Update the Theoretical Basis
Conservation of industrial heritage is often confronted with issues which it is seemingly unable to solve in practice. In Bratislava, the premises of Istrochem – the former ‘Dynamitka’ dynamite factory – clearly highlight this situation. Due to the contrast between its current state and its attributed historical importance, the complex represents a good example for examining not only the tools of the current conservation profession, but also the adequacy of its existing theoretical background. An explanation for the greater importance of focusing on such a problematic example, instead of a successful project of restoration/re-use that leads to conservation of a specific industrial building or site, is that a negative example encourages the effort to understand the deeper context from which these problems arise. The issues of industrial heritage conservation are often simplified and reduced to two extremes: either through a positive example – the re-use of a specific industrial monument, in which attention is focused on the visual appeal of industrial architecture, or negatively as a conflict of interests among different stakeholders, whether owners, investors or preservationists. Questions of a deeper context regarding the importance and possibilities of industrial heritage conservation, or the immediate factors that affect its sustainability, remain hidden. Partially, this situation has emerged because the primary examples of successful conversions in Slovakia are small-scale works initiated by conscious individuals, and hence are not the results of systematic planning. In consequence, sufficient experience is lacking for replication and application in more complex situations. The series of unfortunate cases of demolition of industrial heritage that have occurred in Bratislava in recent years are the reason why it is especially important to uncover the roots of the problem, even if, in absolute terms, there are now many fewer industrial monuments left to protect. The following paper aims to point out that the issue is not simply the conservation and re-use of specific monuments – in this case the Dynamitka works – but the formulation of a theme that enables to think on a more general level about the importance for society at large of the built traces left by specific historic eras. Dynamitka, a factory established in 1873 by the famous Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel, has undergone significant transformation since its creation, as the result of major historical events, including two world wars. Both the political and the economic changes highly influenced the factory’s production program, and as a consequence increased the diversity of the physical structures on the site….
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