The Slovenia Times

Architecture for the Environment



In capital cities across Europe, leaders find themselves debating how to create sustainable environments for both residents and visitors. It is not a simple task. Ljubljana, however, has a major advantage when it comes to meeting this challenge - its deputy mayor is a visionary architect. Professor Janez Koželj has wide knowledge of architecture theory and urbanism; knowledge which is being put into practice as he helps transform the capital one of the smallest and youngest members of European union into a modern and sustainable city.

A pedestrian zone has already been completed renovated in the historical centre of Ljubljana. And while outside the city a multitude of developments are springing up, the emphasis is very much on environmental sustainability.

Energy efficiency

The largest development is no exception. Partnership Šmartinska is a massive redevelopment project in the north-eastern part of Slovenia's capital which will see the creation of shopping, residential and office space as well as the construction of the largest skyscraper in the country, Crystal Palace. The hope is this building will be as green as it is tall. Its south facade will be covered with solar panels; rainwater will be used in the cooling towers; the windows and window frames will have low permeability factors of solar and thermal radiation; and all offices and tenants will have separate measurements of energy consumption and water.

Crystal Palace is far from the only environmentally-friendly architecture being practised in Slovenia. On the eastern border of Ljubljana, work is underway to convert an old sugar factory into the new administrative centre for the nation. Architects Marko Studen, Miha Dobrin, Ilka Čerpes and Boris Matić of Scapelab are aiming for the highest level of energy efficiency for the new building. The goal is for zero carbon emissions.

New residential developments

A commitment to sustainability is also found at Ljubljana-based firm Atelje Ostan Pavlin. The team there is currently working to convert an abandoned quarry, Podutik, into a new residential area. The settlement is located next to the green belt of the city under forested hills, so it's logical that it uses natural sources of renewable energy: the heat and the cold of existing watercourses, geothermal energy through water pumps, and solar energy. In accordance with the principles of geobiology, the architects have proposed healthy building materials and green roofs on the top of terraced apartments.

A similar sustainable development is planned close to Novo Mesto, a small town in the southern part of Slovenia. Domnovo is being designed by Kragelj Architects, led by director and chief architect Alenka Kragelj Eržen. Kragelj Eržen is clearly well placed to create an environmentally friendly development - she is the author of more than thirty articles on architecture, green buildings and interior design, and is frequently invited to various events to speak about contemporary architectural design and sustainable architecture.

Enota also adopts a research-based approach towards land design. The two current partners in the firm - Dean Lah and Milan Tomac - say that sustainability is the key principle of their work. Their main current project is the redevelopment of the historic Villa Victoria, located on the shore of Lake Bled. The century-old building is to be transformed into a hotel, with Enota's plans ensuring that all trees on the site will remain unaffected and that the redeveloped building will meet all current environmental requirements.

It may not always be easy being green. But Slovenian architects are trying hard to be so - and in many instances are succeeding.

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