sanitary conditions.
Unlike government-built housing estates in places like the United States and United
Kingdom, paneláks today remain home to a mix of social classes, with middle class
prevailing (according to sociologist Michal Illner from Czech Academy of Sciences quoted
Thus, there is little social stigma associated with living in a panelák. Many apartments are
well-appointed inside; there is even a home magazine, Panel Plus, aimed at the millions of
Panelák estates, especially in big cities, are the obvious first targets for builders of
telecommunication networks, as the housing estates combine a high concentration of
people with easy access to underground and in-house spaces for cables. Panelák housing
estates are usually the first neighbourhoods with access to cable tv, WiFi network
coverage, cable-modem service, DSL and other telecommunication services.
The attitude of panelák inhabitants to their buildings vary. According to Illner, quot;people get
used to living in paneláksquot;. Many panelák flats are now the property of their inhabitants
and whole buildings are managed by syndicates of flat owners. Many buildings have been
renovated, often with the support of local governments. Renovations have often included
the installation of thermal insulation for energy efficiency and new coats of colourful paint.
The cost of replacing of paneláks in the short term would be well beyond the meansof the
Czech Republic or Slovakia. Nonetheless, the decay of many paneláks remains a serious
problem requiring the attention of authorities in both countries.
Many Czech sociologists have expressed concern about the social development of panelák
housing estates. The most endangered would be those lacking facilities other than quot;sleeping
blocksquot; and with a bad connection to business and commercial centres. Some people fear
that with the growth and deregulation of the housing market, the middle class may flee to
other locations, and such panelák estates may become refuges for the poor or ghettos for
Some local authorities are making significant efforts to prevent this scenario by changing
bedroom communities into multifunctional urban neighbourhoods. This may include
support for the construction of missing facilities, such as shopping centres or churches.
Governments may also invest in improving transport accessibility, as with the new light rail
line to Barrandov in Prague.
Slum of Chánov, Most. Paneláks of this housing estate all look completely devastated, yet
people live there.
The Chánov housing estate in Most is an example of what planners are trying to avoid. In
the 1990s, middle-class residents moved out in response to an influx of Romany
immigrants from Slovakia. Many of the remaining residents lacked jobs, money, education
and the social skills needed for life in an urban environment. The water was cut off due to
unpaid bills; elevators stopped working; and garbage piled up in mounds. A public-private
partnership is now working on improving living conditions in the housing estate.
The term panelák refers specifically to buildings in the former Czechoslovakia. However,
similar buildings were built in other Communist countries and even in the West. The
equivalent of quot;panelákquot; in other languages is:
French: Maison à panneaux
Russian: 'Панельный дом, блочный дом
Bulgarian: панелен блок (panelen blok), панелка (panelka)
Serbo-Croatian: stambeni blok
Polish: Blok, Wielka płyta
Italian: Casa prefabbricata
Hungarian: Panel ház
Pruitt-Igoe - similar housing project in the United States
Stankova, Jaroslava, et al (1992) Prague: Eleven Centuries of Architecture. Prague:
PAV. ISBN 80-900003-1-2.
Reynolds, Matt (10 March 2005). Still Standing The Prague Post.
Chánov case study
Central Europe Review - Concrete Conclusions: The discreet charm of the Czech
Picture gallery of panelaks in Prague (text in Italian)
Retrieved from quot;http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panel%C3%A1kquot;
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(Redirected from Petrzalka)
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Petržalka (Hungarian: Ligetfalu, German: Engerau) is the largest city part of Bratislava,
the capital of Slovakia. Situated on the right riverbank of the river Danube, it houses
approximately 130,000 inhabitants.
Chorvátske rameno (The Croatian Channel) winds from north to south of Petržalka.
Currently, Petržalka is connected with Bratislava by five bridges, and is the most densely
populated place in Slovakia and also in Central Europe. It is in most part a residential area
with most people living in blocks of flats, the so-called paneláks. Most of the apartment
blocks in Petržalka were built during the Socialist period of Czechoslovakia and are
seemingly identical. For this reason, many residents refer to the neighbourhood as the
Important institutions include University of Economics, the Incheba congress and
exposition centre and the Petržalka train station operating traffic to and from Vienna.
The neighborhood is also now known for its football club, Artmedia Bratislava, a
surprising participant in the 2005-06 UEFA Champions League.
Historical records about Petržalka exist from 1225. In 1866, Petržalka had 594 inhabitants
and 103 houses.
Petržalka became permanently connected with the town of Bratislava in 1891, when the
first railway bridge was built. Before this date only wooden bridges existed, but they were
often damaged by frost and floods.
In 1938, Petžalka was annexed by fascist Germany on the basis of the Munich agreement,
but after WWII was returned to Czechoslovakia.
In 1946 Petržalka officially became a part of Bratislava.
((Slovak)) The Official Petržalka Website
Facts about Bratislava-Petrzalka
Pope John Paul II visits Petrzalka (Vatican document)
Retrieved from quot;http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petr%C5%BEalkaquot;
Area: 28.7 km2
Number of inhabitants:126 565
Population density per km2: 4 410
Petržalka is the largest city section of Bratislava, the capital of SR.
Together with Jarovce, Rusovce and Čuňovo it forms the district –
Bratislava V, which is the 5th largest district in Slovakia according to
its number of inhabitants. According to population density it is the 3rd
The first written notice about Petržalka has its origin in the year 1225,
though the original independent municipality was except
insignificant remainders pulled down. In this place of the largest
housing complex of Slovakia live almost 130 000 inhabitants. The
ratio of economically active and perspectively active population of
the total makes 85,9 %, the learnedness coefficient 78% of all
inhabitants with high school and university education is compared to
other city sections and other cities of Slovakia very high.
Advanatageous location of Petržalka – Danube’s right riverside, the
nearest distance to the capital’s center but most of all close to the
border with Hungary and Austria it to have animportant influence to
Bratislava’s economy and small business not only from the aspect of
having significant traffic routes nearby.
The most important plants in the area
are Matador, Matadorfix Ltd.,
Matadorroll, joint stock company and
IT MAY be hard to believe, but Bratislava's
Petržalka district was once a picturesque small town
full of gardens and fruit orchards. That was before
the 1970s, when construction turned it into the Click to enlarge.
largest cement-block settlement in Slovakia, with
bleak grey apartment buildings and a high crime
Even earlier, before colonists settled the banks of the Danube,Petržalka was an quot;islandquot;,
where nomadic Romas used to camp. They lived precariously, though, under constant
threat of floods.
Petržalka area witnessed a number of important historical events. For example, Napoleon's
army pitched camp there to bombard Bratislava, which was called Pressburg at that time.
Royalty attending the coronation ceremonies of Hungarian kings also used to camp there.
paradox - higher education
and high anxiety
By Tom Nicholson Looking for help.
Spectator Staff Residents of
Travellers approaching Bratislava fromGraz get
their first glimpse of Slovakia as they drive through Bratislava's infamous
the Austrian hamlet of Kittsee. Many are unprepared suburb, are among
for the sudden vista of Petržalka's housing estates,
massive and grim on the horizon. The dour face of the country's most
socialism is not easily forgotten. affluent citizens, yet
What lies behind that face is equally striking.
Petržalka's roads are like windswept canyons conditions dim hopes
between12-story apartment buildings that may for real estate
sprawl up to 300 meters in length. Public areas are development and a
filthy with refuse, while knots of children collect
aimlessly on street corners, waiting for something to better life.
happen. Vladimír Hák
Help for residents is still some way off. Real estate
agencies have prepared numerous utopian plans for business centers and retail complexes
over the years, but all of them have been studiously ignored by investors. High levels of
crime and drug abuse have given Petržalka a bad name and scared developers away, while
the scarcity of investment has in turn hastened the area'seconomic and social decay.
One study of Petržalka, done in 1996 by Intermanagement, a Bratislava development
company, advised that increasing job opportunities and repairing the absurd deficit of
cultural, sports and leisure facilities should be quot;the main ideas of the social and economic
development of Petržalka.quot; Without a real business or cultural center, the company
reported, quot;the city has become characterized by economic passivity, which has translated
into social and cultural passivity.quot;
But the project that Intermanagement proposed, a massive 45 hectare, 1.4 million m2
complex for cultural, social, business and leisure activities, was nixed when Petržalka City
Council sold part of the land to Metro a.s., the company which has the contract forthe
Bratislava Subway project. Miloslava Podmajerská, Council spokeswoman, said that quot;after
we solve the problem of where the [subway] tunnels will go in Petržalka, we can solve the
problems surrounding the commercial use of the [Intermanagement] site. But that's far in
Many other grandiose schemes have died similar deaths. Michael Walshe, a partner in the
real estate development company City Pro, recalled a $100 million, 43,000 m2 retail and
leisure project, known as PCC, that he had been involved with in 1996. The project had
been shelved for lack of investor interest, he said. quot;One reason for Petržalka's problems
with attracting investment may be that the city is painted with a 'wrong side of the tracks'
stigma,quot; he explained. quot;Anywhere south of the Danube is seen as a second-best location,
which is such a silly prejudice.quot;
The roots of investor prejudice lie in the widespread belief that Petržalka is on a
downbound train towards social collapse. The city's rates of abortion, divorce and crime are
among the highest in Slovakia, a picture of human despair that is set against Petržalka's
monstrous architecture and desolate open spaces.
The city's boosters argue that Petržalka's citizens are the most educated and among the
wealthiest, but the figures they adduce are difficult to reconcile with the ominous evidence
of social decline. A bright, well-off people with horrendous social and family problems -
this is the Petržalka paradox, a riddle that must be solved before large scale real estate
investment can occur.
quot;Petržalka has the highest level of education in Slovakia,quot; said Vladimír Bajan, a
Democratic Union deputy and the mayor of Petržalka. quot;78 percent of Petržalka inhabitants
have finished secondary school or university. Moreover, the average income is very high.quot;
But Bajan conceded that Petržalka's education and income figures seemed incongruous
given the city's high divorce, abortion and crime rates (please see chart this page). quot;The
reason for this paradox lies in the difficulty of finding jobs in Petržalka itself, and the fact
that more than 100,000 Petržalka inhabitants leave their homes every single day to cross
the river [to jobs in Bratislava] and come home late at night,quot; he confessed.
In Bajan's view, these long working days have increased marital stress, while absentee
parents have resulted in neglected children turning to delinquency and drugs. quot;There is a
huge problem with drug dealers and the high numbers of children abusing drugs,quot; he said.
At a February 19 press conference, Milan Csaky, the head of Bratislava's District 5
(Petržalka) administration office, reported that 70 percent of all Slovak drug addicts l ve in
Petržalka, and said the city's 25,000 children were seriously at risk.
Bajan agreed, and stressed the need for programs to get kids off city streets. quot;We should
remember that the communist regime had one great advantage, and that was leisure time
organized for kids by schools,quot; he said.
Design and architectural flaws
Walshe said that he had always considered Petržalka a quot;fascinating suburb,quot; and argued
that quot;it is intrinsically a viable residential community - town planning in terms of city
landscape is basically correct, traffic movement is almost too good, the ratio of open to
built space is adequate.quot;
But for Walshe, flawed architectural thinking has made Petržalka a depressing place to
live. quot;The built space contains some appallingly large buildings,quot; he said.
quot;They are so big that each building could become a separate community. This was in the
mind of the original French designers, who put a grocery shop in every building. But now
you have a wide scattering of very poor quality shops and a city with no center.quot;
History of settlement
In 1973, Petržalka was a peaceful, centuries-old town of roughly 14,000 when the
communist Czechoslovak government of Gustav Husák decided to give in to the demands
of large Bratislava-based companies,like the oil refiner, Slovnaft, for a conveniently
located labor force.
Family houses were pulled down, and the first housing estates erected in 1976. By 1980,
the population had risen to 48,755, and by 1991 to 128,251. Petržalka's population density
is 3.6 times higher than that of Bratislava.
quot;All the people who were moved into these buildings were immigrants from middle and
eastern Slovakia,quot; said Petržalka resident Štefan Šlachta, Rector of Bratislava's Fine Arts
University. quot;Some people had more success adjusting to the move than others, but many
had problems putting roots down, and this is the reason for the high divorce rate,quot; he
quot;Many couples had no contact with their families, so when their marriages ran into
problems there was no one to help or control the situation.quot;
Brigita Schmögnerová, vice-chairman of the Social Democratic Party (SDĽ) and long-time
Petržalka citizen, agreed that quot;the majority of the city's population are those who used to
live outside Petržalka and have no relation to it. They don't care what happens one meter
outside their flats.quot;
Walshe blamed this sense of alienation on the fact that residents had only the door of their
flats to separate their homes from increasingly dangerous public areas.
quot;All the front entrances of the buildings are open, meaning that anyone at all could come
up and knock on your door. So, people are nervous of their neighbors, there is no sense of
community, but instead a great feeling of indifference and powerlessness.quot;
Many residents say that it is this feeling of indifference to neighbors and to public areas
that is at the root of many social evils. Crime flourishes, social fragmentation increases and
common areas like parks, streets and stairwells become dirty, dangerous places.
quot;Bad environments attract bad people,quot; warned Šlachta. quot;Everybody wants to get out of
Petržalka, but they can't, there's nowhere else to go,quot; said Walshe.
Urban planning experts have long claimed that projects to quot;humanizequot; Petržalka, through
increasing property security, green spaces and leisure facilities, must precede large-scale
business and retail projects. Walshe, for his part, agreed that it was quot;perfectly possible to
renovate buildings, to turn Petržalka into a livable area. Most people are very keen on
having increased security, even at a cost.quot;
But quot;humanizationquot; studies, such as one carried out in 1993 by the Demography and
Human Geography Department of Bratislava's Comenius University, have never been able
to resolve the question of financing. quot;It can't be done, it's too expensive,quot; said Šlachta. quot;We
are not such a rich society.quot;
Real estate agencies remain steadfastly optimistic. Ľudo Kaník, a partner at 1. Národná
Aukčná Spoločnosť (NAS), talked warmly of a planned quot;multifunctional building project
with retail, office and residential space.quot;
The project, which would involve anywhere from 20 to 100 thousand m2, would cost
around 2 billion Sk. Kaník admitted that no contracts had been signed with investors and
that ground would not be broken until spring 1999, but swore the NAS project would not
go the way of all previous Petržalka development schemes. quot;The center [of Bratislava] is
filling up, there is nowhere else to build,quot; he said. quot;Now is our time.quot;
Modern Architecture in Slovakia
By Tom Philpott
No discussion of Slovak architecture can pass over
what happened in the second halfof the 20th century.
Communist-era rulers, to an even greater degree than
post-war city planners in the West, embraced a kind of
anti-aesthetic, with utility and thrift the supreme
values. A vulgarised form of functionalism held sway:
the basic shape for organizing human life became the
rectangular block. The contrast to the self- Photo: Ján Svrček
aggrandizing flair of the old royal elite could not have
been clearer. Equally stark was the break from the
vernacular styles favoured by village-dwelling peasants for centuries.
As the Slovak part of Czechoslovakia industrialized rapidly in the 1950s and 1960s,
villagers migrated in droves to the cities. The cheapest and quickest way to accommodate
them was to construct towering blocks of flats, clumped together densely so that essential
services could be delivered to them as efficiently as possible. Thus in Bratislava, in Košice,
in Banská Bystrica - in nearly every Slovak city or town of any size - you see beautiful old-
town squares ringed by modernist jungles of tower blocks.
Bratislava probably present the starkest example, although the competition is fierce. Enter
the city on the road from Vienna, as so many foreigners do, and the first thing you see is
Petržalka, a vast, undifferentiated mass of off-white tower blocks, plunked down near the
bank of the Danube across from the old town. The government reportedly built the
complex as a quick-fix solution to a population boom. Decades later, Petržalka has
established itself as a permanent part of the landscape. It houses 150,000 people - more
than a third of Bratislava's population. Its suicide rate is the nation's highest. Surely,
Petržalka represents a massive and ongoing failure of architectural imagination.
A few hundred metres away, across the river, lies the relatively tiny Old Town, packed full
of architectural treasures from the past.
There are many vistas in Bratislava that lay bare its bipolar architectural nature. Starting at
the Presidential Palace, walk down Staromestská ulica toward the river. At a certain point
as you move to the edge of the old town, you'll see the following sight in the distance: on
the left looms the spire of St. Martin's Cathedral, coronation church of the kings and queens
of Hungary for 250 years. On the right is the stately Bratislava Castle. Between the two
landmarks a strange object floats like a flying saucer out of a 50s movie. It's the centrepiece
café atop the highest support beams of the New Bridge, built in the same 1970s-era
functionalist frenzy that saw the creation of Petržalka.
Indeed, the new bridge was built specifically to link Petržalka to the rest of Bratislava. The
location of the bridge required the destruction of 226 buildings in the Old Town, including
one of the city's two synagogues. The four-lane road that feeds from it is squeezed right
between the castle and the cathedral; and vibrations from it are steadily damaging the latter,
one of Slovakia's Gothic treasures.
There's a point when functionalism becomes its opposite: dysfunctionalism. If the criterion
is whether it succeeds in creating aspace that people want to call home or not, then
Petržalka doesn't work. The New Bridge, the construction of which sliced the Old Town
needlessly in two, was a permanent blunder, an immortal testament to the arroganceand
blindness of unchecked power.
Yet not every piece of post-war architecture in Slovakia is worthy of scorn. The train
station in Poprad, for example, comes in for a lot of abuse. Chris Togneri, writing in last
year's Spectacular, calls it quot;a behemoth ... an ominous, rusty structure hovering beside and
above the tracks.quot; After having travelled through Slovakia for a week by train, however, I
had a different impression. The train station works. You know where you are when you
arrive; you walk out onto a street, and you know in which direction the town centre lies.
And if you have to wait for a train, the sunny, glass-walled overpass provides a pleasant
setting overlooking the tracks. In the Poprad train station, functional and unadorned though
it is, you feel like you are Somewhere.
The train station in Prešov, by contrast, is a study in dysfunctionalism. The train tracks lie
at street level, yet the station's designers saw fit to herd arriving passengers downstairs, into
a dim, labyrinthine arcade that connects the train station to the bus station beneath a busy
street. For the disabled or those carrying heavy luggage, being forced to go up and
downstairs even when the tracks are at street level is an insult. Several exits from the maze
are marked, yet it's impossible to tell which one will put you closest to the path to the town
centre. quot;Where am I?quot; you ask yourself as you muddle through the crowds and the shops.
The answer is the same in all the world's functionalism-gone-awry spaces: I am Nowhere.