Cite this article
Botek, A. (2023) ‘Presentation of older layers and findings on historical architecture using the method of analytical presentation: Example of the Old Town Hall in Bratislava, Slovakia’, Architecture Papers of the Faculty of Architecture and Design STU, 28(4), pp. 38-47. https://www.doi.org/10.2478/alfa-2023-0023
Analytical presentation is one of the methods used in the process of monument restoration. After its origin in the first decades of the 20th century, it was often used mainly in the 1960s–1980s. Frequently, it has been used (sometimes stereotypically) to renew facades of the monument buildings containing findings of various style adjustments. A specification of individual monument values subsequently conditions not only the need for its preservation and monument renewal, but also their possible presentation in a new situation. Critics legitimately criticize the analytic method for destroying younger layers and disturbing the visual unity of the architectonical concept and characteristics of elements. The resulting expression of the realized analytical method is always a question of the scope of the chosen analytics, its acting within the whole and the relationship to other valuable layers. Consequently, there are cases when its use is adequate, but also when it is a questionable solution.
As an example, we can mention the Old Town Hall in Bratislava, Slovakia. The work was created by gradual unification of several medieval buildings during the 14th and 15th century. The oldest part is the tower with a two–floor house in the yard, mentioned as early as 1330, but the oldest parts date back to the 13th century. Gradually, other houses were acquired, rebuilt, and modified several times. The last unification of the facade was performed in the 19th century in the classicist style. The first great renovation was realized in the 1960s when new knowledge about its development was gathered and many important fragments of older layers and artefacts were uncovered. During this renovation, the method of large analytic presentation of several older adjustments was adopted, partially by using reconstructions. The renovation performed in the 1990s was devoted mainly to the facades. The last renovation was performed in 2008–2011. Today, we can observe various historical restorations of the facades with various analytical presentations.
The largest areas of analytical presentations are realized on the northern facade in the courtyard. In the front of the wall, there is storey arcade (dated 1581) built with gradation of matter typical for Renaissance. The back wall is reconstructed in the medieval style with medieval windows and openings (some as niches); younger perforations are shown in various parts. The facades facing the Main Square are divided into four segments. The former style dating back to the 19th century showed it in a single visual style. The southern part is designed with the Renaissance style prevailing, another part is designed in a late medieval style with reconstruction of a rich plastic decoration. The northern part is characterized by a Renaissance expression with a late Gothic arch and portal with an oriel above it. The tower in the corner of the square and the street is shown in the visual form of the Baroque style with a Renaissance balustrade. On the facades, various medieval windows are presented in the form of openings or niches. The major visual effect is created by rich plastic bifora with wimpergs on the first floor. The facade in the narrow Kostolná Street shows a reconstructed medieval plaster with curvilinear windows (niches) and a presentation of battlements in the western part. The rest of the wall shows another Gothic style (with a network) and larger windows, some of them from the Baroque period.
Monument researches are an important part not only of knowledge about the development of specific monuments over centuries but also of the next analysis of values that appear in the methodical project of renovation. The primary condition for an architect’s work in a monument area is a thorough knowledge of the resulting research materials. Questions of conservation, presentation, surface modification, and painted and decorative layers are the most common issues in the restoration of historic facades, but in practice there are also issues of modifying sculptural elements connected with architecture (balustrades, reliefs, amphoras, statues, …). The multi-layer structure of the determined values leads not only to the necessity of their documentation but also to efforts to make available at least part of these older artifacts, which otherwise remain under younger layers. This constitutes the essence of the analytical method in the field of the renovation of architectural monuments. A presentation of older layers and adjustments is not necessary. What is more important? Knowledge of older forms at the cost of visual fragmentation, or a complete image of the whole, covering up older values? In the end, every analytical presentation is only partial. It is not possible to present all older findings in their full extent. The use of the analytical method remains an object of discussions among experts.
The restoration of the Old Town Hall is a good example not only for various analytical presentations, but also concerning the questions about the rate of using this method in specific conditions and their influence on the visual perception. The protection of cultural heritage is not only protection of artistic or historical values, but also a preservation of the identification function of a cultural symbol. And the Old Town Hall in Bratislava fulfils this requirement significantly.