Context in the 21st Century?

architects dekleva gregorič arhitekti
project Odpad, Neverke - Pivka, Slovenia
written by Tomaž Brate

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What is at the beginning of a century an event for the entire century is, on the one hand, a completely ordinary object, a wheel fixed to a chair, and on the other hand, a black square painted on a white background, therefore two times nothing. Duchamp and Malevič.
Gerard Wajcman, The Object of the Century


To a frequently posed question – what the important business and activity of the next century will be – the choice of themes is more or less reduced to two ‘nothings’ analogous to Wajcman’s analysis of the artistic object of the 20th century – water and garbage, two times almost nothing. Architectural coverage of these two segments appears to be, at first sight, unattractive and more or less utilitarian. Therefore, it is necessary to observe and investigate the project of a processing yard for recycling metal in Pivka, the work of dekleva gregorič arhitekti office, with as much optimism as possible.


The large complex is located on the edge of an industrial zone that by its very name generates an image of unified, prefabricated buildings, more or less (un)tidily arranged in a sort of exposed position. In this case, the architects’ first move was in the form of a decent, contextual intervention in the landscape: the terrain’s topography is used as a certain interpretation of the prior motif of this landscape, which means the demarcation of individual functional units using walls. The incision of the seemingly endless concrete wall demarcates the territory of the unified (industrial zone) from the specific (processing plant). And this edge, created by the wall, is a generator of the miniature, decent architectural story of the entire complex.


This architectural story, with the above-mentioned wall, includes two buildings, indeed modest in terms of dimensions, yet very rich in terms of narrative. The difference between the two is most obvious in relation to the used materials and expression – here it is concrete and tectonics, there it is metal and lightness. Two pavilions, identical in volume, that belong to this kind of architecture, in the form of a ‘house’, exist in the usual concepts. The first pavilion is intended for the complex’s ‘dirty’ functions (workshops, changing - rooms…) and the other for ‘cleaner’ segments (management, administration…). However, the main poetics of this architectural concept is not to be found in the elementary expression of rough functions bounded by concrete, nor of more refined ones that are embraced by a metal grid (as a simultaneous association with activities within the complex). The architects have achieved the highest degree of poetics by setting the pavilions on the already described wall in the landscape. The first pavilion, made of concrete, clings firmly to the processing yard and is separated from the vertical of the wall by a decent horizontal line which, at the same time, represents a band of light which during the daytime illuminates the interior space. The second pavilion, made of metal, on the contrary hovers above the recessed line of the wall, thus emphasizing its lightness, different construction and conscious lack of becoming one with the brutalised ambience of the complex.


The integral architectural/landscape concept expresses a great measure of thoughtful, humorous interpretation and character. The elementary karst context with land bounded by walls is here expressed as a strict demarcation of traffic and function, public and private, and as articulation of the dominant architecture. This is an architecture that, also due to its function, can tell its story to a greater extent in primary language: in one place the views are focused, in another they are total but dispersed; here the material is brutal, elementary, there it wants to be sophisticated and ecological in character; one time it grows out of the wall, another time it retreats from it (or vice versa). Above all, the whole appears to be a nice ‘ticket office’ for certain works of 21st century art, which are loaded and processed on the area above the wall, so to speak in a yard bounded by wall, characteristic of karst.