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Historic centre in Ajdovščina

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Regaining a sense of belonging
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NEW EUROPEAN BAUHAUS AWARDS: existing completed examples
Project title
Historic centre in Ajdovščina
Full project title
Renovation of the historic centre - Castra in Ajdovščina

Ajdovščina has a strong historical and spatial identity, so it was really important that the new interventions subtly integrate into the existing structure.

New interventions were therefore approached with restraint and designed to be largely anonymous and in harmony with the Roman layout of the settlement, preserved Roman ruins and works of architect Svetozar Križaj from the 60s.

What was the geographical scope of your project?
Municipality of Ajdovščina
Slovene Littoral
Does your project address mainly urban or rural issues?
Mainly urban
Does your project refer to a physical transformation of the built environment or other types of transformations?
It refers to a physical transformation of the built environment ('hard investment')
Has your project benefited from EU programmes or funds?
Has your project won an EU prize?
Your project is fully completed?
When was your project implemented?
How did you hear about the New European Bauhaus Prizes ?
Word of mouth (colleagues, friends …)
On whose behalf are you submitting the application?
As a representative of an organisation
Please provide a summary of your project

City of Ajdovščina with its rich historical background and strong spatial identity required a subtle approach to accentuate its existing qualities and yet uncovered layers. Origins of a former Roman fortress Castra ad Fluvium Frigidum (3rd - 5th century BC) are still a part of nowadays historic centre. Remaining parts of fortification walls and towers, as well as geometrical structure of built tissue, are deeply embedded in a complex system of squares and streets.

The Lavričev square as central and largest square is defined by its three dominant building facades which are determining main edges of the square. Forming the rhythm of green elements, horizontal (pergolas) and vertical (trees), the presence of main square edges is emphasized creating ambience of seating areas in the shade. Central area of the square is kept clear for multipurpose use. Water element in a form of three fountains is placed in the eastern smaller square in the former baroque castle courtyard accompanying the line of the main connection to the nearby river Hubelj.

Castra was based on a double slightly shifted orthogonal grid with its basic measurement unit of a double roman step - passus (147,87 cm). The basic pavement stone element (74 x 37 cm) was defined by half of the passus. Stone elements are positioned with longer side in direciton of Cardo and with shorter side in direction of Decumanus. Throughout the general pavement grid underground roman wall ruins are presented with smaller size stone elements. The use of stone pavement ends with city wall presentation and continues with site-cast concrete for surrounding streets. Materials used are based on local origin: stone pavement is made of local limestone, the site-cast concrete paving contains aggregate of local origin.

Central point of roman ruins presentation is positioned in the southern part of Lavričev square. Original archaeological findings of roman building complex are presented on site in four presentation fields. 

Please indicate the main themes of your project with 5 key words
Roman heritage
Please give information about the key objectives of your project in terms of sustainability (including circularity) and how these have been met.
Please highlight how the project can be exemplary in this context

During the research of local building principles and use of natural ways of climate regulation it became clear, that historic way of creating public space in the region is already very sustainable. Through the use of local and natural materials, quality construction and innovative details these principles were used in a contemporary manner. Use of local contractors, great reduction of motorized traffic and parking spaces right in the city core further emphasised the sustainable approach. Reorganization and renovation emphasise the real function and purpose of the public space and encourages its exploring by foot or bicycle. Local species of greenery were added to the public space to further increase its qualities.

Please give information about the key objectives of your project in terms of aesthetics and quality of experience beyond functionality and how these have been met.
Please highlight how the project can be exemplary in this context

The main emphasis of the project was to present an educational role of public space in terms of different levels of archaeology presentation - presentation on site (actual Roman ruins in 4 presentation fields on the main square), in pavement (of important Roman building foundations findings beneath the pavement) and distribution of urban elements (fountains in connection with river Hubelj and location of former Edling mansion). The design also emphasises Roman grid that served as a plan for all later developments of the city and is still clearly visible. All of the mentioned elements were presented using contemporary design language based on ancient foundations and with use of traditional elements with modern interpretation (pergolas, fountains). Definition of space using manmade and natural elements and freeing the public space of unnecessary elements, induced the feeling of open space and importance of key architectural and historic elements. Usability of public space for all generations and quality solutions for user comfort (shading, benches, climate regulation - water/stone/greenery) were also of high importance.

Please give information about the key objectives of your project in terms of inclusion (equal opportunities, public participation, citizen engagement, co-design, universal design, accessibility, affordability, etc.) and how these have been met.
Please highlight how the project can be exemplary in this context

The project was a result of the open public competition and further coordination with municipality and local community. Many details were also discussed and solved in collaboration with locals during the construction phase. Good communication with municipality and owners also enabled the implementation of consistent design for shading in front of cafés, which greatly enhances the uniformity of urban elements on the main square and emphasises the new organisation of the square. Public space was adapted for all potential users and special care was taken regarding the design for visually impaired and users with reduced mobility. Accessibility was greatly improved and all the locals that live in the renovated area and delivery services can still access their properties via a regulated system of rising bollards that restricts all other motorised traffic. No other high-tech solutions were used which helped keep the cost reasonable, despite the use of quality local materials.


Please explain how these three dimensions have been combined in your project.
Please highlight how this approach can be exemplary

Use of old principles, measurements and materials (that are based on human scale) were combined with great attention to detail and restraint to subtly emphasize the importance of historical background without losing the importance of usability in present times. Besides the need of giving public space back to its users by removing the unnecessary traffic, the project focused on achieving the greater quality and usability of public space while using the elements and materials that were always present in local environment.

Please give information on the results/impacts achieved by your project in relation to the category you apply for

The project raises the awareness of importance of tradition and history by presenting the hidden foundations (literally and metaphorically) to public and emphasizing the qualities of space that were always there. This new environment with strong identity encourages socialization of different generations and cultures and serves as a basis for future development of local identity, social life and tourism in the whole region. Design itself encourages users to interact with public space and to be active participants in social life.

Please explain how citizens and civil society were involved in the in the design and/or implementation of the project.
Please also explain the benefits that derived from their involvement.

There was a lot of communication between the architects and the representatives of the local community after the public competition and during the planning phase. A lot of consultations with national conservation office were made during the whole project, regarding all the archaeological findings and their later presentation. It was also necessary to communicate with individual land owners and coordinate all the details regarding the connection of public space with their properties. At the end of the construction several free guided tours explaining the important details of the project were arranged and public showed even more interest than expected.

Please explain what kind of global challenges the project addressed by providing local solutions

The main challenge that the project faced was how to emphasize the importance of identity of space and its roots while focusing of giving the public space back to its users, enabling multiuse and encouraging activities of local community. This was achieved by freeing the city centre of motorized traffic, which not only enhances the public space, but also emphasises the right approach of sustainability and importance of reducing the negative impact on the environment to the minimum. The use of local materials with great qualities, smart urban lighting solutions and collaboration with local construction companies further reduced the total carbon footprint of the project.

Please highlight the innovative character of the project as compared to mainstream practices in the field of the project.

The main goal was achieved with a comprehensive approach to public space renovation. A lot of attention was given to detail, quality and longevity of the intervention as compared to mainstream practices, where the ultimate cost effectiveness is usually the main factor that influences the project. With this approach, the respect towards history, local environment and tradition was included in the focus of the project. The use of restraint in design was thus vital not only for the space to show its rich identity from the past, but also to encourage and enable its future development based on expression of all the historical layers and local specifics.

Please explain to the potential of transferring the projects’ results or learnings to other interested parties and contexts.
Please provide clear documentation, communication of methodology and principles in this context.

Raising awareness of local identity and historical background also emphasises the importance of quality public space and stimulates further development. Extended use of quality local materials already encouraged some locals to use them more, while the general success of the intervention might convince investors that this is the right approach. The concept of freeing the city centre of motorized traffic encourages users to socialize more and enables organization of more public events. People also learn about the potential qualities of the space they use every day and the importance of experiencing the city on foot or bike. Many other communities (local, but also in the other parts of Slovenia and Europe) are facing the similar problems and could benefit from this approach.

Is an evaluation report or any relevant documentation available?
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