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Countering the car: an attempt to civilize a busy traffic intersection in Ljubljana continually changes its appearance.

Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, was not entirely well treated by Modernism. Huge object buildings and urban highways crashed down into parts of its ancient centre, breaking up its traditional close-knit texture, and destroying much of its urban culture. Slowly, attempts at repair are being made.

One of these, the Lev building, is on a corner of the busiest intersection in the city. Here was a dreadful instance of the triumphs of modern planning and civil engineering, with the corner eroded away to make a meaningless space in front of an office slab. Andrej Kalamar's building is intended to redress some of the destruction.

Its curve addresses the traffic roundabout that has replaced the urban square as the focus of civic life. Behind the curve, an urban space free of traffic fumes and protected from noise is created which could be used for public purposes. The Lev is intended to accommodate housing, offices and shops, and was hailed by some of the jury because it is clearly trying, in very difficult circumstances, to recreate urbanity.

Its outer wall had necessarily to be formidable against the traffic, and indeed, it had to take part in the texture of moto-urbanism. It has three rhythms: an overall one with major window openings. A smaller grain is given by the corrugated metal inner cladding, which is painted so that it changes colour as you drive round. The external rainscreen is of printed glass, giving yet another dimension to moving round the curve. The Lev is a courageous attempt at urban traffic architecture.


Andrej Kalamar, Ljubljana


Anton Berce


Miran Kambic
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Publication:The Architectural Review
Date:Dec 1, 2002
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