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Renzo Agosto - Architect with a Clear Vision
Renzo Agosto - Architect with a Clear Vision
RAFUT VILLA - A DECAYING BEAUTY

ANTON LAŠČAK

Rafut Villa, Nova Gorica, Slovenia, bulit 1912-1914, rebuilt 1928-1929

RAFUT VILLA - A DECAYING BEAUTY 

The Rafut Villa represents an invaluable garden and architectural heritage. Regrettably, however, neither the state nor the local community acknowledge its value, at least to the extent of working to prevent its inevitable decay.

Just like the architect Anton Lašcak loved to visit Kapela – now Kostanjevica – as a young man, to enjoy the very beautiful view that opens from there over Gorizia, I myself also often walk from Gorizia, past Kostanjevica to the Rafut Villa. I start my walk at the house where the architect was born, on
the corner, near the St Rocco church in the area of Gorizia called Podturn. When Lašcak was born, this part of the already multinational Gorizia was very Friulian. Later his family relocated some several hundred metres away, and that is where a plaque was unveiled in his memory upon the renovation of the house. The square near St Rocco church features a monumental stone fountain, complete with an Egyptian obelisk, which was originally planned to be implemented in the red or yellow Egyptian granite. The fountain was supposed to be the architect’s gift to his native town. It is not clear why, but the full donation never really took place, and Lašcak thus gave only the plans for its execution. The fountain today is not functional, is full of flowers instead of water, and is surrounded by cars.

I continue across Anton’s Square up to the castle of Gorizia, and underneath the castle walls I look for the remains of two villas, the renovation of which
was designed by Lašcak. The first belonged to his parents-in-law. Lašcak moved there soon after getting married. Both villas held privileged positions at the end of a narrow medieval street on the southern slope of the hill – a gorica, a term that gave the  town its name. Unfortunately, following an urban planning proposal by Max Fabiani, this part of the town – one of the oldest – was demolished in order to enable a better connection with the area of the castle hill.

Magnificent views open from the castle over the Panovec forest, which eventually runs into the Rafut hill above Rožna dolina, and the Kostanjevica ridge. On its southern slope Lašcak built his villa. Due to its extraordinary location, protected from the bora wind on the sunny side of the hill, this area had already been much praised in the past. Numerous villas are today scattered among the vineyards, gardens and olive groves which used to be featured regularly on the cartoline, or postcards, of Gorizia. To better understand the location of the villa, I climb the path to the Kapela to reach Kostanjevica, where, a good half a century after Lašcak, Zoran Mušic would walk in search of peace and solitude (a period which inspired his Gorizia sketches). The path is paved with cobblestone, and used to be the only one connecting Gorizia with the Kapela. Twice a year numerous people from Gorizia would join the procession there. The state border set after WWII severed this pilgrims’ path. On the Slovene side it turns into a narrow muddy path, unfortunately, and only a few lone specimens testify to the formerly rich grove of chestnut trees which gave the hill its name.

The hill with its medieval castle, and Kostanjevica with the chapel and the monastery, together form a recognisable entity in central Gorizia. This is also the spatial milieu which Anton Lašcak, a recognised and aable architect who built his reputation mainly in Egypt, chose as a location for his Gorizia residence.

The fairy-tale form of this unusual building, which attracts attention with its 28-metre corner tower in the shape of a minaret, is disturbed only by the chaotic urban development of Pristava at the foot of the hill. Extraordinary examples of rare exotic trees trace the contours of the whole complex, covering more than three hectares. Its three constituent parts – the villa, the park and the entrance lodge – create a comprehensive whole, a rarity in our contemporary spatial reality. By approaching the imposing entrance – the lodge, where Lašcak also organised the residence for his steward in order to facilitate the supervision of the construction – what seemed to be mysterious, fairy-tale like and inspiring slowly turns into a pale reminder of former glories. The entrance lodge, which serves as a kind of entry pavilion for the estate and announces something special, extraordinary and important, is in a very poor condition.

The disappointment upon the entry into the private park is all the greater, for I am greeted at the very beginning by numerous utility facilities. The trace of both alleys running along the unpaved park driveway is barely visible. The cobblestone-paved gutter-moulds on either side of the driveway are covered with dirt and weeds. Soon enough the park driveway intercepts a brook which comes from a spring on the estate. Lašcak built a bed for the brook, and also expanded it with a small catchment area.

The driveway, today completely demolished, continues towards the villa in hairpin turns. The walkway which starts from the first turn of the driveway
is less steep – a design which makes walking comfortable. It has a border made of concrete border stones and is paved with smaller pebble stones.
Different elements are displayed along the path, which spur our curiosity. Halfway along the path there is a pergola, now mainly overgrown with wisteria. Two stone benches stand under this structure, offering a welcome shade and resting place for visitors. Another interesting resting area is the concrete mould which served as a cast for the cupola of the tower. The mould is expanded with two benches on each side and complete with the green background resembles a grotto.

In her diploma work, the landscape architect Katarina Iskra pointed out that despite numerous calamities and shamefully negligent maintenance, the park still preserved a convincing image and experiential value. Each landscape setting requires some time to develop its mature image. The extraordinary habitus of the trees, which outgrew their foreseen proportions due to the favourable climate, makes the park particularly enchanting. The formal concept of the Rafut park is not complex, and yet the park offers a full experience in terms of senses and perception. This is enhanced by the rising terrain which does not allow the visitor to savour all the landscape elements park at once. The park is also interesting due to the exotic tree species and experiential motifs laid out »in a chrono-topical sequence. Different spaces or ambiences spur the visitor’s curiosity and a desire for further exploration. The contrasts between the shaded and sunny parts, vistas, changes of direction, open and closed spaces, pathways that disappear among rich vegetation... all of these are design principles, employed to create an interesting and attractive landscape.« In brief, with the Rafut complex Lašcak demonstrated a high degree of inventiveness regarding the efficient use of the terrain’s characteristics, for the villa is perfectly connected with the park both in terms of space and design.

The visitor’s enthusiasm reaches its peak when the path leaves the dense part of the park and comes out on a clearing – at that moment the visitor sees the villa in all its might and glory. This monumental building, with a surface area of almost 800 m2 and which the architect built for himself and his family, was damaged during WWI, and then again during WWII. The exterior as we see it today is therefore only a reflection of the first reconstruction. The renovation, for which the Land Archive of Nova Gorica does not have a single document, was not based on the original plan made by Lašcak. During the renovation, the two balcony terraces with metal balustrades and a massive corner pillar on the first and second floors were closed, while the biforas with the horse-shoe arches and numerous decorative elements disappeared.

In 1951, the villa became the headquarters of the Nova Gorica Institute of Hygiene, based on the assessment of the Central Institute of Hygiene of the
Socialist Republic of Slovenia that this was by far the most suitable building in the vicinity, and one which did not require any special adaptation. Only the parts demolished during the war needed to be rebuilt, and the necessary plumbing and electricity systems installed. A building with a garage and a woodshed was later built next to the house. Built with similar materials as were used for the construction of the villa, this new building resembles the works of Lašcak, even though it is of a later date and origin.

The renovation of the villa was funded by the Central Institute of Hygiene. The institute expanded the interiors and adapted them to its own needs. All the interventions were executed very poorly, and appear as extremely rough works on an object that was built in an era of high building standards. The villa is made of visible, standard format bricks in a classical bricklaying pattern, and only the front portal is made of concrete blocks. The pre-fabricated, artificial stone units, mainly brought on the site from Egypt, were very high-quality stone-masonry products. Much the same can be said of the wooden, carved eaves. The villa was also special due to a number of state-of-the-art technological novelties, which at that time were rarely seen on Slovenian soil (such as the reinforced concrete ceiling slabs, a composite ceiling made of these slabs and hot rolled steel beams), but its façades were damaged in several places.

A similar sad destiny befell the interior. The original floorings no longer exist, and in some places one can only see the original terrazzo in a terracotta nuance, and the ceramic floor made of hexagonal ceramic tiles creating a honeycomb pattern. The same original honeycomb ceramic floor can be seen in the vestibule, in the kitchen, in the study and in the bathrooms. The remaining rooms have parquet flooring, mostly in a fish-bone pattern. The walls and ceilings were repainted several times, and the original paint can only be seen in certain fragments. All the original interior furnishing is painted white and co ered. The glazed and full, co ered doors were originally equipped with authentic door handles and backplates. None remained in the villa, and only a few specimens are kept at the Institute of Heritage Protection.

The Nova Gorica Institute of Public Health was located in the villa until 2003, when its needs were no longer met in terms of the available surface area and the requirements for laboratory activity. When the institute moved out, the villa was left to itself. In 2007, a conservation plan was drafted for the villa and entrance lodge, and a year later for the park, as there seemed to be a very realistic prospect of renovation. The Minister of Higher Education, Mojca Kucler Dolinar, raised hopes for the rehabilitation of the building when she unveiled a marble façade plaque in 2008, as a foundation stone for the renovation. Upon its completion, the villa was to become the headquarters of three institutions: EMUNI•– the Euro-Mediterranean University, the Post-Graduate Faculty of the University of Nova Gorica, and the Nova Gorica scientific-research station of the Slovene Academy of Science and Arts. The project, however, was soon abandoned, and the villa was again left to decay.

In 2015, the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport published a call to find a private investor to renovate the villa and give it an appropriate function. The municipality was also involved, for it owns more than half of the park. The renovation project was to »contribute towards the sustainable preservation of Slovene cultural and natural heritage and its values, and to increase the recognisability and attractiveness of the place and the wider region through heritage promotion.«. However, none of the participants in the call met the required criteria. In the meantime, all the windows on the ground floor were covered or built over, so as to protect the building from vandalism. It is thus now only possible to enter it through the openings on the first floor. The roof is leaking, the load-bearing construction elements of the minaret already display wide cracks, and numerous prefabricated architectural elements have been stolen.

It is an interesting fact that only the Rafut park was recognised and therefore also protected as natural heritage in 1952, whereas the villa and entrance lodge have been overlooked as heritage units for many years. It was only in 2003 that the municipality issued a decree declaring the villa, entrance lodge and park features of garden-architectural heritage. The descriptive part of this decree is as follows: »A villa, built in a neo-Islamic style, with a symbolic minaret and a monumental entrance. Surrounded by a park, designed in the style of early 20th century parks, featuring exotic plants, organic pathways, asymmetry, orthogonal plant formations. Architect A. Lašcak.«

The Rafut Villa is the only example of the neo-Islamic style in Slovenia, and at the same time one of the most beautifully preserved such cases in the wider European context. It is surrounded by a magnificent park, featuring original architectural elements and rare, exotic trees and shrubs. Today, the extraordinary trees obstruct the view of the villa. Only the entrance lodge and the tower remind us of the architectural masterpiece which blends well with the surroundings despite its unusual aesthetics. Even though this is a unique piece of garden and architectural heritage, the Slovenian authorities still do not show adequate interest in preserving the architect’s legacy. It seems that for this monument, which surpasses both geographical and cultural borders with its design and form, neither the state nor municipality are capable of recognising its meaning and value, at least to the extent of preventing its imminent decay.

ADRIJAN CINGERLE

Between Gorizia, Alexandria and Cairo

ANTON LAŠČAK

Rafut Vila, Nova Gorica, Slovenia, built 1912-1914, rebulit 1928-1929

BETWEEN GORIZIA, ALEXANDRIA AND CAIRO

Anton Lašcak, an architect of Slovene origin, created most of his many architectural works in Alexandria and Cairo. Indeed, the only one of his projects carried out in Slovenia is the Rafut Villa in Nova Gorica, one of the rare neo-Islamic architectural structures in Europe.

Until the start of the new millennium, the architect Anton Lašcak (1856–1946) went rather unnoticed in Slovenia, with his name appearing for the first time in in the appendix to the 2002 edition of the Encyclopaedia of Slovenia. There are hardly any records of his work in the reference literature, with the exception of the catalogue for the exhibition entitled Slovenia – architecture, the masters and the scene, staged in 2008 in Vienna, in the gallery of the Vienna Insurance Group commercial building. On the Italian side of the border, however, interest in studying Lašcak’s legacy was first spurred by research in the field of orientalism in the 1980’s – although this interest was limited only to that architecture which demonstrated an Arabic influence. Lašcak’s Italian projects were further highlighted in a monograph by Marco Chiozza, Antonio Lasciac – Tra echi secessionisti e suggestioni orientali, published in 2006. That same year an exhibition of photographs and drawings of his architectural works from the Roman Alinari Museum of Photography was shown in the Attems Petzenstein Palace, which falls under the auspices of the Land Museums of Gorizia. More recently his early works have been attracting a growing amount of attention.

There are many reasons why the Slovenian architectural profession has ignored Lašcak’s legacy for more than half a century, one of them being the
lack of documentary evidence, which remains dispersed in numerous foreign public and private archives (such as the collection of Mercedes Volait, a
professor in Paris), and libraries, especially those in Rome and Cairo. But the most important reason is undoubtedly Lašcak’s open declaration of national identity. The architect was born in Gorizia, in a multi-ethnic community where di±erent groups lived side by side: Italians, Slovenes, Friulians and Austrians. All of Lašcak’s ancestors were Slovenes from the Isonzo valley4, but despite his Slavic origins he considered himself Friulian. During his studies at the Vienna Polytechnic, he already clearly announced
his irredentist tendencies to the circle of young intellectuals. Of course, these tendencies were against the Habsburg Monarchy, which made him fall out of favour with clients in Gorizia, loyal to the Austrian crown.5 Until the most recent systematic overview of the material kept in the archive of the Gorizia municipality and covering the years between 1876 and 1883, the prevailing opinion was that Lašcak had emigrated to Egypt due to the conflicts in his working environment.6 However, the results of new research, in which as many as 25 construction works signed by Lašcak have been discovered, shows that he was one of the most active young architects in Gorizia, even though he mainly worked on smaller adaptations where he would perform the function of a supervisor or construction manager.

The reason for Lašcak’s move to Egypt was therefore not only his political and philosophical beliefs, but the ambition of a young architect who was aware of his professional expertise.

After completing a period of time with the Gorizia Construction Bureau (1876), and after a few years of independent architectural work, Lašcak
moved to Alexandria in 1883, where he took part in the reconstruction of the city, severely damaged a year earlier by the British cannons that had been used to suppress the uprising of Egyptian nationalists. The comprehensive reconstruction of the city attracted young architects, builders and businessmen from all over Europe. This important Mediterranean port was thus transformed into a city with European architecture of many historic styles.

After only a few years, Lašcak established himself as one of the most promising young architects in Alexandria. Up to 1888 he would design a number of representative structures, including the apartment building on the main street, Rue Sherif Pasha (1883–1888), the Ramleh Railway Station (1883) which was later rebuilt, the commercial gallery Menasce (1885–1887), and monumental palaces for rich bourgeois families. The original photos, kept at the Alinari Museum of photography in Rome, show that Lašcak first endorsed a neo-Renaissance style which displayed the influence of the Vienna School and Professor Heinrich von Ferstel. With the buildings from the late 1880’s, however, such as the Aghion Palace (1887), the neo-Renaissance architectural elements started to give space to a neo-Baroque style which was visually more representative and remained typical of his later Cairo period.

After having spent six years in Alexandria, Lašcak returned to Rome only to settle in Cairo in 1895. During his absence from Egypt, Abbas Hilmi II (1892) came to power, a Vienna-educated khedive, or viceroy, who became very familiar with European culture during his studies in the Austrian capital.

The new ruler wanted to abolish the influence of Great Britain (which controlled the Suez Canal, among other areas of strategic importance), that is why he replaced all his British advisors with German and Austrian experts. Among them was Anton Lašcak, who was appointed the chief architect of royal palaces in 1907, and received the title of beg (Sir). As the royal architect he also participated in the Committee for the Protection of Monuments of Arabic Art, which enabled him to become thoroughly acquainted with Islamic architecture.

Lašcak built his reputation as an outstanding architect in Cairo with a number of magnificent villas and palaces built at the turn of the century, which represented a certain novelty in terms of style. The concept of aristocratic residences was based on the intertwining of the (European) neo-Baroque style in combination with modern Secessionist elements, which mostly featured in the ornamental decoration of window and door openings, along with the interior furniture and staircases. He used Secessionist furniture in the parlour of Said Halim Pasha’s residence (1896– 1899), and made the Secessionist decoration particularly visible on the exterior of the Zafaran Palace in Cairo (1901–1902), and on the façade of the recently
renovated summer residence of the queen mother in Istanbul (1900–1901), which has, among other features, an elegant interior staircase with original
undulating, plant-derived motives. Lašcak used the most advanced construction techniques, such as reinforced concrete (following the Hennebique system), which enabled him to design spacious parlours. The refined stucco decorations of the interior and the furniture were produced by the most renowned French, German, Belgian and Italian craftsmen.

The neo-Baroque style that Lašcak applied to such breath-taking palaces mainly followed the ideas of Egyptian nobility, who sought to emulate the
European aristocracy, while in designs for commercial buildings he was closer to Modern Viennese architecture, as promoted by the Wagner School. An example of this is the façade of the Stein Department Store in Cairo (1904), reduced to large glazed shopping windows, interrupted only by shallow pilasters.

After Lašcak assumed the duties of the chief royal architect, his style again underwent another change, visible above all in the revocation of the Islamic style. Lašcak developed his personal architectural language, based on an eclectic merging of historical styles, Islamic architectural forms and  decorations (arabesques, mauresques, and calligraphic ornaments) and Secessionist elements. He was aware that his style, with which people could identify, played an important role in forming of the national identity.12 While Lašcak continued to design magnificent palaces in historic styles following the example of the Italian architecture of the 16th century for his wealthy clients from among the Cairo nobility who had been educated in European capitals, his commercial buildings from that period, such as that for the Generali Insurance Company in Cairo (1911), are the result of intertwining both European styles and traditional Islamic motifs.

Lašcak applied the neo-Islamic style to his own villa in Rafut, along the pilgrimage path to Kostanjevica which he started to build in 1909 and finished just before the beginning of World War I. The thirteen preserved design plans, bearing three diŽerent dates (13 Nov 1908, 17 May 1909, 20
Nov 1910), archived in the Historic Archives of the Gorizia Municipality (Archivio Storico del Comune di Gorizia), show that architect Girolamo Luzzato was signed as the head of construction, which was an established practice at that time – the design project was not signed by the architect, but by the person responsible for supervising the construction. But there is no doubt that the drawings and the plans were made by Lašcak, for the plans for the façade of the villa and the entrance feature detailed drawings of both the individual construction elements (bricks, stones, pillars), as well as the decorative building ornamentation – details that we can later trace on the preserved drawings for the palaces in Cairo and the funerary chapel. A very interesting detail is the coloured sketch of the complete project for the estate, its park and access road, which proves that Lašcak was also an extremely talented draftsman.

In its original state, testified only by some rare photographs, the villa in Rafut was a model example of Lašcak’s original architectural style, which can only be defined as an eclectic combination of the Western tradition of villas, merged with oriental architectural details and decorations taken from the Mamluk style. The most representative part of the building made of reinforced concrete is most certainly the octagonal tower with a covered wooden corridor and a semi-circular concrete cupola, shaped as a minaret  on the western façade. The entrance to the villa is embellished with a Moorish stone portal with a magnificent stalactite arch. Our attention is drawn to the horse-shoe biforas, but we can also see a trifora with halved lateral lights. The balconies on the eastern and southern façades rest on consoles, and were covered with perforated wooden panels in Arabic style. The Arabic influence is further emphasised by the decorative wooden roof eaves and rich ornaments taken from the local Egyptian tradition: chimneys with motifs from Mamluk tombs and arabesques on concrete balustrades of the balconies, on architraves, window lintels and the cupola. Worth noting is the massive corner pillar which supports a two-story balcony with a wooden balustrade on the corner of the building.

Similar Islamic elements can be seen on the entrance lodge – a brick building with a Moorish arch which partly emulates the structure of the salamlik for the Omar Sultan Palace (1907–1908) – the  first building where Lašcak experimented by mixing Arab architecture and modern elements. The lodge is also decorated with ornamental motifs, where the most interesting ones are the names of Lašcak and his wife written in a Kufic script; this structure forms a comprehensive, stylistically coherent whole together with the villa and the park in which Lašcak planted a number of exotic plants and introduced many built elements.

The villa was heavily damaged during World War I. Moreover, since the renovation committee of the Gorizia municipality only approved the payment of a very meagre compensation, on the grounds that this was a luxury building, the villa never regained its former glory – even though it was renovated following the original plans, as testified by a photo from 1934. A few original architectural pieces with decorative ornaments which were not used in the reconstruction can still be seen lying around the park.

Following the outbreak of World War I, when Abbas Hilmi II was ousted, Lašcak – a convinced Italian yet nevertheless a subject of the Austrian crown, found himself in a di¥cult situation. The British expelled him to Malta, and he soon emigrated to Rome where he started to devote his attention to the reconstruction of a heavily demolished Gorizia. The preserved architectural plans show, however, that he already started to solve individual architectural tasks while still residing in Egypt. Before leaving for Alexandria, for instance, he designed the reconstruction of the Church of the Holy Heart, which started to be built according to his design and was later finished by Max Fabiani. Lašcak also designed the renovation of the oldest, medieval part of Gorizia (Borgo San Rocco) located directly  underneath the castle, but the whole area was entirely demolished in the 1930’s. He foresaw the adaptation of the church facade of St. Rocco, in front of which he placed a fountain – a refined combination of a classical form, an old-Egyptian element (an obelisk) and plant-derived Secessionist details, which is one of the rare works in Gorizia that was realised before World War I. Lašcak prepared several urban development plans to regulate certain areas of Gorizia, such as the plan for the renovation of the area along the Transalpina Railway Station (1905). In 1917 he also made a regulation plan for the post-war renovation of the city, but the renovation committee of Gorizia and of the Gorizia region rejected this, even though its basic structure was adopted in 1921 by Max Fabiani, Lašcak’s younger contemporary.

After the rejection of his urban development reconstruction plan, Lašcak again received commissions from the Egyptian royal court and moved to Cairo where he created, in the 1930’s, some of his best projects. Worth mentioning it the Misr Bank building (1922–1927), which is perhaps the most beautiful example of the architect’s knowledge and use of Islamic decorative art, and his mastery in combining di–erent ornamental styles, as demonstrated by the decorative patterns on the marble floor and the expertly crafted wooden ceilings.

Lašcak received a prestigious award from the Roman Academy of St. Lucca in 1927 for his achievements. Even in his later years his life and work were
divided between Egypt and Gorizia: in Alexandria he won the competition for the railway station (1946), while in Gorizia he designed the layout for the main city square of Piazza Vittoria/Travnik (1938). Although Lašcak used to spend his summers in Gorizia, he  never really lived in the villa. What is more, he ceded the building to the Generali Insurance Company in Trieste, and received a life annuity in return. He died and was buried in Cairo in 1946.

Even though Lašcak’s body of work shows traces of modern European architectural movements, which he undoubtedly knew well, his work never went beyond the framework of historic eclecticism. His mastery of his profession is displayed above all in the technical excellence and well-considered merging of di–erent architectural styles stemming from the western and eastern traditions, producing a comprehensive, harmonious whole. The preserved works, however, his original drawings, as well as the construction and decorative elements of the villa in Rafut, also testify to his meticulous attention to detail.

NATAŠA KOVŠCA

GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE
NOVA GORICA - A CITY WITHOUT AN IDENTITY

written by Adrijan Cingerle
Nova Gorica is an example of a modern architectural and urban planning experiment which was not realized in its entirety. In this article I analyze the fragmented spatial deve-lopment of the city to date with an emphasis on the city center, evaluate the urban plan-ning tradition, and indicate a possible direction for future development, also in view of con¬necting two sister cities iat the edgei into a new center for a wider European region.
Key words: Gorizia, Nova Gorica, main street, garden city
SUMMARY
The territory of Gorica has changed hands many times in the past. The location of the new border after the Second World War caused a fateful division of the territory, and overnight left it without a city center, while the city of Gorizia was cut off from its environs and hin¬terland. As a replacement for what was lost, a new artificial city was created on the plain of Solkan. Professor Edvard Ravnikar followed the model of Le Corbusier's sunny city and designed Nova Gorica as a garden city which would develop along main roads–central city avenues where the most important city buildings would he located. Despite the initial enthusiasm the construction of the new city soon slowed down due to the loss of state funding. The development of Nova Gorica became hostage to a weak local economy, the primary reason for abandoning Ravnikar's original plan, which today has been realized only fragmentarily. It was replaced by numerous plans and construction designs fromvari¬ous planning agencies and architects, all of which remained unfinished and led the city into increasingly greater chaos.
The modest heritage of the modern–Ravnikar's original plan–is a valuable tradition on the basis of which the city could continue its development in an integrated way. Critical cor-rections and adjustments to intermediate urban plans could transform the city into a clear and recognizable architectural and urban whole, and the natural growing together of two sister cities. Gorizia and Nova Gorica, could form the basis for a new center of a broader European region.

PRESCRIPTION FOR THE FUTURE

VID HEALTH CENTRE, NOVA GORICA, SLOVENIA / SLOVENIA, 2002
written by Lidija Dragisic / photo by Blaz Budja
 
Something for the sick at last! An end to the vile, dark, dilapidated and cramped premises in which the visitor feels that all illnesses are much worse even than they are. As against this a pleasant natural sur¬rounding is a balm for their ailments. A new ray of light and health at last has shone upon their lives.
We are talking of the new Vid Health Centre, which was created through the teamwork of an infor¬mal group of three young architects: Adrijan Cingerle, Bostjan Furlan and Bostjan Kikelj.
As a group they have designed their own ap¬proach to the creation of an architectural concept. They think, that is, that today with increasing fre¬quency projects are created that do not have the right attitude to the space. Putting up a building in the space is a big responsibility. Architecture can completely degrade the space, it can keep it the way it is, or enhance it; for this reason, while mak¬ing their plans, they take into account the results of the geomantic analysis of the location. With this analysis they can set up a consistent harmony be¬tween the original magnetic field of the site and the internal rooms of the building. The main aim of this is to provide the clients with the best conditions for their sojourn here. They endeavour to put contemporary approaches into the spatial points of departure, ap¬proaches that show a reflection of today's time.
The main point of departure for the health centre is what the pleasant and calming surrounds have on offer for patients and employees, completely different from what we are used to in most hospitals or health centres. The analysis shows that at this location the energy system is constructed of two lines. These are the main and the local energy line, which cross in the main energy centre, giving the whole area a basically warm and pleasant character. The lines dictated a markedly elongated building, conceived as a series of parallel walls.
The walls that define the four parallel volumes inwhich the programme of the health centre is located have turned into the main theme of the plan. The emphasis on and extension of the walls outwards make possible a symbiosis between the artificial and the natural landscape. The strictly placed orthogonal walls that bound the functional and programme corn¬- plexes are bounded by a central ellipsoid body meant for the common area.
The linear concept is used too with respect to the organisation of the internal plan. The main access to the building runs along the local energy line that cuts across the series of walls erected. The ellipsoid part, an exception within the stringently geometrical forms, is oriented to the approach road and marks the crossing of the two energy lines. The gradual transition from outside towards the interior of the facility hints at the reworking of the borjac-a, the typical Mediterranean entrance into a house. The impera¬tives of the specific features of the landscape, that is, of its invisible fac¬tors, give the whole of the building a very distinctive character.
The individual functional volumes stretched out between the linear walls contain various features of the health centre: a common waiting room, the surgeries of various specialists, opticians, recovery rooms, admin, operating theatres. The central multi-purpose area is meant also for occasional exhibitions, and for children and the bar. Individual surger¬ies are organised as more intimate "pockets" of the common space.
The architecture of the medical centre is oriented to man, nature and their mutual interlinking. The inter¬weaving of nature and light comes out particularly in the central volume with the common areas that with their light, ventilation and views onto nature have a beneficial effect on the visitors of the centre. These qualities are in total opposition to what is common in the cramped waiting rooms common today. The cen¬tral double height area also has a Mediterranean di¬mension, coming in design terms out of the typology of the coastal area porch.
This young group doesn't submit to trendy effect architecture, but draws strength instead from the tried and tested expression of modernism. The purity of the white envelope and the narrow ribbon-like apertures recall the Mediterranean architecture that you can find in Iberia. The architecture works calmly and in a lei-surely way. The dominant verticals of the extended walls give a kind of dynamism and are spatially at one with the natural surrounds through which the individual functional volumes weave their way. Their different heights optically lower the large building on the little plot.
As against the right angles of the architecture, the landscaping of the external area is based on organic forms: on drops, ellipses, hills. The green areas were created with a maximum exploitation of the relatively little plot, and by placing the building on the very edge of the site. The large grass areas, the pines planted alongside the stream, give the visitor a pleasant feeling of nature. The cherry and oak trees preserved on the plot give an additional charm to the surrounding area.
The interior of the building has retained the elemen¬tary purity, restraint and simplicity of the exterior. The uncluttered space is based on light tones with shades of green. The significance of the interior elements lies in their structure and material, with the colour being of secondary importance and is derived from the space the way it is. The idea of the unclutteredness and sim¬plicity of the space backs them up in terms of function. The internal ambiences work as an area of purging and voiding, as a liberation from the satiation of the quotidian.
The atmosphere of the space, its openness, the in¬terrelations of its component parts and the way it melds together with the external space create a highly utile and poetic architecture for the health centre. It turns out that the "prescription" of these young architects has been borne out. This is a health centre that really seems healthy.