In the very core of Rijeka, within the immediate vicinity of the ‘Kosi toranj’ (the Leaning Bell-Tower of Rijeka), archeological excavations have been underway ever since the 1960s, where remains of an early Christian era basilica dating back to the 5th century were found. These remains are deemed as particularly valuable elaborated mosaics pointing towards an Antique thermal spa complex. The very uniqueness of this site in the city’s core requires painstaking pondering in terms of presentation, as well as maintaining the valuable findings. A few weeks ago the winning solution was announced for the conceptual solution of designing the Pul Vele crikve Square in the Rijeka Old City Center.
The area pertaining to the competition organized by the DAR (Association of Architects Rijeka) and the City of Rijeka, includes a gross surface area of approximately 1.300 square meters, and in addition to the Pul Vele crikve Square it also includes parts of Užarska Street, Janez Trdina Street and Đuro Šporer Street.
As per the selection of the panel of judges, Igor Franić with his Studio for Architecture (Studio za arhitekturu) was awarded first prize. The second prize went to Nikola Bašić’s work, while the third to the solution of Vesna Milutin, Zorislav Petrić and Jurica Sinković.
Igor Franić’s work represents a bold venture into the sphere of public space – creating a rhythmic surface from alternately wooden, glass, concrete and steel horizontal trajectories, both elevating and opening the surface area, depending on the content and terrain. In view of the winning solution, the judges emphasized that this particular work met almost all of the competition requirements, standing out with its high-quality design, thus adding a new creative value to the city with its original design and conceptual complexity. We did a blitz-interview with Igor Franić where he further elaborates on the parameters he was guided by while designing the conceptual solution of this exceptional space in Rijeka.
What degree of complexity does contemplation of the Rijeka Square area with its valuable finding site entail? The site encapsulates an exceptional historical and contextual significance in itself – what were your guidelines in designing?
The basic guidelines were as follows: the existent scale, an intimate dimension, dynamic movement, interior ambiance, and an almost surreal theatrical setting of the leaning bell-tower, as well as the verticality of the edges while putting minor emphasis on the plane, surrounding structures. We wanted to emphasize the layering of the area through a clear integration of the archeological finding site and its presentation. Hence the urban zone gains uniqueness and consistency through careful treatment of the horizontal and setting up a strict and focused rhythm which in turn defines the manner of presentation of the mosaic, as well as the new urban equipment set to be installed on the Square.
The designing of the Pul Vele crikve Square is design-wise somewhat reminiscent of your never-realized project Pila Plateau in Dubrovnik. It seems that certain similar strategies were used in surveying both areas. Is the Rijeka Square design in any way a derivative of the Dubrovnik notion, only this time with the goal of it being brought to fruition?
These two projects have absolutely nothing in common. These two tasks deal with completely different questions, thus the approaches, as well as answers are drastically different. There are instances in which a certain idea is further derived and developed, but this is not such an instance, the only common denominator here is the fact that both deal with open spaces, as opposed to facilities.
What conceptual niche lies beneath designing the surface, where a repetitive motif of trajectories is transformed depending on the significance of the terrain or venue? This theatrical element you mention in your description is quite interesting. Did medieval theater serve as an inspiration to a certain extent?
No, medieval theater wasn’t an immediate inspiration, although a certain link can be read into it and thus interpreted. As it’s been pointed out, the scale of this space was important, but we wanted to establish an element that integrated everything, the entire surface, the manner of presentation and other set elements. In this way the plane becomes an element that defines and integrates the space, while the vertical shift, the source of the set structure (in the form of minor interventions such as lighting, benches or info noticeboards) indicates a defined emptiness, the undeveloped part of town.
Is entry on the in situ excavation possible?
No, the mosaic is located approximately 1 m under the passable surface. By excavation of certain segments a service approach is made possible.
How does the archeology stand out during daylight hours – the night floodlights seem like an excellent contrast putting strong focus on the surface?
The renovated mosaic needed to be protected from direct sunlight, in accordance with the conditions. The surrounding houses cast a shade on this zone for the most part of the day. The remaining protection from the sun and direct light is achieved through trajectories, wooden beams above the archeological site. It’s further possible to emphasize the area under the passable panel during the day with lighting through formulation of a precise budget to install artificial lighting (that’s dimmable depending on external factors). The installation of said lighting elements is clearly defined in the project.
Continue reading to check out an overview of the runner-ups, while more details on the winner can be found on the Studio for Architecture’s (Studio za arhitekturu) official website.