4CITIES excursion to Bratislava, Slovakia: Fototagebuch zur Erforschung der Stadtplanung und der Herausforderungen des Post-Sozialismus mit visuellen Forschungsmethoden

How can one explore a city and tell a story without text? As part of the Erasmus Mundus Joint Master in Urban Studies – in short 4CITIES -, the students went on a one-day excursion to the Bratislava, specifically to the Petržalka district. The district was born from an international contest in 1967, where 84 projects were submitted from 19 countries. The outcome resulted in the construction of one the largest prefabricated socialist estates in Slovakia and central Europe with approximately 140,000 residents in spread throughout roughly 50,000 flats by 1990 (Bolibruchova, 2016). The 105,000 residents of today are socially mixed, with skilled-trade workers living next to civil servants and professors (Bolibruchova, 2016). The student’s task was to research the districts challenges using visual methods and photography, leading to the construction of the photo diary below.

Sandra Guinand was the excursion guide, a visiting professor in the Urban Studies Working Group, within the Department of Geography and Regional Research at the University of Vienna. Sandra’s research focuses on urban regeneration and urban redevelopment with a specific emphasis on heritage and public-private partnerships. Within the Viennese context, she is interested in the cities unique housing environment and the transformations its currently undergoing.

1: Introducing the students to the history of Petržalkas and visual research at the Institute of Social Anthropology of Bratislava.

In Bratislava, we received invaluable information and contextual details regarding the local planning processes and structure from Viktor Kasala, the head of the Department of Urban Development of the Petržalka district office and founder of the NGO krasy terasy (“the beauty of the terrace”). Organizing community projects for the revitalization of public terraces, enables the NGO to research and test potential solutions in a temporary form – with the help of tactical urbanism and support from civil society and governing bodies who strive to foster the development of community life.

The excursion was accompanied and photos captured by Leon Theilen, tutor for the Urban Studies Working Group, within the Department of Geography at the University of Vienna.


Bolibruchova, M. (2016). Urbane Erneuerung der Plattenbausiedlung Petržalka in Bratislava.

2: Attempting to start the fieldwork but we were quickly stopped due to stormy and rainy weather.
3: Continued in the ‘safe’ restaurant, where Viktor Kasala told us, over pizza, about financialization and privatisation in post-socialist times and today’s challenges with public spaces.
4: Finally got into field and began experiencing transformation(s) in the city, with some sunlight.
5: Talking about the challenges of responsibility through post-socialist privatisation while on one of the typical terraces connecting the residential buildings.
6: Found some rare examples of shared space being used for urban gardening.
7: The walk back to the Bratislava train station, after an exciting day.