Peter Bartoš Concept for the Bratislava ZOO

16. 11. 2016

Whenever people ask me when I first became interested in nature, I answer that it was before I even learned to write. My mother used to recall that, whenever spring started, I would say “spring is here, the blackbird is singing.” When I was 15, my dog was run over by a car, which is why I never bought a car of my own. My father introduced me to pigeon- keeping, and so I began to raise pigeons, even crossing various breeds. When I started to feel like the city was a prison, especially after 1968, I decided that I wanted to help the animals in the zoo (who live in a similar prison) by eliminating at least a little of the unnatural limitations on their freedom. That is how I identified with the animals at the zoo, where I had a part-time job working to turn the existing urban landscape into new environments in an area into which the original zoo had begun to expand, bringing it closer to the noisy environment of a future motorway. Fortunately, this new area of the zoo stretched for more than a kilometre along vineyards, a forest, and a deep valley that was suitable for a little lake with arctic fauna. I was most inspired by the part that was farthest from the future motorway. Since this is where the Little Carpathians begin, I called this part of the forest the “Carpathian Woods.” Here we can create an island or an animal park even for city dwellers.

Peter Bartoš, 2015


Bartoš was employed as a conceptual artist at the Bratislava Zoo (founded 1960) from 1979 to 1991. At the same time, he worked for the state construction company, Stavoprojekt, as a landscape designer for the zoo. As part of his job, he consulted with zoologists in order to design the animals’ living environment and to put together plans for the zoo park’s landscaping. He took a holistic approach to his concept for the zoo’s area, considering the animals’ needs in relation to the original Carpathian environment. He followed the logic of that environment, taking account not only the original relief of the landscape, but also migratory bird routes, the direction of the winds, and other factors.

Working on the basis of an older study (1976), Bartoš put together a paper entitled Plan I. A Concept for the New Bratislava Zoo Area (1980). Working with zoologist and ecologist Vladimír Podhradský and others, he structured the zoo’s environment into three different zones: A. forested, B. deforested, and C. a denatured noise zone. He also applied this concept of “the meeting of three environments” (the ABC of landscape types) in his designs for smaller areas (at the zoo, these included e.g.: A. protected trees, B. a Carpathian pony (Hucul) enclosure, C. historical livestock). He also incorporated existing plans for the construction of a nearby drinking water canal and motorway junction, for which two-thirds of the zoo’s original area were destroyed in 1981–1985. In the noise zone of the lower part of the inner-city zoo, he envisioned large pavilions and mobile aviaries. In the steppe and forest sections, the landscape design was to be adapted to the landscape. The highest part of the zoo, the Little Carpathian oak forest, was to be preserved as a contiguous protected forest park. This is where Bartoš wanted to place the enclosure and breeding area for the indigenous Carpathian horses known as Huculs. This Hucul Mountain Pony Animal Park would have rounded out his idea of a Carpathian landscape concept. In fact, the local Carpathian landscape was Bartoš’s central theme. The Hucul Club established in the city quarter Devín was based on A Concept Proposal for the Hucul Landscape, on which he also collaborated occasionally with J. Koller in 1980–1984.

Bartoš’s concept for the zoo area as a whole and for its individual biotopes can be studied in a wide range of documentation. Much of it consists of plans and diagrams, topographic maps, and contour studies for which he found inspiration in three-dimensional relief maps. The eco-concepts for the greater zoo grounds, such as the wide-angle views of Mill Valley (Mlynská Dolina), were made on the basis of photographs that Bartoš had made from the opposite hill, Machnáč. He then explored the terrain in detail, drew it with linear strokes, and included a legend or commentary. This is how he made his cartographic drawings and paintings (hand-drawn or photographs that he drew and painted on), Xerox copies, enlargements and collages. Bartoš’s concept for the zoo was realized only partially, and not very consistently (plans that were realized included the flamingo pond, the pygmy hippo pond, the rhinoceros habitat, and a raised path for disabled people along the steep terrain); today, most of it has disappeared beneath later layers of changes.


Mira Keratová is a curator and historian of art, and works in the Central Slovakian Gallery in Banská Bystrica.

Peter Bartoš (1938) studied painting at the University of Fine Arts in Bratislava (1957 – 1965, Prof. J. Želibský, J. Mudroch; postgraduate studies 1966 – 1967, Prof. P. Matejka). He has taken part in many exhibitions at home and abroad, including Body and the East. From the 1960s to the Present (Moderna Galerija, Ljubljana 1998) and Global Conceptualism: Points of Origin, 1950’s – 1980’s (Queens Museum of Art, New York 1999). His independent exhibitions include Peter Bartoš – Z tvorby/From His Work (Nitrianska galéria, Nitra 2000) and Peter Bartoš: Situations 1945 – 2014 (Secession, Vienna 2014). He lives and works in Bratislava and Central Europe.


Concept of the terrain of the new Zoo complex, 1981.

Concept of the new zoo complex, 1980.

Plan of the pipe system bringing drinking water from Žitný (Rye) Island to the future housing estate (the original plan would have destroyed the future zoo lake). Despite the fact that the second project involved tunneling through a hill, the pipe system was installed 1982 – 1989.

Design for central and lower section of Bratislava Zoo, 1985 – 1987.

Visual plan for the lower section of the Zoo, 1985 – 1987 (realised 1989).

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