Footbridges in Petržalka

Petržalka in Bratislava. The largest housing estate in former Czechoslovakia. Although its construction meant the Slovak capital finally straddled both banks of the Danube, this was an overly ambitious project. It created the need for extensive new infrastructure, however, many of the plans and projects were not followed through – including the Bratislava subway, designed to become the main route connecting Petržalka with the rest of the city. As a result, commuting by car became a daily reality for over 100,000 local inhabitants.

Clearly, this was not what the planners had intended — the housing estate’s structure was specifically designed to accommodate the missing subway line from the very beginning. A central corridor was designated for this purpose, winding along Chorvátske rameno, an artificial canal that replaced what had once been an arm of the river Danube. Due to the non-existence of the subway resulting in increasingly common severe delays on bus routes, the municipal authority were forced to reconsider their highly ambitious plans and build a tram line instead to replace the originally intended subway. While the first phase was completed in 2016, the builders were unable to finish the second phase because of the canal’s water level, which made the planned tram stations always inaccessible from the opposite bank.

It was therefore necessary to reconfigure the network of pedestrian connections, which was to be achieved using footbridges spanning the canal. In 2021, an architecture competition to design such footbridges was announced.

The structure of the modernist housing estate – rational, rigid and generic – constitutes the context of the proposal of the footbridges. The estate consists of a number of identical spaces initially intended for maximum efficiency. This is why the footbridges were not perceived by us merely as necessary infrastructure elements or minor architectural features, but rather as items that facilitate activation of the immediate surrounding area. The basic questions were: how do we define and strengthen the spirit of the individual places while working with the waterfront as a whole? How do we break up the uniformity of the modernist housing estate?

Each of the three footbridges gives the impression of being an autonomous component that, however, comes from the same series. They are jointly intended to become almost sculptural elements that put the finishing touches to the landscape around. The context of their location informs the shape of each of them.

The first footbridge is a highly-visible line that spills freely into the landscape. In addition to the opposite banks of the canal, it also links the pedestrian paths nearby, the existing outside seating area of a cafe and a planned tram stop. The path itself is conceived as an integral part of the proposal and its dynamic backbone, providing a framework for new free time activities in the park. No bold form is required: the footbridge has a shape of a simple horizontal line. It is a line that connects the beginning and the end. A line that helps to create the path.

In contrast, the second footbridge is static. Situated in the meander of the canal and right on the axis of the planned square, it has the potential to become the mouth of the square and a major meeting point. This is because the opposite bank is organically formed by a staircase intended as a seating and meeting area. The staircase is an integral part of the footbridge, making it possible for the footbridge to be converted into a waterfront amphitheatre. The footbridge is an important focal point as well as a place to stop and spend some time. It is the ultimate point in the gradation of the square to be built.

The theme of the third footbridge is symmetricity that establishes a dialogue between the banks. In addition to the footbridge, the proposal addresses the public space at its both ends. On the western bank, the existing staircase informs the way this space is modelled while on the eastern bank, it creates a front yard for the buildings to be built. Both open spaces, parallel to the footbridge, gradually slope all the way down to the canal. Not only does this solution physically connect both banks of the canal. It also facilitates contact at the water level, produces a sense of interrelatedness between the banks and creates equilibrium between the opposite sides.



project: Footbridges 1, 2 and 3 over the Chorvatské rameno of the Danube, Petržalka
location: Bratislava
together with: AXXIOFFICE
team: Anastasia Bezborodko, Luděk Šimoník, Jana Kobza, Martin Holý,
Natálie Ivkovičová, Daniel Struhařík, Anna Vrzalová, Kryštof Foltýn
status: ongoing documentation for planning permission
topics: adequacy, appropriateness, public space,
social interaction, undefined public space, surroundings
based on: competition, 3x 1st place
profese: D-Phase