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Boris Toman, Vladi Bralić, Zvonimir Kamenar
Anelo Šćulac, Irena Čurko (†)
... The centre remained in the port, and the unfortunate promiscuity of the theatre and the big piazza, besides all changes that came afterwards, today represents an urban failure. The park planted in front of the theatre building with its trees has never managed to become a meeting point; when on the road, we can see the park aslope instead of axle view, and because the entrance to the park is sideways, the view of the impotent theatre vestibule is further shrinked. ... (Dr. Radmila Matejčić)
This text discussing the National Theatre in Rijeka, published in 1981 has served as a main motive while planning the reconstruction of the theatre park. The main problem was seen in how to solve something that from first glance seems insolvable, that is – how to avoid the obstacle that is the theatre park when going to the theatre today, not only in the physical but also in the visual sense. Given the proportions of this competition have proscribed respecting primarily the historical basis of this park, we have anyway decided upon a somewhat more current and functional solution. There are multiple reasons for this.
First and foremost, we believe that going back and closing the square with a wall and fence definitely and absolutely does not correspond with the context of our time. It should not be forgotten that in the time this square was built, Rijeka has had between 30 and 50 thousand citizens, and the park has been realized before building the theatre. In this sense, the park cannot be considered an integral part of the urban situation which was severely altered through time and it is especially non-applicable to today’s situation. These are the reasons why closing something that is integral to the space in front of the theatre and creating an artificial oasis in the narrowest part of the city (as if we were talking of a botanical garden), in these times of overall dynamics, represents a definitive functional anachronism that is to say, an urban misinterpretation.
This is the reason why we have (in this competition work) focused on a compromise solution, although our initial ideas were striving toward a ground floor square with elements of greenery and horticulture. In the end we have decided upon a suggestion that preserves the elevated level of the park, only on one stylobate basis which circles the entire park with a tripartite stairway. In this way the access to the park as well as movement through this entire space remains open in the width of the entire radius. It is very important because of complex network of walking paths and three buildings this area is dictated by: city piazza, bus station and the theatre building. The suggested elevation in a certain sense preserves the intimacy of the space while the stairway preserves its ceremonial character and communicative-ness in all directions and also, most significant, movement paths come far more natural and unrestricted in this way. The only interruptions in the stairway zone will be open with sides with ramps for physically disabled individuals.
The stairway opening of the park zone also enables an axle movement towards the vestibule of the theatre, which was impossible before due to the unarranged situation in Trninina ulica (Trnina’s Street) and the elevated wall nearby. In the space of Trninina ulica only kiosks with flowers would not be moved, that is, only that part of them which leans to the pavilion of the city piazza, so that this street would be cleaned of all unnecessary and excessive contents it has today. This way of planning would enable frontal approach to the theatre building across the stairway plateau and it would therefore reduce unnecessary jams that appear today in Trninina ulica because it is the shortcut to the bus station.
The symbolic that is formal and sculptural signs (statue of Ivan pl. Zajc and the sphere fountain by Dušan Džamonja), that are today in front of the theatre vestibule would change their current position. Following the line of professional thought as well as that of the public of Rijeka (the people have already expressed the desire for the removal of Džamonja’s sculpture fountain), we have decided not only to change the location of the fountain but also to re-purpose it completely. Our opinion has it that the fountain could be set as an illuminating sculpture (luminoplastic) which would function as a certain derection towards the theatre, but would also be located in the park zone of the premises. Off course, this repurposing would have to be arranged together with the author of the sculpture, Dušan Džamonja.
Instead of the standing fountain, a new one would be set. The new fountain would resemble a geyser with little poles of water (of different height ranges) coming from the surface base. The distance between the water poles would enable free and uninterrupted access to the theatre building. Circularly around the fountain, the flooring would have engravings of names important to Rijeka’s cultural history, of people who have played their parts in creating of Rijeka’s theatre scene (Ivan pl. Zajc, Boris Papandopulo, Jakov Gotovac, Lovro Matačić, Drago Gervais, and Janko Polić Kamov etc.). This list of names does not have to be final and strictly determined. On the contrary, it is completely free and apt for distributing public cultural opinion, always open for new suggestions.
As far as the sculpture of the composer is concerned, it would be moved from its current location. It is now a rather clumsy and unfortunate sculpture, which much like Hamlet’s father wanders about the theatre square, and it overall isn’t a sculpture to be placed in the open space of the square; especially not in its current position where the light hits is from behind. The sculpture would be placed on the stairway of the park without the current double pedestal and would be slightly rotated towards the vestibule of the theatre building.
The plateau of the park would be solved by tiling, except of the central part where combinations and layers of different tile textures would be set, to express the outdoor component.
Same as this, the bus station would be solved simply and modernly with metal carriers and glass larmier (12m).The bus station would employ graphic displays of the park in different temporal landscapes and phases of change. To enlarge its space and to preserve the esthetic impact of the harmonious unity, it would almost ignorable be inserted into the stone (stairway) frame of the park.
The illumination of the park would be performed using three kinds of lamps: small, glowing poles on the entrance to the plateau of the park across ramps, high lamps casting light on the margin zone of the park towards Zajčeva ulica (Zajc’s Street), and inner illumination coming from treetops. Additional news would be the ceremonial illumination of the theatre itself, having a specifically colored illumination on days of premieres.
Our solution, therefore, comes from a line of circumstantial findings and contradictions (the vicinity of the piazza and the theatre building) which will surely, long from now, dictate the character of this space and the behavior inside it. It is most ungrateful to investigate an optimal solution for this situation, a solution which would completely satisfy every resident of this city and at the same time would reconcile the functional and the esthetic demands of its potential.