During the last ten years Ljubljana, the capital city of Slovenia, has transformed itself from a sleepy post-socialist town into a contemporary European city and an ever more popular tourist destination. The main street of the city is the Slovenska street, which crosses the city in the north-south direction. The street was always a place of urban progress: here the first skyscraper was constructed, the first modernistic housing block … It is also the stage for many important events in the city, such as the Ljubljana marathon and the annual cycling race, various demonstrations, and the record-breaking square dance of the city’s high-school graduates. In a way, it is a space of becoming – a space where the city demonstrates the vision of its future.
In the sixties it was widened and transformed into a four-lane roadway, and more and more traffic flowed through the centre of the city. In those times, traffic was seen as a sign of vitality – the more intense the traffic, the livelier the city. Through gradual expansion and accommodation of cars it soon became clear that the needs of the car can never be fully satisfied. Through executing strict and consistent traffic policy and building alternative traffic routes, the city finally achieved the right conditions to close the Slovenska street for personal traffic in 2012.
In 2012 the city issued a call for proposals, in which four prominent architectural offices participated: Dekleva Gregorič architects, Katušič Kocbek architects, Sadar + Vuga and Scapelab. Following the call for proposals the four offices decided to continue the project together and present a common, synthetic solution. The New Slovenska Street project is based on cutting-edge concepts in public space design. Despite the large volume of pedestrian and bus traffic it is designed as a “shared space”, a space, where users participate equally, and height differences are reduced to a minimum.
The project drew inspiration from typical avenues in large European cities, where avenues are always marked with two key elements – a vertical and a horizontal one. To highlight the vertical aspect, the street is lined with manna ash trees (fraxinus ornus), an indigenous Slovenian tree that grows naturally in the Karst region. Its white flowers blossom in May give off a strong fragrance, while in autumn the foliage turns pleasant hues of yellow and red. To highlight the horizontal aspect, a modern geometric pattern was designed for the pavement, creating an impression of a fine carpet and increasing the optical dimension of urban space.
With the transformation, the transit corridor became one of the main public spaces of the capital. The absence of personal motor traffic allowed for the narrowing of the central street lane and expanding the pedestrian-only zone, which subsequently made space for new programs, adding to the livelyhood of the newly acquired public space.
Simultanously, the bus transportation service was optimized, which preserves the street’s historical character of a thoroughfare fuelling the city centre. By placing two pairs of large bus stations the street truly becomes a central transport hub for public transport. A car-oriented traffic road is thus transformed into a space which gives priority to public transport, pedestrians and cyclists. By designing a space which promotes sustainable mobility and public transport in the very centre, the city has made a key step in its transport policy, and completed one of the key projects in the European Green Capital 2016 project.
The new avenue improves the overall life quality of the city centre and simultaneously reshapes its image. The complete arrangement ties the fragmented area together into a uniform space with a prominently green character. Slovenska street therefore obtains a unique identity – contemporary and distinct from the old city centre.
Entrant office name: dekleva gregorič arhitekti, Katušič Kocbek arhitekti, Sadar+Vuga, Scapelab, Studio Krištof
Project location: Ljubljana, Slovenia
Design year: 2012
Year Built: 2015