Emerging Architecture Awards

Highly commended December 2004

Ofis Arhitekti

Museum extension

Ljubljana, Slovenia
In the historic centre of Ljubljana, buildings of all periods jostle in a dense mass. The City Museum is housed in a medieval palace that was heavily altered in Renaissance times, with the result that the collections were kept in a complicated labyrinth. A competition was held in the late 90s to find a way of simplifying the building itself and its relationship to its contents.
Ofis Arhitekti won, and the first phase of their design was opened in summer this year. It has one fundamental move: a continuous spiral that links the exhibition spaces and incorporates all the services needed by a modern museum (climate control, fire systems and so on). A ramp has been created in the previously unoccupied corner of the Renaissance courtyard. During the first stage of construction, many remains of previous cultures were revealed: prehistoric graves, fragments of a Roman street and villa and parts of medieval buildings. All these have now been exposed and preserved and incorporated into the museum. So the ramp curves downward from the entrance at courtyard level in both space and time. At the bottom end, it arrives at the Roman and pre-Roman layers; here, a space has been carved out under the Renaissance court to reveal the remaining traces. Above them, a medieval layer is exposed, and hovering over this is a new cafeteria. Structure had to be very carefully organized to prevent column foundations destroying ancient artefacts. The roof of the ramp springs out of the courtyard and forms another and more generous curve leading to the first floor, where it will give access to a route uniting the exhibition spaces of the old building.
Construction is pared and simple. The ramp leading to the lower level is of simple poured concrete with no applied finish. Curved glass walls are formed from individual flat facets which, incidentally, cause multiple reflections, particularly at night, that involve old and new work in a constantly changing kaleidoscope. The jury was impressed by the brave and revealing intervention into a very complex urban fabric, which has been accomplished with pretty slender means.

Ofis Arhitekti
Project team
Rok Oman, Spela Videcnik, Rok Gerbec, Josip Konstantinovic, Lidija Dragisic, Marko Coloni