neil m. DENARI architects: The city of Maribor has a rich history and quite possibly, an even richer future. As the 2012 European Capital of Culture, the future will arrive in a hurry for this intimate, vibrant city. There is therefore, an urgency about what this future will provide for the people of Maribor and to what extent the new UGM will accelerate the conditions of urban life. Museums, as we know, don’t simply reflect the identity of a city, they transform identities through the material life of architecture. In this, a building must have the nerve to respond to a particular cultural energy, to be assertive, but how? In what way? At what cost?
The UGM is a 15,000 square meter contemporary art museum in Slovenia’s second largest city. With temporary and permanent galleries as its core function, the building also operates as a community and cultural center that houses three restaurants, a library, and a children’s museum.
The most important condition of this project is the context. Even more than the program, the site demands manifold responses because of its ever changing views, peripheries, and topographic nuances. We have worked desperately to develop a project that “fits” the site in terms of massing and circulation, not only out of respect for the historical and geographic aspects of Maribor, but also of out of movement and acceleration. Indeed, while the site demands an understanding of place making in the traditional sense, the program demands that culture flows through the site. The project must address the static and the active at the same.
In bringing together the forces of the site and the imperative of the program, our scheme addresses the historical and spatial importance of the Southeast orientation of the site which is marked by the firm presence of the Judgment Tower. We have invested most of the open space requirements in a large plaza / passageway that unites four major program elements at that level: the two level city living room of the UGM, the Architectural Center, and the studios and support spaces for the Creative Business Center. This deployment of programs across the footprint of the site will constantly activate the main plaza fronting the Drava River and its new edge condition and will allow it to remain a part of public space because of its networked, animated organization. By hollowing out the site on a loosely diagonal line, visitors, and neighbors alike will be able to freely circulate through the complex enjoying an array of architectural micro-climates (led media ceiling, outdoor dining, residential scaled activities, etc.)