The Slovenian architectural production has repeatedly proven to be advanced and of high quality, even at the international level. This was confirmed by the jury’s selection at this year’s Balkan Architectural Biennial.
The Balkan Architectural Biennial is an event organized every two years by the foundation in Belgrade, with the support of the Belgrade City Museum and the Serbian Faculty of Architecture. The biennial involves selectors from eight countries: Romania, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro, and Albania. The selectors choose the best works produced in each country in recent years and invite them to exhibit at the biennial.
The theme of this year’s biennial was “back to the roots.” The exhibited works aimed to demonstrate how architectural design and planning, using already known but sometimes forgotten and overlooked principles, can create buildings that are sustainable, reduce carbon footprint, and yet remain architecturally modern.
Among the exhibited works, an international jury selected winners in five categories: architecture, urbanism, interior, unrealized projects, and the best response to the biennial theme. This year, Slovenian works received first prizes in three categories.
In the architecture category, the first prize went to the new construction of the swimming pool complex in Češča vas, designed by the architectural firm Enota. The design of the pool complex with a demanding structure is reduced to a large, floating roof. The supporting concrete structure is simple and rational, and the external appearance reinterprets the traditional shingle roof.
In the interior category, the first prize went to the renovation of the Litostrojska 56 building, or L56. Jure Grohar and Anja Vidic designed the revitalization of the former industrial hall, transforming it into a space for events with the simple arrangement of colored brick walls. This renovation demonstrated a way to rationally and efficiently create new opportunities from a failed industry.
In the “best response to the theme” category, the jury awarded the first prize to the Bohinj kindergarten building, designed by Ana Jerman, Janja Šušnjar (ARREA), and Sofía Romeo Gurrea-Nozaleda, Miguel Sotos Fernández-Zúñiga (KAL A). The kindergarten, building its appearance on the reinterpretation of Slovenian rural architecture, is both traditional and completely modern.
In addition to the three main awards, Slovenian works received six other awards and recognitions. The second prize in the interior category went to the open library at Vič Primary School, designed by ARP Studio. It’s a refined intervention in the school, turning a once abandoned corridor into a space where students enjoy staying and encountering books while moving between classes. The second prize in the urbanism category went to the bridge in Irča vas, designed by Jereb and Budja. The third prize in the “best response to the theme” category was awarded to the roofing of the remains of Žička Charterhouse, by the architectural firm Medprostor, which revitalizes the remains of one of the most important churches in Slovenia with a sliding roof and refined intervention.
Projects such as the Underground Wellness (Kosi and Partners) and the Revitalization of the Old Glassworks in Ptuj (Elementarna) received acknowledgments. The Outsider magazine also received recognition for establishing and managing the Center for Earth Construction, where they explore the possibilities of building modern structures using the ancient technique of rammed earth in a participatory manner.
In a strong competition of more than 200 selected works from eight countries, almost a third of the awards and recognitions went to Slovenian works. Marko Studen, Boris Matić, and Jernej Šipoš, who were the selectors for this year’s biennial, emphasized that this confirms the international relevance and progress of Slovenian architectural production. They added, “It is worth mentioning that two out of the three first-prize-winning projects (the Češča vas pool complex, Bohinj kindergarten) were selected through a public competition. This shows that the institute of a public anonymous competition is indispensable for the production of quality architecture and a quality built environment.”
For the winners who couldn’t attend the award ceremony, a local ceremony was organized on Wednesday, December 13, in the awarded architecture – the L56 building in Ljubljana.