Biotechnical faculty, Ljubljana
LJUBLJANA (SI) - Raw energy, a gridded facade and spatial links characterize this new university building by Arhitektura Krušec.
The new Biotechnical Faculty building is an extension of the existing campus, built back in the 1960s. Located in one of Ljubljana's green zones in the vicinity of the zoo, the campus is composed of characteristic pavilion buildings set among groups of trees. Arhitektura Krušec's new building – the result of an open and anonymous architectural competition – is part of an urgently needed extension of the tired and inhospitable campus architecture. But despite their poor structural condition, the old, existing buildings provided thematic inspiration for the new solutions – they formed the basis for the organizational, material and formal development of the project and dictated the many choices made during the design process.
The biggest challenge was fitting the new building unobtrusively into the existing spatial grid, which dictated the position of the new building, and even determined that the old structure would protrude into the new perpendicular building. The main entrance is alongside this peculiar, parasitic joint. A vast open platform with low benches joins old and new entrances into an inseparable whole.
Both old and new employ similar formal elements and compositional grammar. The basic design principle relates to the composition of the old facade, which has distinctive 1960s features. Despite all this, the architects managed to avoid pre-determined and standard solutions, like the standardization of construction elements to suit the demands of the market. The basic construction consists of cast-in-situ reinforced concrete columns and walls that are clearly visible on the facade as horizontal and vertical lines that follow the logic of the existing structures. The load-bearing structure therefore determines the rhythm of the facade and creates the external image of the building.
The internal spatial organization reflects an open, contemporary approach in which architecture serves as a neutral background for lively school activities. The building is divided into three segments, each providing a different level of privacy. The public section with library and main lecture hall is organized around a central hall that is one of the highlights of the interior. This double-height space constitutes the core of the building and visually links all the public programmes; a transparent ground-floor wall extends the view outwards to the lawn on the other side of the complex. The library, symbolically located on the first floor above the main entrance, bears no resemblance to the proverbial dark and massive university library. It is organized around the upper level of the double-height space with a staircase that is lit via skylights, creating a special, soft atmosphere. Another highlight is the main lecture hall, where the architects paid special attention to every last detail, including the design of the auditorium seating. Most of the walls here are clad in wooden panels that can be moved to suit acoustic requirements. These shifts are clearly visible on the outside, allowing acoustic technology to 'design' the facade of the building.
But the main quality of this project is not its appearance, but the way it creates spatial links. Special care has been devoted to circulation where new and old buildings meet: the existing first-floor corridor opens on to the new staircase positioned against the transparent outside wall. All the corridors end at the transparent wall, which extends the view to the nature outside. The entrance hall features an open footbridge that connects the auditorium with the library and the staff offices, turning the corridor into an inhabited space that coexists with other spaces in the building.
Both the old and new here radiate a sense of raw energy, which is precisely the quality of this university complex. Instead of designing a spectacular and imposing building, the architects opted instead to reference the existing, the worn out and neglected. They succeeded in capturing the spirit of the past and introducing the right element of contemporary freshness. 'It seems like it's always been here,' offers a passer-by on the wooden bridge that connects the park with the rear of the complex. A quick backward glance confirms this subtle yet very telling truth.
May | 2010 | Slovenia | Maja Vardjan