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Design Ecosystem in Bratislava

Gianmarco Caprio

Writer and editor at Phase with a fondness for photography, typography, design and travel.

Slovakia: Its Time to Shine?

Bratislava is a place that probably not many are familiar with outside of Europe – or even in Europe itself. The city has been the capital of the Slovak Republic, a country born out of the split of Czechoslovakia in 1993, but it's lesser-known than its other constituent part, Czechia.

Bratislava: Coming Out of Its Shell

For most of its history, Bratislava – and Slovakia as a whole – was overshadowed by other cities, such as Prague or Vienna. Those have been notoriously very important cultural, economic, and political centers for countries such as Austria-Hungary and Czechoslovakia, therefore Bratislava did not have a chance to shine in those times. But as the capital of the young Slovak Republic, the city and its people can finally come out of their shell and show what they've got to offer to the world.

<strong>Bratislava castle at dawn.</strong> Credit: <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener" aria-label=" (opens in a new tab)">Jakub Sisulak</a>
Vienna, the Austrian capital, lies is just about 60 km away to the west of Bratislava, therefore the Slovak capital is often overlooked by travellers, who mostly choose to visit Vienna instead. In recent years, especially since the end of border formalities between Austria and Slovakia in 2007, when the latter joined the EU's Schengen common travel area. Despite that and efforts made by the government to boost the country's appeal, people still rarely make a stop in Bratislava or Slovakia, and the country's name often evokes images of a dreary and gloomy place, which is far from the truth.

The State of Design in Bratislava

In Czechoslovakia design was highly regarded, with some of Europe's most iconic products being conceived and produced within the country that Slovakia used to be a part of. Of course, the legacy hasn't been forgotten and in present-day Slovakia, design is still considered something important and therefore receives attention from both the public and the government.

For a city of its size, Bratislava hosts plenty of events and organisations that place design as their focus. The most important among those is the Slovak Design Center, "[...] an exhibition space for the presentation of graphical, industrial and creator designs, but also a contact place for people interested in obtaining information from the field of design.".

Those are the kind of places that not only help interest in design in the general public grow, but also make sure professionals have spaces where they can foster new projects and share ideas.

Design Education

If you're interested in studying design in Bratislava, your only choice is the city's Academy of Fine Arts and Design, known in Slovak as Vysoká škola výtvarných umení, or VŠVU in short.

<strong>One of the buildings of VŠVU.</strong> Credit: <a rel="noreferrer noopener" aria-label=" (opens in a new tab)" href="" target="_blank"></a>
Founded in 1949, the school offers bachelor, master, and doctoral studies in design fields such as textile and visual communication. VŠVU participates in student and teacher mobility programmes, such as the EU's ERASMUS+ programme, and maintains bilateral agreements with other academies in the United States, Russia, Mexico, Serbia, Israel, India, Thailand and China.

Where to Work From?

Bratislava may be small, but cafés are plentiful as the coffee culture from nearby Vienna penetred Slovak society during the Austro-Hungarian era. Nowadays, people who want to work remotely can do so at the many laptop-friendly cafés that dot the city, such as Foxford on Obchodná street, Urban House on Laurinská street and Škodovka on Medená street.

But the Slovak capital also has some great coworking spaces located within its territory, like SPACE UP (Záhradnícka street), Cvernovka (Račianska street) and IMPACT Hub (Hviezdoslavovo square).

As most European countries are still grappling with COVID-19, please make sure that the particular place mentioned is open beforehand, as the situation – and the restrictions applied by different countries – changes rapidly.

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