Student centre in Rijeka - conversion of the "Hartera" factory


Beside the sea: the city of Rijeka, in Rijeka: the river Rječina, beside Rječina: a factory, in the factory: emptiness. Beautiful emptiness we are going to fill with life.

"Hartera", the name of what used to be a famous paper factory in Rijeka, became a synonym for the final portion of the Rječina river canyon. The collapse or relocation of industry and infrastructure gave the town the opportunity to reshape and integrate its alienated part into its functional and morphological structure. The furthest buildings, in the tip of the canyon, could become a student club in order to increase the urban charge of the area. That is the subject of this design.

The main design principles are: Affirming the existing routes leading through the club and emphasising their junctions; Allocating uses in accordance with the existing ambients; Differentiating new and old structures while keeping the existing structure more prominent.

The final aim is to give students and their guests a second home, so that the atmosphere of a place where one sits freely on the floor and walks about without shoes could be transferred through the rest of the interior and exterior of the Club.

The main horizontal axis runs from the entrance court, through the new glazed entrance, the arcades serving as foyer/gallery/entrance to the big hall, all the way to the smaller glazed structure and the small, intimate, introverted court with a water-well. That axis is repeated above: on the roof above the arcades there is a new structure which hosts the uses which demand high-tech  electronic equipment.

The other row of arcades on the ground floor acts like a Roman basilica. It contains the bar, the cloakroom for the audience, and workshops near the gallery and the backstage. The workshops are lit via new openings in the roof. The same logics are applied to the new structure above, but the workshops and the corridor are made distinct by the shape of the roof.

A parallel horizontal sequence of spaces consists of the open-air stage, the little hall, the big theatre/cinema/concert hall (its use varies with the position of the slideable telescope seating), and the backstage, with spaces for actors and for storage.

The main form of introducing new service functions into the “clean” existing spaces is the interpolation of prefabricated boxes. This includes the service boxes in the old aqueduct arcades needed by the performance halls (which have to be easily accessed from the street) and the toilets. The boxes vary in colour (blue for toilets and green for everything else) and appear temporaty in order to respect the architectural heritage, while at the same time bring a ludic element into the space.

The sequence around the horizontal axis leads from public to more intimate spaces, from crowdedness to selectiveness, from loud to quiet. The glazed final part of the foyer, the greenhouse above it and the contemplative court they look towards, all flank the little two-storey building whose courtyard facade is open to let the light and the appropriate ambience enter the classroom and the rehearsal room.

The verticality of the glazed structures at either end of the foyer balances the horizontality of the complex, which has been underlined by the interpolated roof structure. They also contain logically positioned vertical communications. Their transparency makes them different from the existing complex, while there voluminosity makes them similar to it. Their transparency facilitates the connection between the exterior and the interior and the understanding of the spatially heterogenous complex.

The entrance hall gives access to the building which contains the student “home”: the lobby overlooking the bar and incorporating a cloakroom and toilets, the canteen with a kitchen, the living room with a small podium and a fireplace made of local stone, and finally, the terrace with a pergola whose structural rhythm stems from the rhythm of the nearby windows, and whose “green” shade creates an open-air living room. The aim is to give students and their guests a second home, so that the atmosphere of a place where one sits freely on the floor and walks about without shoes could be transferred through the rest of the Club and shared with all the participants in its various activities.

In order to spread that atmosphere into the exterior, the terraces also serve as communication junctions. The one by the living room is connected with the sports terrace, with the entrance court and with the aqueduct, which provides the view over the Rječina river and over the open-air stage. When nights are warm, this group of spaces can host the best parties. Furthermore, it is connected to the Rječina promenade, which should preferably extend all the way to the Delta.

Should we walk atop the aqueduct towards the other end of the complex, we could stop to pick some fruit off the trees planted between the aqueduct and the rocks. Finally, after we reach the terrace connected with the rehearsal hall and the small court, we can only give in to the call of nature and go on to discover the mountains which have for many centuries been pouring a fascinating liveliness into Rijeka.