Residential and Business Centre . Zagreb

source: courtesy of SZA

A crack in the wall if viewed in terms of scale,
not size,
could be called the Grand Canyon.
(Robert Smithson, The Spiral Jetty, 1972)

Mass shopping areas, along with commercial, residential, and office areas, are the most frequent constituents of transitional landscape, spatial confirmations of the time of monumental social changes we live in. Apart from gas stations, endless agglomerations of family houses (or, along the coast, of holiday apartments), road junctions, and variations of super-commercial amenities (on the one hand, featureless plastered residential buildings and glass office structures; on the other, shopping centres) in their countless embodiments on the peripheries of our cities incorporate the time of the return to a market economy, which took place under difficult conditions, seemingly not very fertile for architectural culture. However, as this is well known from the recent history of European architecture, objective democracy and general social welfare do not necessarily lead to the emergence of an architectural culture that would be interesting beyond the borders of the cultural area in which it was created. On our continent there are numerous examples proving the theory on different levels of the general maturity of architecture in otherwise equally progressive nations, and there are several examples of outstanding architectural achievements in environments that could hardly be called economically rich or socially most advanced.2 It is obvious that the architectural culture of a city, region, nation, or (to use a general term) area consists of many other, superficially not always easily comprehensible elements. Interesting architecture can thus also emerge in marginal, economically and socially flawed conditions with illogical regulations, in an environment of spontaneous urbanization, which is anything but enlightening in technical and planning terms, but can be very inspiring in the creative sense. In such a situation, on a peripheral island along one of the most important of Zagreb’s thoroughfares, resulting from a more or less accidental traffic regulation, these transitional spatial species are united in a common “here and now” structure, a realistic monument to transition in Croatia, with the indicative name Centar Zagrebačka (roughly “Zagreb Centre”).

“Centar” is not a downtown city block or a void cut into it, but a solitary marginal structure, literally carved out by the surrounding suburban roads. “Zagrebačka” refers to its marginal address: the intersection of the Zagrebačka Road and Zagrebačka Avenue. This means that we are not in the city (because normally streets are not named after the cities they are in), but on the way (in transition) to the city, which has grown in the meantime. We see the outline of its size, but not of its scale, because it has not yet achieved a shape. We cannot talk about it as a “social and anthropological experience,” but as an immediate or mediated “fleeting sequence of images”.3 During a late night drive it might even appear to us that we are in some friendly third-world country in whose capital two streets have been named after the Croatian capital in which the authoritarian president of this imaginary state had once studied in the long-gone times of friendship with non-aligned African and Asian dictatorships!
“Centar Zagrebačka” truly represents a new spatial species: a central-peripheral, inclusive-exclusive, supercontextual-alienated (etc.) hermaphrodite. Here a series of apartments on several storeys (by their nature, differentiated and “long”) have been raised up and away from the noisy and unpleasant suburban road, over a (by its nature, uniform and “broad”) mass shopping area. Such spatial disposition (an underground garage, a shop with a shop-window on the ground floor, apartments on upper storeys) is very common on a smaller scale in the case of a built-in or detached suburban house. What makes this special is its size (forty thousand square metres of gross surface area over three underground storeys and nine storeys above the ground), its scale (because it represents discontinuity in a mostly homogeneous suburban mass), and its suburban situation of non-place. In this situation a logical answer to the hybridity of the program is not the addition of different horizontal layers or the fixing of the borderlines of an “urban” space that does not exist, but deduction from the common and closed volume, in a spatial operation of minimalist sculpture, focused on the visual effects of reflexion, diffraction, and refraction of light. The architectural program is in this way logically fulfilled and – equally logically - fully abstracted.

In the dynamic physical landscape, on the way to a changing city, the abstract flow of money materialises in separate situations, at the same time proto- and post-urban. The “architecture” of a corner structure without continuous blocks, especially when it insists on its “urban” character is too often lost in them. Here this is not the case – on the contrary. Abstracted by the omission of details, reduced to a colourless volume with a very thin red skin (the investor’s corporate colour), made of profiled metal sheets like countless warehouses scattered through the outskirts of perhaps all contemporary cities. Some portions of this skin have fine perforations, so that the program packed behind them is visible only at night. As a witty trace of the designer’s quantification of “suburban” scale instead of the composition of “city” facades, floor levels and cardinal points are marked in white on red metal sheets. Cardinal points are a confirmation of such “architecture’s” autonomy and its geometrical depersonalization. In this way “Centar” is simultaneously non-existent and can be anywhere.

Krunoslav Ivanišin
CENTAR ZAGREBAČKA (Zagreb Street Centre): On the Way to Town

1 Robert Smithson, Jack Flam (ed.), 1996: The Collected Writings. Berkeley: University of California Press; p. 147
2 Kenneth Frampton, 1992: World Architecture and Reflective Practice; final chapter to the third edition of Modern Architecture: A Critical History. London: Thames and Hudson
3 Emiliano Gandolfi, 2006: The Image and its Double; In Spectacular City, Photographing the Future. Rotterdam: NAI Publishers; p.7

Project: Residential and Business Centre
Location: Zagreb
Client / Investor: Mercator – Tehnika d.d.
Project date: 2005.
Construction: 2007.

Author : Igor Franić
Collaborators: Tajana Derenčinović Jelčić
Andreja Dodig
Petar Reić
Simona Sović Štos
Zorana Zdjelar

Contractor: Tehnika d.d.
Structure: Skoro d.o.o.
Mechanical Installations: Projektbiro Tolic d.o.o.
Electrical Installations: Elektro-ekspert d.o.o.
Sewage and Water Supply: Projektbiro Tolic d.o.o.
Fire protection: Solido d.o.o.

Total built area: 40 275 m2
Site area: 7 064 m2

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