The project of Bratislava Hanging Gardens is a response to the absence of fully-fledged public areas with cultivated greenery serving as the place of culture and relaxation in Bratislava. At the same time, the project has the ambition to represent Slovakia and the country's cultural potential and creative capacities. It seeks to build a large public park of comparable quality, size and function as that of public parks in other European metropolises. The motto of the project "World Gardens in Bratislava" expresses the ambition to create an area of such a type that is currently non-existent in Slovakia. This representative park of Slovakia in the form of terrace gardens overlooking the capital city should be of high artistic, cultural and landscaping value, and should serve as a multigenerational and, to the maximum extent possible, barrier-free public park with yearlong accessible covered gardens and cultural/social background on the sunny south-eastern slopes of the Little Carpathians.
The target group for the project of the Bratislava Hanging Gardens is the broad public, including locals and visitors. The project has, in addition to the establishment of a representative park of Slovakia, several other objectives. One of them is to create and stabilise the natural transition area between the urban environment of the capital city and the massifs of the Little Carpathian forests on the axis of Bratislava wards of Staré Mesto – Nové Mesto – Rača – Vajnory. The public park will provide new points of entry to the city forests (between the existing, yet distant, entry points in Koliba and Pekná cesta). The gardens would, in the uppermost locations gradually change into the forest park. The uppermost terrace of the gardens, copying the forest’s perimeter, should serve as the final barrier against illegal buildings and illegal development progressing higher and higher into the forests of the Little Carpathians. The project would become a place for citizens and visitors of Bratislava for their leisure activities and provide views of the capital city and the surrounding landscape. The Hanging Gardens of Bratislava should create a new public area of cultivated greenery in the form of a large park. At the same time, they should preserve the visual component of vineyards and their terraces, which have shaped the picture of Bratislava and the surrounding Little Carpathian region for centuries. Another important ambition of the project therefore is preserving at least a part of the original Bratislava vineyards (of which most are currently in a desperate condition) for future generations, taking into account that, from 2009, vineyards are no longer protected by law, which poses the risk that they could be fully consumed by development in future. In this context, the topic of social inclusion (ambition to preserve the accessibility of lucrative areas above the capital for the broad public) has been an inseparable component of the project from the beginning. This large project is also an extraordinary opportunity for the services and tourism sector and should also create new jobs.
The location of any large park must take into account several factors, and particularly its attractiveness and the functions, which it should provide. A large public park cannot be built in densely populated built-up central zones of towns. In several countries, we therefore can see examples, where such zones intended for relaxation, recreation and culture in natural environment were built a bit apart from the most exposed central areas, to give people the chance to escape the bustle and the smog of the city. The Hanging Gardens of Bratislava would provide, as added value, broad panoramic views of the capital and the surrounding landscape. This will be possible due to the location of the gardens on the border between the city forests and vineyards on south-eastern slopes of the Little Carpathians over Bratislava, with the gardens extending to the territory of several wards of Bratislava. This should emphasize their supra-regional importance, measured by quality, scope and form.
A large public park as a representative park of Slovakia should consist of terrace gardens on the sunny south-eastern slopes above Bratislava. In this manner, a lucrative area for long walks providing views reaching far into the lowlands of Danube would be created. The highest terrace of the gardens should copy the perimeter of the forests and should serve as the natural barrier against development above the capital not only in the near but also in a more distant future. At the same time, this would enable to better spread recreational activities over the natural territory of forests above Bratislava. The project should include, as an important element, yearlong accessible covered gardens and exhibition rooms. Cultural and social background of the park would consist of galleries and museums, nice cafés and wine cellars for presentation and tasting of wines. The large area of the park should also include rich flower beds, hanging footbridges, various labyrinths of hedgerow or vine, sightseeing terraces and walk-on green roofs, educational hiking routes, jogging and cycle routes. In case the supporting walls of the individual terraces are lit properly, Bratislava would get a new dominant, a new dimension during the night. New and visually attractive dominant in the panorama of the city, which would also be interesting for tourists, would bring Bratislava closer to great European metropolises. This also applies to the function of such a new zone – high-quality leisure activities, recreational sporting in nice natural environment, and creation of new possibilities for cultural and social life and also creation of opportunities for tourism.
The term "hanging gardens" might remind you of the legendary gardens in the historical city of Babylon, associated with the name of Queen Semiramis. The idea at that time was to build a kind of an "artificial hill", whose name was derived from the hanging rich vegetation growing from terraces on the individual storeys of the building, which was unique at that time. At present, this term refers particularly to terrace gardens situated at elevated locations, providing views of the surrounding landscape. The walls of individual terraces can sometimes be the facades of buildings, which are buried into ground, with greenery planted on top of them (as was the case in Semiramis gardens), even though the buildings might hide the technical equipment for the park (e.g. parking, infrastructures, ateliers) or cultural and social rooms (galleries, cafés, exhibition rooms). Modern hanging gardens therefore place emphasis on the environmental aspect of extension of green areas in all directions (on the roofs, facades or in the interior of buildings), contrasting with the densely developed areas of big cities. Considering these facts and the location on the slopes of the Little Carpathians over Bratislava, whose topography preordains the terrace-like nature of the gardens, the term "hanging gardens" was incorporated into the name of the project.
If such a complex project is to succeed, it needs to be split into several smaller parts and phases of implementation. After broader preparatory work and after starting cooperation with professionals and public discussions, the first phase of the project of the Bratislava Hanging Gardens will consist of a smaller pilot project, which will pave the way for the further continuation of the project into its target form representing Bratislava and Slovakia. The south-eastern terraces of the Little Carpathian Mountains attract a lot of interest from a number of stakeholders and their future will, in a significant manner, influence the overall picture of the country's capital and the quality of life of its citizens. The project must therefore find the right balance between narrow individual interests and broader public interests. Respecting and reflecting this fact, public dialogue and discussion were started right at the beginning of the project, with the active involvement of academic institutions and professional architects' organisations.
The project of the Bratislava Hanging Gardens is a unique project, which deserves broader and not only local attention, participation and cooperation. Therefore, it relies on broader partnerships, which increase the value of the vision of the new public park and which can contribute to its successful implementation. Those partnerships will be defined in more detail as the project progresses, all with a view to create a new, comprehensive and viable zone of greenery, culture and relaxation in Bratislava in the years to come. An important aspect of the project is also the possibility to use it as a platform for professional cooperation and for international exchange of experience between large cities and to monitor and provide content to social themes of similar importance and scope. Key for the project will be professional and financial partnerships, both local and international. This is confirmed by the involvement of the academic sphere, professional architects’ organisations or foreign partner towns of Bratislava, to mention some of them.
The project assumes the creation of a leisure area of adequate size located above the capital of Slovakia, with considerable cultural and technical infrastructure, but it is mainly presumed, that the area will be of high quality from the viewpoint of horticulture, landscape architecture and application of green approaches. Such ambitions are necessarily reflected in the high financial demands of the project and, as a result, broad diversification of resources will be needed to build and operate the public park and its infrastructure. The success of the project requires the involvement of financially strong businesses as part of their social responsibility policies, the use of public finances and, through international partnerships in the project, also the use of international grants and funds. Future sponsors can support the gardens both financially and in kind. Operation of and day-to-day activities in the gardens may in future be supported also by various volunteer activities. The exhibition areas in the park may also be used to present private collections of art.
The concept of social responsibility of companies is a reflection of their interest in the quality of life of the broader community and goes beyond the primary objective of profit generation. It refers to voluntary activities of a company, which cares about the quality of life of its employees and families, clients or citizens of the city, in which the company operates. Such a company then takes the initiative and considers the philanthropic, social and environmental dimension in its activities even beyond the statutory requirements. It is assumed, that the project of Bratislava Hanging Gardens will, to a large extent, be financed as part of social responsibility initiatives. Many domestic and foreign companies operating in Slovakia very sensitively perceive topics such as quality of life, living environment and culture. The project of the representative park of Slovakia provides the room for such initiatives. This will be a partnership between the private and the public sector, a partnership for Bratislava and for Slovakia, a partnership for current and future generations.
The project of the Hanging Gardens of Bratislava is a very complex and challenging one. Therefore, the support and assistance in its implementation are very important. One possible form of help is financial donations not only from large sponsors (businesses) but also from individuals. The "Wall of Founders" in the gardens' premises should be an expression of gratitude to and a reminder of the donors. The wall should, in a dignified way, present the names of those, who contributed to the implementation of this project increasing the cultural wealth of the country either financially or otherwise, i.e. those who helped to found the representative park of Slovakia. The wall should be a supporting wall of one of the terraces in the large park overlooking Bratislava. The wall could also be a separate piece of art and an attractive artefact of the Bratislava Hanging Gardens.
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