Clearing Provincial Reality

architect Matej Kučina
sculpture Primož Pugelj
project General Maister memorial park, Ljubno ob Savinji, Slovenia
written by Matevž Čelik

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Provincial settlements represent spaces for spontaneous, utilitarian interventions rather than for intentional and complete planning. The historical core of the dispersed village of Ljubno has obtained new extensions; the formerly unsurfaced road has been broadened into asphalted communication and the river bed, eroded by high waters, strengthened with huge broken stone blocks. As a result of changes in the relation towards the fertile soil, there are more and more abandoned fields. The fields have been left somewhere in-between: they are located between individual residential buildings, between the road and technically consolidated river bed. Today, this space also includes a new park, which is in stark contrast to everything that surrounds it.


Can such an autonomous space function as an integral part of a spontaneously emerged rural landscape at all? Maister Park in Ljubno represents the clearing of the earlier described reality. It establishes a stylized contact of the urban and natural, which is suitable for the changed way of life and different manner of using landscape in urbanized rural settlements. It is an unreal, artificial world which builds upon contemporary provincial reality and moves its boundaries further. It is placed in an unplanned traditional space as a new, autonomous, precisely defined relief, removed from the natural.


The eroded river bank was technically consolidated back in 1995. This year, on one part of the bank which was reinforced with huge stone blocks, the location has also obtained the new park. It is dedicated to Rudolf Maister who, after the First World War, managed to secure for Slovenia a pertinent part of the disintegrated Habsburg Monarchy, and thus defined the northern border of today’s Slovenia. Maister’s dematerialized company of curved metal poles stand like ghostly apparitions between the road and river. The park behind it breaks in sharp lines into an abstract grid-like surface which descends from green oases and sandy footpaths, over fixed rocky surfaces into the river Savinja’s bed. The promenade by the river is arranged similarly to abstract gentle hills, amongst which the new national borders were set in those turbulent times.


White concrete edges represent the frame within which green hills and grey footpaths are placed. On the plot cut into triangular, trapezoid and deltoid pieces artificial ridges are formed, and they introduce a visible contrast in the gentle, curved landscape with their dynamics of sharply broken lines and surfaces. Next to the natural slopes on one side of the river, dense bushes grow exuberantly; on the opposite side, the newly formed landscape is a bare, cleared geometrical surface. In spite of the differences, the park acts as an entity open outwards, directed towards its surroundings through the connections within its own structure: toward the river, the settlement, the road.


In small rural settlements like Ljubno ob Savinji , parks and other designed public spaces are exceptions rather than the rule. In the past, work and life were closely linked to nature in these hilly regions, and nature was everything to the inhabitants: work and leisure time, source of survival and existential threat. The need for the urban cultivation of nature for purposes of leisure time and pleasure has appeared only recently, from the time when the income of most of the population was no longer related to agriculture, forestry and barges in settlements by the river Savinja. Due to the barges, life in Ljubno was especially closely connected to the river. Savinja’s bargees used to travel on the rivers of the Balkan Peninsula in the second half of the 18th century, all the way to the Danube and Black Sea.


In spite of the fact that barges today are just another interesting element of folklore, the Savinja has still retained its crucial influence on life in Ljubno. The longest river flowing exclusively through Slovene territory often floods. How important it is that unpredictable and wild water flows were taken into consideration during the settling and arranging of river banks was proved in 1990, when floods badly affected this settlement as well. Urbanized spaces by water are too rarely adequately arranged in settlements in Slovenia; technical water flood control has a utilitarian character from the very beginning, therefore the landscape design of the bank which can be seen in the park in Ljubno was almost indecent to propose. Maister Park is a proof that design can refine the physical capital of a space by a water flow, while the technical arrangement gains an added value for a settlement and its inhabitants.