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Former No Man’s Land Will Become a Neighbourhood that Connects People

09. August 2022

The Iron Curtain was not only a “border”, but also an area you were not even allowed to go near during the Cold War. It also passed around Petržalka in the border area between Slovakia and Austria, which recently entered a new chapter as regards memory and aesthetics. The Nesto development project is proof that you can also profit from history. The borderline that used to separate, now has a tremendous potential to create new communities and an attractive coherent city, which was recently covered by a recent report on a BBC radio channel.

BBC World Service team outside the BS-8 military bunker

Sometimes we need someone else to point out connections to us. Someone who sees things in a different light, from a certain distance. When we listened to the BBC report, we gained a new perspective. The reporter, Mary-Ann Ochota, followed the line of the former Cold War Iron Curtain which used to separate the East from the West and divided the European continent. The journalist also came to Bratislava. She was looking at how nature has returned to this former frontier area and how people are rewriting their history and looking into the future. She found one of the most interesting stories on the southern edge of Petržalka, an area of forty-seven hectares that is the site of the Nesto project. “History doesn’t need to weigh you down. You can respect it, but then you can start a new chapter. Today, people are transforming this area, building new homes and communities. This says a lot about human resilience and the fact that people will never allow anyone to break them completely,” said the BBC reporter in the conclusion of the report.This is the story of many people grew up during those times and understand the connections. The future new neighbourhood will make the memories of the Iron Curtain fade visually. Life will be brought back to the former no man’s land with the bold ambition of connecting people living on both sides of the Slovak-Austrian border.

BBC reporter Mary – Ann Ochota

Integrating the past into the future

Architects know that building on a greenfield site is the most challenging thing to do. Everything is allowed, but you have nothing to work with. This is not the case with the Nesto development project, where architects and urbanists were able to work with the past. It is referenced by artefacts and structures from the two world wars, which they plan to incorporate into this new ambitious development with respect. Historians state that this small area reflects the complicated 20th century and its so-called “big politics” in small regions. The military cemetery at Kopčany, the anti-tank bunker, the tank replica and other historical objects will be preserved out of respect as a message for future generations. Many of these artefacts are already naturally incorporated into greenery and the natural environment. Connecting them with the functions of the new area will be a challenge for architects and for the new Nesto residents, who will make use of the housing, work and cultural and social activities here. The developer is planning to tailor Nesto to the needs of its future inhabitants. What is being created is a new neighbourhood of Petržalka with all the necessary amenities, which will motivate people and its visitors to make the fullest use of it. Nesto will include offices, a school, a kindergarten, various sports facilities, and a medical centre alongside the residential community housing.

BBC World Service team outside the BS-8 military bunker

Potential to connect rather than separate

This is why the Lucron company chose to build on a greenfield site unrestricted by borders created by streets, public space or utilities. The company sees tremendous potential in integrating its history and bringing Bratislava closer to its Austrian neighbours. The regeneration of this area has already started. Its potential to connect lies in its location. “Every location is richer and more complex if it preserves the historical layers and meanings engrained within, and even more so if they are set into a new context. Our ambition is to help Bratislava spread into the places the function of which was to close and divide countries for reasons of defence and control. We will take the path of integrating this area and all the historical artefacts found in it into a lively neighbourhood, a sustainable city within a city, which will be built close to the centre of Bratislava,” stated the developer. If this is the first time you have heard about Nesto and its location, we recommend you read more about it and look at it from a different perspective – we should always be thankful the Iron Curtain now belongs to the distant past.

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