A number of years have passed since the memorial park on the island of Rab by architect Edvard Ravnikar was presented in our magazine (Piranesi 4/1994), and the time has therefore come to present another of his works. In the present issue, we thus introduce Ferant Garden in Ljubljana, which was created in the 1960s and is Ravnikar’s largest residential complex in Ljubljana. It consists of three residential strands and three street strings creating an inner courtyard or square, thus referring directly to the existence of the Roman forum on this site. An additional detail with which the architect pays homage to our heritage is the concrete apse incorporated into the volume of the new residential area itself, which evokes the memory of the former basilica. The use of facade brick in an innovative, often abstract manner also connects us with the Roman mastery of brick making. Despite their almost 50 years, the buildings still look good, and certain contemporary technological “corrections” have not spoiled them. If architect Jože Plečnik was the greatest name of Slovenian architecture of the first half of the 20th century, Edvard Ravnikar was certainly the most renowned architect of the second half, and it is in this very project that Ravnikar paid homage to Plečnik by erecting a memorial pillar on the site where Plečnik’s birth house used to stand prior to the construction of Ferant Garden.
In the Piranesi magazine, contemporary architecture is presented in the section on the Piran Days of Architecture 2013, at which the architectural studio MoDus received the prestigious Piranesi Award for the arrangement of the highway infrastructure in Bressanone. In an interview, architects Sandy Attia and Matteo Scagnol disclose their attitude towards understanding the spatial and architectural problems in the area of South Tyrol, Italy. The credit for putting the area on the map of contemporary Italian architecture goes largely to these two architects, as South Tyrol is otherwise often overlooked. A particular school in Afghanistan was certainly not overlooked in Piran. It is the work of a group of Italian architects who established an interesting concept for the primary school based on the placement of individual volumes behind a wall. Thus the traditional spatial organisation of the village is transposed to the conception of school space. The third project that convinced the Piran jury to award a Piranesi mention was a fascinating wooden family house in Hungary.
The remaining pages of the magazine are dedicated to a presentation of the contemporary architectural production of Central Europe. We have selected a Czech school, an Austrian school, and three schools in Slovenia; three different programmes and locations tackled by three different architectural offices. The current situation in a time of economic crisis shows that school buildings remain among the rare projects still constructed in Slovenia. In Croatia, the situation is perhaps somewhat better, and it certainly seems substantially different if we consider the new school sports hall in Krk, where the architectural office of Idis Turato has created an attractive shell and interior in the medieval Mediterranean town. The architecture of the sports hall is bursting with energy and it has introduced considerable dynamism into the sleepy and leisurely rhythm of the Mediterranean. The building in Vorarlberg by architects Baumschlager Eberle is quite the opposite. It is considerably more tranquil with its simple cuts into a traditionally built thick wall, while consciously renouncing the technological innovations of heating, ventilation and cooling.
Yet another important topic is highlighted in the present issue: the 24th Biennial of Design BIO, which this year celebrates its 50th anniversary, is already underway in Ljubljana. In 1964, the Modern Gallery staged the first Biennial of Industrial Design, which, in those pioneering days, paved the way for the contemporary design of industrial products in the then socialist Yugoslavia. The Biennial facilitated the comparison of a diverse range of designer products, above all fulfilling the needs of a broad spectrum of industrial production, as it soon became a competition. Next to the Milan Triennial, the Ljubljana Biennial was one of the pioneers of presenting design achievements in Europe. This year’s Biennial of Design has been conceived in a somewhat different way: alongside a historical overview based on selected designer items (Kralj’s chair Rex, Savnik’s phone ETA 80, Maechtig’s kiosk K 67, etc.) there are also workshops led by individual curators. The workshops bring together diverse designer groups, who have prepared design concepts especially for the Biennial covering the individual areas of space, culture, society, design, etc.
Speaking of biennials, we cannot overlook the fact that the 14th Architectural Biennale, another event that has surpassed its own beginnings from 1980, is coming to a close in Venice. By including the exhibition grounds in Arsenal and spreading individual pavilions around the city, Venice draws large numbers of architecture enthusiasts every two years, particularly architecture students from all over the world. Whereas years ago the number of visitors to the Biennale was relatively small, this is certainly not the case today, especially not for this year’s exhibition, which is entitled “Fundamentals” and curated by Rem Koolhaas. His direct contribution to the Biennale is the fascinating arrangement of the main pavilion in the Giardini into spaces representing a house providing an unusual overview of architectural elements through a historical timeframe. In Koolhaas’s presentation, we could seek parallels with Bill Bryson’s book “At Home: A Short History of Private Life”, in which the author provides a historical view of the rooms in a house, focusing on the importance of living and dwelling. In the Biennale, the book, which enables the reader to leaf his/her own path through a home, is transformed into a physical stroll through the typology of architectural elements and spaces. The typology is intertwined with history and theory, as well as with the personal experience of Rem Koolhass, who, amongst other things, says that if it were not for the balcony in his parents’ apartment he would not be here. We could understand this as meaning that his family balcony made an indelible impression on him, which is perhaps why the element of the balcony was given such an important place in the exhibition.