Approaching a built environment, especially with the history of this urban enclave in the center of Belgrade, implies listening to its memory, but it is also an opportunity to reveal its hidden potential.
The competition site represents a void in an urban cornice that must be restored. The Karađorđeva street environment has the vocation of an urban socle and the new faculty must become a new gentle piece in a set with a certain homogeneity, a new instrument in an orchestra in which it finds its place without going out of tune. Volumetrically, it seems evident that the built mass must follow the lines marked by the adjacent buildings and try to integrate into the urban landscape.
Even though according to the regulation plan, we are allowed to build up to 18 m on 75% of the plot, we deliberately waive this right, thus allowing unobstructed visual connection between Kosančićev Venac and Sava River. However, this volumetric carefulness does not prevent the new intervention from offering an iconic public space that allows the upper part of the historic center to overlook the banks of the Sava River, next to its confluence with the Danube.
The new Faculty of Applied Arts, in its effort to limit its height in order to integrate itself, becomes the support of an urban viewpoint that appears to improve this area of the city.
The faculty is divided into two buildings around a courtyard to offer the best lighting and ventilation conditions to all its classrooms. In this way, two roof terraces appear to bring an added value to this simple and compact solution. One of the roof terraces is public and open as a continuation of the planned urban staircase. The second houses the most public uses of the faculty such as the exhibition hall, multifunctional room, and the cafeteria that opens onto a terrace with limited access during the faculty's hours of use. A third outdoor collective space is developed in the courtyard where an open-air auditorium and green sculpture garden are formed. Harmonious proportions and direct communication with the main access make this space suitable for different types of events such as exhibitions, receptions, lectures, concerts, poetry slams, etc.
The volumetric simplicity is manifested towards the city with a delicate and reduced façade with the aim of not altering the urban background. However, its interior and courtyard generosity offers a singularity more suitable with the creative activities that take place in the faculty. The controlled perforation of the front façade suggests the vivid student life toward the outside, whereas from the inside it opens toward the Sava River vista. The vertical circulations communicate all the levels, and the main sculptural stairs allow the user to perceive the relationship of the faculty with the environment. This permeability occurs in all the classrooms, which can be opened to the access galleries that are organized as rings around the patio on each level, or closed by curtains if the conditions of the teaching activities require it.
The project proposes main access to the faculty through the foyer in the center of the facade towards Karađorđeva Street. Additionally, there is another secondary access on the promenade to access the exhibition hall, multifunctional room, and cafeteria. The use of this second access could be restricted to scheduled events or to the opening hours of the cafeteria. The independent and privileged location of the cafeteria on the upper floor allows it to offer itself as a meeting place for students and even for neighbors and tourists.
The vehicle and bicycle parking are accessed through the side alley. Access to the underground parking is proposed by means of an elevator device to release the occupation on the ground floor more efficiently
The distribution of the classrooms in each of the levels has been carried out following the functional requirements of lighting, ventilation, contiguity, and interior free height. As far as possible, the departments are distributed on the same floor that is connected by two communication cores with security stairs and an elevator, apart from the open public stairs that offer comfortable and intuitive use, although they are not considered for the evacuation in case of fire.
The lighting of the classrooms is mainly solved with large openings to the north to guarantee adequate working conditions. In all other cases, the entry of direct sunlight will be controlled on the exterior facades by movable vertical louvers that allow from a total opening to a controlled darkening, passing through situations of intermediate opening in which the louvers intercept the sun's rays, but allow indirect sunlight to enter.
The galleries of the patio facing north will be completely transparent to allow lighting in the classrooms, and the rest of the interior facades of the patio will be protected from solar radiation by specific glazed ceramic elements that will be distributed according to a fixed pattern determined by the incidence of solar rays throughout the year. These pieces could be replaced over the years by samples and works carried out by the students so that the interior façade could become a living and functional exhibition of the academic outcome of the faculty, allowing students and teachers to identify with their workspace and take ownership of it. It is easy to imagine a new tradition, where graduating students would alongside diploma get a place for a ceramic piece on the “alumni-wall”. With this metaphoric gesture, students would be built into the walls of the institution.
This desire to integrate the new building in the environment is translated into a gentle materiality towards the outside through large aluminum vertical panels painted in a matt off-white not unlike the tone of the neighboring buildings. The panels can be oriented in some areas to regulate the incidence of the sun and prevent the direct radiation of its rays. This variability could produce a changing but respectful presence.
The construction of the Faculty of Applied Arts in Belgrade has as its main goal to solve a functional program in the most efficient and sustainable possible way. For this, the most compact volume is conceived with the necessity of providing correctly lighting and ventilation to all the classrooms. The use of a low-level thanks to a deeper courtyard allows not only a more respectful insertion in the historical environment but also a much more efficient thermodynamic behavior by optimizing its form factor (less amount of exterior facade) and greater use of the thermal inertia of the ground. The large south façade of the courtyard, thanks to the gallery, becomes a passive collector of energy that is recirculated through the building like a large-scale Trombe wall. In the cold months, the greenhouse effect will passively reheat the air that can be recirculated through the floorplates to radiate the heat absorbed in a delayed phase and to the interiors that are not directly sunny. In the warm months, the steeper incidence of the sun will allow the ceramic façade pieces to cast a greater proportion of shade, and the heat that passes through will be reventilated to the outside without reaching the interior of the classrooms.
Rainwater collection systems will allow sustainable humidification of a landscaped courtyard with deciduous trees, to allow the sun to pass through in winter and protect with shade in summer.
The double orientation of the two blocks of the faculty allows passive and economical cross ventilation.
The installation of photovoltaic panels on the roof is planned, which will allow sustainable self-consumption of the building's electrical systems. An aerothermal system will allow free energy to be absorbed from outside air, even in the winter months, and its outdoor units are located gently and hidden, but in direct contact with the outside, thanks to the module planned at the north façade.
The new faculty becomes a container for creative activity to solve an urgent functional need, as well as a support for a new public space in a city that wants to enjoy the splendid views of its surroundings.