The Slovenia Times

Rethinking Kolizej



From my point of view, the Kolizej concept and building, which was built around the middle of the 19th century, soon proved to be inconvenient and conceptually rotten. Though the military was the motivating factor for the building from the outset, there had always been the notion that it should serve other purposes as well. Thus, aside from being a temporary military barracks for troops on their way between Vienna and Italy, the architect Josef Benedikt Withalm designed it as a place that could also serve the public with an entertainment programme comprising dances and various theatrical and musical performances. Above all, he tried to make a building that would yield high returns in a very short period. This rapid moneymaking concept, however, failed within twenty years. Besides the regular police intervention in conflicts produced by the clash of the military and civil programmes, the whole thing became a recourse for the lower strata of society. Moreover, this was to remain its destiny until today. It was left abandoned in the so-called 'town hole' and now there is practically nothing that can be done with it. Billions not millions would be needed to renovate it, which I can't envisage coming from either the state or the city council. I support the concept of a new Kolizej that will give a new evolutionary push to the town and its centre, following the development of the suburbs and the large shopping malls that vacate the centre. Besides that, Ljubljana is fossilized in terms of its non-activity and non-development. Something urgently has to be done to bring people back to the town centre and the Kolizej project gives a clear signal that there is a place in the centre for investment and development. In my opinion, it was a wise decision to organise an international design competition for the new Kolizej building even though it did irritate local architects... although I fail to see why. They should be keen on the idea of opening up Ljubljana and not advocating a locked up space controlled by local architects. It is unbearable that an architect from Ljubljana can practically do nothing in Maribor and vice versa. This competition actually woke up the architects from Ljubljana and let them know that we are now in Europe and the space is open. After all, it was made very clear to the foreign entrants that the building would be standing in a town of architects, of Plecnik and Ravnikar, therefore, they approached the project in a new manner. The major bone of contention is the height of the building. Skyscraper mania began in Ljubljana in the eighties and proceeded to veil the view of the historical part of the town. While rethinking the altitude of Kolizej, one has to take into account not only this expanse of skyscrapers that obviously won't come down, but also the question of the adequacy of its height relative to the building's intended purpose. This has yet to be fully clarified, both between the investor and the architect and in the minds of the public. I personally have nothing against the proposed height. It is strange, however, that the architects, who used to surprise us with height and new forms in a historical ambience and did after all lead the struggle for skyscrapers, have suddenly become their harshest critics. I have heard very few well-founded arguments on the impact of Kolizej's height and many collective ones; those of a guild. In my opinion, unnecessary timidity prevails not only among the town's authorities but also among its architects.


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