Geometry of Urban Space

In the renovation of Kastra, Ajdovščina’s old town centre, various public spaces were connected together by means of a precise geometrical layout, which on the surface reflects the so-far invisible archaeological layers of the Roman castrum.

Photo: Matic Slemič

Photo: Matic Slemič

Photo: Luka Rozman

Photo: Luka Rozman

How a town happens, with or without planning, in the middle of a void space, how its geometry draws the line between the man-made and the natural, how its inner spaces, its streets and squares, are shaped through time, how they are gradually filled with programmes, narratives and memories, and how the forgotten palimpsests come to our notice through the built layers of the town – all these questions have been dealt with on innumerable occasions in urban planning and architectural theory, in literary essays and fine art. And yet the times of mechanicist production which, from Malevich until today, underwent the transition from consumer to information (non)culture, have long been calling for new interpretations of the void, even the void in urban space. The squares and streets of any town or city are in fact first and foremost such voids. The question is how to make them visible.

Medieval urban clusters, among which we count the historic centre of Ajdovščina, are an open book about how spontaneous usages manifest themselves in urban space, along with mutual contacts and physical human relationships, which make the voids in a town visible. They materialise differently every time, yet each time they result in a harmonious architectural composition. The contours of medieval squares have a complete and uniform appearance, even though the adjacent streets run into them in the corners. On the other hand, their division into smaller squares ensures varied programmes and agreeable spatial dimensions. The often-irregular shapes of squares demonstrate their attitude towards the topographical context in which they are placed. The most important element, however, is the right ratio between the void of the square and the adjacent buildings. This enables the life along its contours to thrive and makes us describe the square as beautiful.

In his 1918 work Suprematist Composition: White on White, Kazimir Severinovich Malevich painted the void. He meticulously placed a white square on a white canvas, thus expanding the world of pure perception of an artistic form that is not burdened with images of the real world. The different textures of whiteness resulting from manual application of the paint on the canvas, the barely perceptible asymmetry of the square, its subtle rotation with regard to the background, its levitation and near contact with the borders of the canvas – all these elements emanate spontaneity and freedom despite the exact geometrical form. The painted void is filled with release, openness, levity and infinity. Through his work, Malevich explains his perception of the relationship between the void and its geometry.

Photo: Virginia Vrecl

Photo: Virginia Vrecl

Photo: Virginia Vrecl

Photo: Virginia Vrecl

Photo: Virginia Vrecl

Photo: Virginia Vrecl

Photo: Virginia Vrecl

Photo: Virginia Vrecl

 

Siteplan by Ravnikar Potokar architectural office

Siteplan by Ravnikar Potokar architectural office

The complete article is published in Autumn 2020 issue of Piranesi No. 42-43/Vol. 28.

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Project Data

Competition Team: Robert Potokar, Ajdin Bajrović, Matej Fornazarič, Primož Žitnik, Javier Carrera Arias, Anja Patekar, Jernej Borko
Project Team: Ajdin Bajrović, Robert Potokar, Matej Fornazarič, Javier Carrera Arias, Mina Gutović
Conservatory Supervisor Institute of the Protection of Cultural Heritage of Slovenia: Patricija Bratina
Client: Municipality of Ajdovščina
Main contractor: Kolektor CPG d.o.o., Nova Gorica
Construction supervisor: Edil inženiring d.o.o., Nova Gorica
Archaeological research: Magelan skupina d.o.o., Kranj, Avgusta d.o.o., Idrija
Competition: 2017
Project: 2017-2019
Completion: 2020
Renovated area: 6300 m²