Built between 1956-1981 in central Bratislava, the Istropolis House of Trade Unions was originally designed to host Communist Party congresses. Designed by Ferdinand Konček, Iľja Skoček, and Ľubomír Titl, the main building is a monolith of grey marble. Step inside, however, and you’ll find a patchwork of amenities: a cultural and congress centre, an office tower, a science centre, a theatre, an atrium, and a fountain.
The socialist-era building was constructed on the back of another structure, Berchtold’s Palace. Built in 1832, the palace was demolished just as Istropolis was finished.
Now, history is set to repeat itself, and Istropolis itself is now set for demolition. The structure will be replaced by a new project, New Istropolis: a glass tower designed by the Dutch firms KCAP and CITYFÖRSTER. The new hub will encompass a cultural centre, as well as office spaces, residential buildings, a congress hotel, and an adjacent garden. Architects plan to maintain some elements of the old centre by keeping the artworks and repurposing some materials, such as the marble facade of the existing hall and the tropical timber panels.
Nevertheless, the demolition has been criticised by The Association of Slovak Architects, among others, who consider Istropolis key to Bratislava’s history and culture. A petition denouncing Istropolis’s destruction has been signed by almost 11,000 people. As of yet, however, developers’ plans remain unchanged, and demolition works have already started.