Hey! There is a river beyond | E13 Runner Up
Europan 13 - Zagreb, Croatia
Oblò + Filippo Pasini and Lorenzo Santosuosso
The project interprets the four proposed sites as case study areas to test a wide range of strategies, potentially leading Zagreb to a comprehensive rethinking of its relation to the Sava.
A sensible mapping of the existing potentials, a radically participatory process and a set of possibilities – an open source catalogue of modular structures – are the basic instruments for a contemporary and inclusive approach to the city and its landscapes.
EPHEMERAL AND PERMANENT
A possible strategy for the Sava River
Which kind of permanent strategic value could the temporary re-design of 4 separated areas on the Sava’s riverfront take on for the city of Zagreb – the sites being selected on bare administrative basis and all likely to be re-developed in a few years time ?
How can the capital of Croatia rebuild a relationship with its river after such a long time, in spite of the current economical and ecological constraints, clearly pushing against a complete redevelopment of its banks?
To effectively address these questions, Europan 13 has to go beyond its physical outputs and to define a set of rules, parameters and replicable models for Zagreb to progressively re-appropriate its fluvial landscape.
By carefully mapping the urban potentials and the remaining wilderness of the context and systematically involving the city’s inhabitants - the architect being coordinator and mediator of an inclusive cooperative design process – the project can define a more polarized layout of the riverfront. This highly qualitative space can be colonized punctually through a set of low-cost and low-tech interventions, widely relying on the know-how of local companies and craftsmanship.
ACUPUNCTURE AND THE TERRITORIAL SCALE
How the landscape becomes structure
Neither integrally urban nor completely natural, the landscape along the Sava includes a wide range of materials and potentials - in terms of available open surfaces, functions, connective networks – which are all carefully mapped. A new chain of collective and public spaces is defined, crossing all the ecologies, recognizing the territorial scale of the river and making it emerge as a fundamental central spine for the overall functioning of Zagreb’s metropolitan area.
A thorough analysis of existing infrastructures – walkways, bike-lanes, underpasses, ramps, bridges – orientates the punctual, low-cost operations needed to restore the full continuity of pedestrian ways and cycling paths, with a particular focus on bridges – endorsed both for their function and as precious viewpoints on the project sites.
Thresholds towards the city are particularly strategic to boost the project’s effects at the urban scale: newly-built folies are installed, acupunctural interventions re-link local resources – public buildings, residential areas, pedestrian and cycle axes, bus and tramway stops, etc.. – to the river and, lastly, a softer network of urban connections emerges at a wider scale, reaching to Zagreb’s main cores.
A new possible balance is suggested between the city centre to the north and the river to the south, the latter becoming a catalyst for the former’s futures developments.
COLLECTIVE INVOLVEMENT AND SPECIALIST KNOW-HOW
A participative process in six steps
1. Attraction // Folies and other signs spread the rumours of a new potential public space all around the city: what ever happened to the Sava River?
2. Workshops // Workshops are organized in the 4 sites, where architects and the public administration share their strategy with the civil society. Anybody can participate and bring his own contribution to the set of modular structures, which possibly has no limits.
3. Applications hand-in // Shortly after, citizens hand in their applications to the municipality, supported by the info point set up inside each project site.
4. Round tables // Architects coordinate round tables with all the actors involved: specific quantities and data are provided for each project, such as the number, type, location, function, source of financing and form of management of each modular structure. The features of the site’s main public spaces are hence defined.
5. Construction // A fly-wheel effect is produced on the economy of the neighborhoods by involving the know-how of manufacturers and craftsmen in the physical construction of the sites. The practice of self-construction is enhanced to promote social cohesion.
6. Future uses // All sites stay open to further developments, towards more permanent forms of settlement or in the direction of a full natural reclaiming.
THE MODULE AND ITS VARIATIONS
An open source set of possibilities
The participatory project is based on a set of possibilities, which is an actual evolutionary tool.
It starts from a range of modular structures proposed by the architects, which also define the approximate price for each of them and the aesthetical guidelines which make them recognizable as part of the same system.
Every module is easily assembled, fully reversible, barely interfering with the ground it stands on and possibly relying on local know-how and materials.
The set can be enriched through the years by the proposals of individuals, associations and institutions - who can apply to design, build or manage one or more modules - thus enhancing the dialogue between all actors.
The four sites of Europan 13
Accessible through the Jadranska Avenija and endowed with plentiful large-scale functions, such as malls and the Arena Zagreb, site 1 is a highly strategic location in the metropolitan area.
On a different level, the same avenija isolates it from the high density housing to the south – itself lacking of equipments at the local scale - and no bridge currently connects it to the north bank.
A new pedestrian-and-cycle bridge across the Sava, in continuity with the existing underpass below the avenija, connects the Arena Zagreb’s area with the Lake Jarun’s Park and defines a new spine on the west side of the site.
A circus tent can be the first folie bound to attract visitors into the site; afterwards, as the area’s reactivation proceeds eastwards through its vacant spaces, modules could concentrate along the Jadranska Avenija – with functions linked to main events – on the new pedestrian spine – hosting recreational activities – and towards the river - to support sports and fishing activities.
In some years time, temporary structures could possibly leave space to permanent settlements, carrying on the artistic vocation of the former circus.
A rich and consolidated context – including the neighbouring University District, self managed-urban orchards and the recently opened Pogon cultural centre – makes site 2 highly strategic as a gathering surface for its surroundings, and possibly for the whole city.
Few punctual design strategies are needed: first, as the Pogon keeps attracting visitors to the site, connections with the city are improved by pointing out the existing accesses and opening new gates; meanwhile, the grid of orchards is maintained and enriched with modules for storage and additional services to the growers; at a later stage, new surfaces of public space colonize the few unoccupied spots of the site, and modules endowed with specific thematic connotations cluster around them.
A future of slow evolution is envisioned, with the site’s configurations adapting to the users’ needs, without substantially compromising its basic layout and its hybrid landscape, inheriting elements from nature, agriculture and the city.
Site 3 is an open space available to give new quality to its neglected surroundings, also thanks to its strategic location between the Sava and a sport centre. The latter combines with the local market as the sole gathering points for the much sensitive Savica neighborhood, affected by a chronic lack of high-quality public space and attractive functions.
The principal structures of the project progressively concentrate along a strong north-south spine, running from the collective housing to the river banks. Its connection with the second main path, leading to the west entrance, is designed as a new, highly recognizable public space, an enclosed gathering courtyard that contrasts with the out-of-scale unoccupied voids surrounding it. Collective activities – local associations, workshops and events – concentrate here, while more sports fields could be located beyond the bank, to smooth its strong discontinuity.
The programme could grow with time, as the quality of local life improves, and progressively involve the north-west part of the site, while its south west edge could stay more natural and keep its current morphology.
In spite of integrating a network of large scale peri-urban elements - industrial areas, wastewater treatment plants and urban agriculture fields – site 4 has a marginal position in the metropolitan area of Zagreb and relates more with the remnants of the wilderness of the Sava ecosystem. The area features a specific geography and landscape in nuce, where natural and artificial signs overlay, such as small watercourses and quarries.
The project assumes human presence as something that is rather tolerated than promoted and aims to bring site 4 back to nature. A net of suspended walkways, barely touching the ground and staying usable during floods, hosts public activities - mostly linked to the rediscovery of the wilderness, urban agriculture and bird watching are promoted, while the replanting of local vegetation slowly absorbs the traces of human exploitation.
In some years time, site 4 would possibly be completely re-naturalized and in direct connection to the reservations surrounding it.
Oblò + Filippo Pasini and Lorenzo Santosuosso