Underpassage in Ljubljana

In the 1960's, Ljubljana like most other European cities gave way to the urban development oriented around the needs of the motorised traffic. Many of the streets in central town were transformed into multi lane roads with narrow sidewalks and without bicycle lanes.

Motorised traffic was given priority over pedestrian routes, which – amidst endeavours for greater traffic fluctuation – were gradually pushed underground. Below the Slovenska Street, which is running through the very centre of the town, two underpasses were built: the Ajdovščina and the Plečnik Underpass.The second one is one of the busiest links between the old and the new part of Ljubljana. It connects the central Zvezda Park with the Plečnik Square in front of the Maximarket department store. The architect Bitenc’s design from the 60’s is very well planned. The stairs and the ramps descend slowly to the level of the underpass, leaving enough space for the presentation of Roman remains of ancient Emona, which were found in this place. From the very beginning, the underpass gave home to several shops and bars: there was a gallery, a night club, s shoe shop and a fishmonger’s. However, due to poor maintenance, they were gradually closed. This only worsened the situation in the underpass. For quite some time, its walls were covered in graffiti, the plaster was falling off, the lights were smashed and an unpleasant smell was spreading out of it.

With the renovation of the roadway above it, the opportunity arose to renovate and enliven the underpass at the same time. The renovation aimed at two things: to repair the stairs and the ramps as well as reconceptualise the shops in the underpass. We decided to use metal wall panels, which can perform several functions: behind them there are lights, dustbins and benches, they prevent graffiti drawing, and their gold colour makes a pleasant atmosphere. Each second panel can be opened, so that during the day a display window can spring to life behind it, however, during the night the closed panels protect it from vandalism. At both underpass entrances, where there is still enough daylight, we placed several wooden benches, growing out of the metal panels.

With the renovation, we tried to show, that infrastructural objects are in fact constituent elements of public space and can – if properly designed and more importantly maintained – function as a meeting place where people hang out and in this function improve the cityscape.

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