The ELEMENTARNA architecture studio has been in charge of the revitalization of the old glassworks and their surrounding urban areas in the city of Ptuj, one of the oldest cities in Slovenia located in the Podravska region, northeast of Ljubljana.

The project seeks to create a vibrant center for local culture, revitalizing the spirit of the historic center and ensuring its relevance as a cultural focal point. The revitalization of the old windows brings new high-quality public spaces to the historic center and serves as a link between the castle hill, the city, and the river.
The space in which the ELEMENTARNA studio has worked has the Vrazov trg square, which serves as the epicenter of cultural events and is an urban landmark, and the Old Glassworks glassworks, which can open to the street, transforming it into a public square. The general idea of the project is to unite the old with the new, adapting the old structures to new programs and diverse users. As a result, the spaces offer versatility and maximum flexibility depending on whether events are held inside the building or in the plaza.

The materials used are inspired by the diverse character of the old city center, incorporating existing elements but reinvented for their contemporary context. In addition, archaeological excavations unearthed numerous river pebbles, formerly used to pave the city, which were reused in the streets and squares. The building has a profiled exposed concrete structure with a semicircular wooden formwork.


Revitalization of Old Glassworks and surrounding urban areas of Ptuj by ELEMENTARNA. Photograph by Miran Kambič.
 

Project description by ELEMENTARNA

The essence of the project lies in the transformation of the Old Glassworks and its neighboring public spaces, guided by the vision of creating a vibrant hub for local culture. It transcends mere physical alterations, as its goal is to revitalize the very spirit of Ptuj's historic old town, ensuring its enduring relevance as a cultural focal point.

Revitalization of Old Glassworks, along with its adjoining streets and squares, brings new high-quality public spaces to the Ptuj's old town center. These spaces serve as a link between the castle hill, town, and river, fostering a vibrant city. Two key focal points are the more formal Vrazov trg square on one side and intimate ambiance of the Old Glassworks on the other, providing a harmonious contrast. Vrazov trg serves as the epicenter for cultural events and stands as a significant urban landmark. On the other hand, the Old Glassworks, with its courtyard, initially possesses an introverted character but can seamlessly open to the street through its large cantilevered doors during various events, transforming into a lively public square. Collectively, they shape a versatile space ideal for nurturing new cultural initiatives, whether for everyday use or special occasions.


Revitalization of Old Glassworks and surrounding urban areas of Ptuj by ELEMENTARNA. Photograph by Miran Kambič.

The project's central theme revolves around bridging the old and the new, providing solutions to the challenges posed by the site and the program. On one side, there's a cluster of diverse structures at varying elevations and the immediate urban context. On the other side, the challenge lies in designing for highly diverse user groups with varying and unpredictable needs. As a result, the spaces within the new complex needed to offer maximum flexibility, accommodating various unconventional uses. Both halls can fully open on different occasions, seamlessly connecting to the courtyard.

The large hall, purposefully designed as a versatile event space, boasts adjustable stage platforms that can also be utilized for outdoor events in the multipurpose auditorium. The integration of the old and the new is distinctly evident: on the ground floor, the walls of the old houses create the ambiance of the interior facade. In the attic, a corridor is ingeniously positioned at the juncture, illuminated by a longitudinal skylight – a pivotal element in the roof facade that demarcates the transition between the old and the new, offering a captivating view of the old city tower.


Revitalization of Old Glassworks and surrounding urban areas of Ptuj by ELEMENTARNA. Photograph by Miran Kambič.


Revitalization of Old Glassworks and surrounding urban areas of Ptuj by ELEMENTARNA. Photograph by Miran Kambič.

The selection of materials, inspired by diverse character of the old city center, ingeniously incorporates existing elements, thoughtfully reimagined for a contemporary context. Archaeological excavations unearthed numerous river pebbles, formerly used for paving the historic city center. To honor the area's heritage, these pebbles were reused, restoring Ptuj's traditional color palette to the streets, squares and also to the new cultural center. This sustainable choice also aligns with today's environmental imperatives.

The architectural design of the building embraces simplicity, highlighting the fundamental elements of walls, cornices, and roofs. The building's aesthetic is deeply rooted in a tectonic logic, eloquently narrating the very essence of its construction. Surrounded by narrow streets, it invites visitors to engage intimately with its exterior. In response, the building features a profiled structure of visible concrete, accentuated by wooden semicircular formwork. This design choice not only humanizes the imposing walls but also encourages the gradual accumulation of patina over time, deepening its connection to the historical context.

More information

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Architects
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Project team
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Matevž Zalar, Ambrož Bartol, Dominik Košak, Miha Munda, Rok Staudacher, Samo Kralj.
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Collaborators
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Landscape architecture office.- KOLEKTIV TEKTONIKA (Darja Matjašec, Pia Kante, Katja Mali).

Architect.- Marko Primažič.

Structural engineer.- Marko Pavlinjek.

Electrical engineer.- Jakob Lovšin.

Mechanical engineer.- Bojan Mehle.
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Client
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City Municipality of Ptuj.
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Area
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Total area.- 3,181 sqm.

Usable floor area.- 1,361 sqm.
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Dates
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2023.
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Location
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Ptuj, Slovenia.
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Photography
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Miran Kambič, Matevž Zalar.
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ELEMENTARNA is a studio founded by Matevž Zalar, Ambrož Bartol, Dominik Košak, Miha Munda, and Rok Staudacher in the city of Ljubljana, Slovenia.

The studio understands architecture as a bridge between two worlds. The first is the world of physical space, which surrounds us and which, with all the boundary conditions, represents the basis for the design of the "body" of architecture. The second is the current world, which with all its advantages and disadvantages within the broader social context determines the conditions for the formation of the "soul" of architecture. In establishing this bridge, they always look to their understanding of the mission of the profession for inspiration.

Architecture cannot simply be the result of the spontaneous creative inspiration of an individual, especially at a time when nature tells us every day that the times of unlimited consumption of natural resources and arrogant attitude towards the environment are over. back. In his opinion, good architecture, like nature, must always question established processes, seek new paths, change, and adapt.

Such architecture, despite the era dominated by superficiality and ephemerality, constructs space differently; and seeks inspiration for contemporary architectural expression elsewhere. It personifies them in the dramaturgy of experience and the experience of space, about nature, time, and memory... It is an architecture whose essence resides in the space it embraces, and not in the image it shows. It is an architecture that does not build itself but only complements what has always existed in a given place.
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