Poljane School Square
New public square in front of Poljane Grammar School, Strossmayer Street
Ljubljana, Slovenia, 2020
The design language applied in the atrium of Poljane Grammar School is used to create a new square identity and emphasis in the urban system of public spaces and markets of Ljubljana city.
The renovation of Strossmayer Street in Ljubljana city center raises the question of redesigning the public entrance of Poljane Grammar School, one of the most beautiful examples of the 19th century school architecture in Slovenia. For a building of such significance there should be a thoughtfully designed entrance area.
In recent years, Poljane Grammar School has undergone a gradual refurbishment with thoughtful interventions in the interior, aimed at establishing a strong spatial identity whilst adapting to the modern pedagogical approaches within the existing historical building.
With an aim to provide better outdoor surfaces for pupils, the school started renovating the inner atrium. A project designed by our practice, known as the Pebble Atrium, envisioned a polycentric pattern of irregular rounded triangles where 'positive' and 'negative space' is formed. 'Positive' – white space, in form of soft triangular shapes, pebbles – offers various sitting typologies, whilst 'negative' – black space – connects the triangular elements into one urban landscape. The graphically present urban topography became the new, fifth facade of the building, seen from all the inner school windows, whilst remaining deeply hidden within the strict and thick architecture of the 19th century school typology.
Since Poljane Grammar School certainly affects its surrounding area, if not even a wider urban area of Poljane, our proposal envisages a physical, visual manifestation, a spill over of the ''school content'' outwards onto the school's front square. The design language used in the atrium of Poljane Grammar School is thus used to create the new square identity, as a new emphasis in the urban system of public spaces and markets of Ljubljana city. The pebbles are "pouring out" of the atrium into the front square, where they create and regulate the flow of users.
The proposed intervention creates a new, optically significantly larger market made out of washed concrete with porphyry aggregate, using forms from the school’s atrium with a less intensive washing of concrete and subtly connecting the semi-public and public space of the grammar school. The new school square features all the essentials: a newly paved stone floor in front of the existing cafe (commercial content), a larger platform in the shade of the school trees made out of porphyry concrete, covered with wooden boards for waiting and observing and lastly, a large bench under a maple tree in the form of a hollow pebble, which also improves the existing entry patio of the adjacent apartment block. The big bench, an oval-shaped ring on an asphalt surface, is intended for resting under the maple tree, talking, waiting for someone "from afar", cafe visitors, pupils, etc.
In short, this project represents a thorough renovation of the main school square where one instigates the regeneration of decaying surrounding built tissue with an introduction of new, evocative urban elements and substantial change of edge conditions, especially in front of the apartment block and the existing cafe.
Location: Ljubljana, Slovenia
Project date: 2019
Completion date: 2020
Area: 600 m2
Client: Municipality of Ljubljana
Project teams: SVET VMES, Ltd. in collaboration with MEDPROSTOR, Ltd.
Authors: Jure Hrovat, MArch, Ana Kreč, MArch;
Consultants: assist. prof. Rok Žnidaršič, MArch, Samo Mlakar, MArch
Photographer: Matevž Paternoster; drone photography: Mitja Kuret, other: SVET VMES archive