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Interview to Bostjan Vuga, SADAR+VUGA


The project for the Football Stadium and Multipurpose Sports Hall Stozice in Lubjana, Slovenia, has recently been completed, after a long period of 10 years. Could you please tell us how it all started?

Bostjan Vuga:
“In 1997, there was as an international urban and architectural competition announced for the University Sports Hall and the Sports Park in Ljubljana. The proposal included the positioning of a mixed use athletic-football stadium, an indoor multipurpose athletic arena and a recreational park on the site of an existing quarry pit. The competition was organized by the consortium founded by the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Slovenia and the City of Ljubljana. We set up an international team comprised of offices from London and Ljubljana. From London we worked with a sport consulting architecture office, KSS, and a structural and environmental engineer, Atelier One. From Ljubljana we collaborated with a landscape architect, AKKA, traffic consultants and other architectural offices. We conducted an intense work session lasting 7 weeks, and won the competition. After an exhibition of all the competition projects was held, some more or less unsuccessful efforts were made to continue with the project development. It became clear that there would need to be a strong ambition by our client, the city of Ljubljana to move the project ahead, something that was lacking at that moment. The result: the project had literally hibernated for 10 years.”

What were the reasons behind this “hibernation” of the project?

Bostjan Vuga:
“The Sports park project is a big project, especially in the frame of Ljubljana, a middle-sized European city. For its development and implementation, the will and ambitions of the city government was needed, this happened in 2006, when the current city mayor was elected. The Sports Park with the Multipurpose Sports Hall and the Football Stadium was the main project he promised to deliver (to build) by the end of his 4 years of mayorship. The mayor fulfilled his promise to the city and was reelected last October. In a way, it has become his project and everyone’s project, from design team to contractors, all working more or less enthusiastically towards realizing this project. Before our current mayor, the city government was simply lacking the energy to put the project forward, in a way this adds to the project a political connotation.”

The design process for Sports Park was quite lengthy. How did your design change over time? What adjustments to the original idea were necessary?

Bostjan Vuga:
“We basically designed three different projects: a competition one, a masterplan project with a competition sports hall and a football stadium with a large shopping centre and a public park on its roof. The third one is a realized version with a sunken stadium and a basketball arena. If one follows changes done in the three versions, one can see continuity in the main architectural and urban concepts: very compact volumes, their sectional vertical development, and big open unbuilt areas; these were three starting points we followed from initial design to a final implementation. We derived these concepts from a precise, thorough reading of the neighboring context. Very different formal solutions were the resultant of a constant change of the project brief and its requirements. I would say, at the end, that the project was a great experience for us. Not only that we had to be able to design and build it in a very short time (17 months from a design start to the opening), but we had to be extremely disciplined not to abandon our initial concepts and reactions while trying to fulfill an ever changing brief, during project management and at the construction site works. A very good exercise!”


Could you briefly describe the key features of the design of the stadium and of the sports hall?

Bostjan Vuga:
“The stadium is a concrete structure with a large massive steel roof. As it is less important and smaller than the Multipurpose Hall, we decided to lower it into the slab of the sports park, making the stadium almost an interior space project. We wanted the roof to feel heavy and massive, with almost abstract white greed , since this increases the impression the stadium leaves on the visitor redirecting his focus to activities on the field. A national stadium dedicated for large scale events, has the character of public space. From the outside of the area it appears as a crater in the level of the Park, but when seen from close by, the stadium reveals itself as an open building, whose main feature is the heavy partial roof in a 4x4m grid and the pixelated pattern of the visitors' tribunes. On the west side of the stadium there are the VIP stalls and the media rooms. The building continues into the underground buildings with the necessary amenities for the players and their support teams.
The Multipurpose Hall, on the other hand, is by all standards a large arena, so we put it on top of the sports park slab, to make it the iconic image of the whole assembly. It is located on the north-western corner of the area and it overlooks the whole park area with the arched ‘eyes’ of its undulated, scalloped façade. The arena is not entirely enclosed container but it opens to the park and to the city through the openings of the ground floor and the windows on the first and second floors. It is a compact, symmetrically organised building with a domed roof that feels light and airy. The steel structural elements of the roof appear as a fine lace fabric that effortlessly supports its big dimensions. The oval shape of the building ensures maximum compactness of the interior space and allows the spectators to come as close to the action on the court as possible.”


How do you think this project will affect Ljubljana?

Bostjan Vuga:
“The Sports park Sto�ice is a grand project for the city of Ljubljana. Due to its size, unique positioning between the outer border of the city and inside the city highway ring, and its programming as a hybrid character of sports, shopping and leisure, the project has a power to become a catalyst and a generator of a new type of urbanity in the city. The arena and the stadium have a national significance, both being the largest sports facilities in Slovenia. Lastly, the project is a very sustainable one. Its sustainability is not only from the fact that the project regenerates an unused quarry pit in the frame of the city, but it also tends to revitalize it with ongoing activities 20 hours per day, 7 days per week.”


What projects is SADAR + VUGA working on at this moment? Could you please tell us a bit about your current activity?

Bostjan Vuga:
"Sport hall Portoval, Novo mesto is another project we are currently working on. The 5.000 seat arena will be build till mid of 2013 when Slovenia will host EuroBasket Championship. The arena is as a modern multi-purpose facility providing maximum experiences of sport and cultural events. Organised in three levels it works in synergy with the existing stadium.
MAKS, Cultural center is being built in Maribor right now. It is the central space for events linked to the program for Maribor 2012 – European Capital of Culture. As a new cultural center it is home to a multipurpose theatre hall and city art gallery. The MAKS building is situated on the right -and so-called wrong- bank of Drava River in Maribor, on the site of a former textile and weaving factory. The City of Maribor commissioned us to come up with a proposal for a center for contemporary art with two theater halls; as the project developed, one of the halls was replaced by a space for the Art Gallery of Maribor (UGM). Adjacent to the building are still plenty of unused post-industrial spaces. We integrated the building into its post-industrial surroundings by using basic, rough materials (such as weathered Corten steel) and coarse details. Since the building is scheduled to open in a year, we also took the short construction time into account when conceptualizing the design and details.
Hotel Krojaska in Ljubljana is another project: The Objective is to convert two existing residential and mixed use buildings in the center of Ljubljana on Krojaška street into a "design/boutique" hotel. The buildings are in the historical part of Ljubljana, on the bank of the Ljubljanica river and as such, the general outlook has been protected. The project is an example how to respect the surrounding historical architecture but at the same time bring something new and fresh to the city."

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