A new urban space for the city of Podgorica
When asked to deal with the complex background of Podgorica’s stations hub, we seized the opportunity to give the city a groundbreaking new meeting space. Commercial streets will make room for renowned stores, international brands shops, cafès and bistros. An underground parking located below the plaza will also contain hundreds of cars, and this will free-up ground level from traffic and sparse parking.
Since the start of designing phase, we discussed about the meaning that a newly built square can acquire. We stated that a square is not something that you can ordinarily design out of an urban void, because the meaning of that space is given by its surrounding, which is usually preexisting. The oldest and most authentic kind of square is the one where trading took place in the past, in other words a market square or a plaza. It takes long to define why an open space becomes, with time, a square, developing an identity and different functions. Despite the meaning of an urban square is clear to everyone, it is hard to attribute the right functions to a given space on purpose.
The public plaza will be located in front of the main bus station, Jusowaca Prison National Historical Site and city’s main Railway Station. The bus station was designed by famous XX century architect, Svetlana Kana Radevic, and is an example of regional brutalism, while the old prison from 18th century is set to be restored and opened to public. Urban space is currently occupied by a fragmented residential cluster, and many cars are randomly parked all over the area at every time.
The new plaza takes the form of a low-rise contemporary village, intended for walking, leisure activities and relax. Its concept is suspended between urbanism and architecture, natural morphology and anthropic design. The design of routes inside and outside the square enhances the experience of new spaces, fostering walk-through and meeting. A network of shopping streets and recreative areas is created below city level, keeping traffic, cars and noise away.
Form-finding process is based on generative tectonics, starting with a dig that removes the constructed area, clearing up views between the two stations and Jusowaca Prison. Sketching a new green hill, we intended to add the feeling of a natural environment to the crowded urban area. In order to preserve interesting views at ground level and hide less valuable sides of the area, a flux of walkable routes excavates the hill like rivers, creating canyons in a spontaneous layout. Vertical cut surfaces become transparent facades and this guarantees sense of spaciousness and comprehension of the architectural form.
Design is inspired by original Podgorica’s urban layout, that is clearly visible in the oldest residential neighborhoods in the form of a spontaneous network of narrow streets and clustered lots. The same pattern is proposed as a plan for the new plaza, in the form of a low-rise contemporary village. Built height is kept low and best views are preserved with designed cuts in the roofing surfaces, so that visitors can both feel comfortable and have sight clearance in many directions.
The proposed complex has 3 underground floors, one containing the open-air plaza, and two additional parking levels. Parking lots are accessible via vehicle ramps located in front of the Autobus Station, and each one is one-way, so that traffic can enter the station area from the current crossing. The structure on which the plaza and the pavilions stand is based on reinforced concrete pillars and prefabricated floor slabs, typically used for multistorey parking lots. Level -1 contains the plaza, a service parking lot for workers and service vehicle entrances for maintenance and safety issues. Level -2 is a typical parking floor, that could be repeated if a larger number of car places were necessary.