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location: Koper, Slovenia
area: 17.600 m2
clinet: Municipality of Koper
type: masterplan, public
status: concept
year of project: 2010


The client - our seaside capital - seems recently to be overtaking development of comparable cities on left and right. From this determination grew the purpose to urbanize the area to the south-west of the old city centre, the current parking area "behind the market place". The client’s vision lead to a direction larger than the city's current mental dimensions: to create a square, comparable in might to Piazza Unita in neighbouring Trieste. It is not an easy task: we don't have enough people, a victorious army or a grand leader to fill such a space. To count only the ladies in fur coats and their four-legged friends in Trieste, they outnumber the entire Koper population. Thus, the new square requires a program that would provide the residents with a daily fresh supply of - everything: food for body and spirit, hopes of success in business and in amorous conquests and a possibility of a shadier income somewhere more at the back.
The square derives its power from its program:
- North-eastern edge is strengthened with a line of office, retail and hotel programs. The pavilion ground floor scheme is covered with a large roof, connecting the daily activities of residents with the adjoining market place and seaside areas towards the marina.
- South-eastern corner houses the City Cultural Centre: a theatre, cinema, concert hall, library and tourist information centre. With the large open square to the north-east and new green areas to the south-west, the building does not require major emphasis in height (which would endanger the city silhouette) to achieve the appropriate monumental effect. Its abstract form is scattered across the area several more times – the repetition of smaller volumes seems more appropriate than putting “all eggs in one volume”; it creates more complex program and volume relationships between them, thus enriching urban tensions of the city.
- Two floors of underground parking are arranged below the entire system, filling the needs for new programmes and the residents, who will come to expect covered parking spaces as a constant of city offer with the rising of urban standard and real estate value of downtown Koper.
The properly dimensioned square is covered, like a living room, in wood – bringing to mind the boardwalk of Atlantic City and other coastal cities. The square of 180 by 60 meters also incorporates five urban elements, some lowered to basement floor to create amphitheatres with various uses, and others lifted into ambient program islands. These newly established cores bring along urban beat, some by day, others by night. Both the program and the formal arrangement of the New Square are directed evolutionally. The form is new, but necessary in absence of urban fabric in order to create the essential identification in order to attract visitors. I believe that Koper silhouette is still one of city's major cultural qualities, and that is why we avoided building into height. Koper is not Hamburg – where even the new city icon, the ElbPhilharmonie, represents only a local intervention into the city's silhouette, and excursions into vertical are few anyway. Even the two »corner towers in the city walls” by architect Edo Mihevc - as they were defended in time of their construction - are too much. If Koper desires verticals, it can develop them in appropriate distance from the old city: between the highway and Badaševica creek, where they will have a backing in natural relief (as in Rijeka or Hong Kong...)

Published in: Global Architecture Studio (2012)


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