BADEL URBAN RETREAT
A unique condition of the city of Zagreb is the relationship of the urban fabric to the natural terrain. The city concentrates itself heavily along the Sava River and decomposes as it meets the slope of Medvednica Mountain to the north. A gradient from hard-scape to soft-scape, imposed grid to geographically contained sprawl takes place from south to north. The constructed landscape extends like finger-like tendons up the slope until it fades into dense, unconstructed forest.
The Badel Block lies at the fringes of the organization of the city, right up against the seam from which the urban network melts into the landscape. It is this threshold condition that provokes questions to emerge regarding the relationship between urbanism, architecture, and landscape. Urban development imposes itself upon the environment based on the perception of human need. In turn, this same perception reintegrates elements from the natural landscape into existing urban conditions. From observing and analyzing landscape conditions in Zagreb, it is possible to derive a number of typologies that depict landscape-city relationships, which are both of the natural and constructed landscapes:
1. Urban expansion (natural landscape)
In this instance, urban growth makes its way to the foothills and crawls up the mountainside. The relationship between urbanism and landscape is one of domination on the part of the city. The primary intention behind this growth is to increase buildable land. The limit is determined predominantly by geographical constraints. This typology is not created out of the desire to enhance social, spatial, or ecological relationships, but solely out of requirements for the progress of the city.
2. Conservation (natural landscape)
In this case, a certain area of natural landscape is retained and conserved for educational, recreational, and ecological purposes. The relationship between urbanity and the landscape is that of disjunction, and the landscape is treated as a separate plane in space.
3. Reservation (constructed landscape)
Spaces within the street grid are retained to be developed as public green spaces. They fulfill the need to create areas of respite and zones of public interaction, and they are bounded by existing urban infrastructure. Here, the landscape is bound directly to the urban grid. A relationship to architecture may exist in certain cases, but the predominant relationship remains at an infrastructural scale.
4. Peripheral urban filler (constructed landscape)
This type of landscape is that which lies in between the bounding lines of a block and a piece of architecture. Its function is to mediate the gap in between road and building, and may or may not allow dialogue to happen between architecture and urban fabric or between city dwellers. Primary motivation is aesthetic quality, and public occupation is secondary.
5. Internal urban filler (constructed landscape)
A green space of this nature results from leftover spaces, for instance, in courtyard spaces in the core of a residential block. The primary use, if it is taken advantage of, is private, reserved for the residents on the block. Public interaction with this typology is rare.
In the above instances, a disjunction or vagueness exists regarding the relationship between hard-scape and soft-scape. The relationships between the city and the natural landscape are a consequence of need-based expansion, while approaches towards constructed landscapes may be accidental in nature or a filler for residual space. These conditions lack deliberate and productive use of constructed landscapes, and do not sufficiently address the larger relationship between the natural and artificial conditions that clash and intersect.
The Badel Block project gives the opportunity rethink this relationship between urban planning, architecture, and landscape. In this proposal, the entirety of the block combines these fields into a productive entity. Productivity has multiple meanings. But in this case, it is productive both economically in the traditional sense by creating business and monetary flow, but also for creating a space that enhances the social and mental wellbeing of the citizens. This proposal calls for the creation of an urban retreat for social sustainability.
Idea of an Urban Retreat
A retreat becomes necessary in a person''s life when the pressures of the city becomes overwhelming. This can be due to stress from work, pollution, noise, traffic, jostling in crowded places, or even the unforgiving pavement under one''s own feet. An ''urban retreat'' alleviates this type of physical and mental stress. But most importantly, an urban retreat maintains the relationship between the individual and the roots of the city. One may find retreat, vacation, or escape through the complete absence of urban form and dictation, but an urban retreat preserves the essence of the place, maintaining the cultural presence of the city instead of detaching itself from it. This urban proposal makes this distinction clearly. It speculates that perhaps the relaxation of the individual may be derived from an understanding of the place, eliminating the need to adapt to a foreign space. The Badel Block, being on the edge between detached natural landscape and urban order, is the ideal location to create such a retreat.
Concept: hard shell, soft core
This project achieves the creation of the ''urban retreat'' by using architecture to make a hard shell around a soft urban core. The outer layer is massaged into shape by the urban constraints and dimensions. This creates a shell that protects the interior from contamination by elements that cause urban stress. It is permeable to the flow of people, but it is impermeable to traffic, visibility from the street, pollution, and noise. This protective shell contains predominantly commercial and retail amenities, with a residential tower on the east side and an elevated hotel on the southern portion of the project, cupping in the interior. The architecture makes a framework which then allows the interior of the Badel Block to be autonomous from the surrounding city.
All area within the shell can be seen as a soft core, which is predominantly constructed green landscape. The main program is cultural, with the rehabilitated museum in the center. The central space is a double-layered plaza. The lower level is bounded by retail and commercial, while the upper level is encompassed by an extensive constructed landscape. This is the central component of the urban retreat, where human relationships and the cultural setting are drawn forth and preserved.
Conservation of cultural and historical significance is the way in which the urban retreat secures itself into the time and place. Historic facades and buildings are retained and incorporated into the external bounding elements of the architectural shell. The rehabilitated building in the center of the site becomes an anchoring weight for the project, and is placed in the project as the most prominent artifact and component of the site. This proposal creates equity between the new and the existing. The new form celebrates the old, as if setting up a stage for its observation and occupation. The existing building, transformed into a museum, becomes an object to relate to, to activate, and to remember. A unique relationship to it is constructed, allowing access from both the upper storey and ground level by means of the two plazas. On multiple elevations, and from many different vantage points within the project, the museum can be enjoyed. In this way, the urban retreat is specific to the site and has the ability to hold a dialogue with the people.
Urban retreat as a new typology of landscape
This proposal creates a constant interchange between landscape, architecture and urban organization, forming a new relational typology of landscape in the context of Zagreb. This typology is urban retreat, where urban constraints inform the architecture, architecture coincides with landscape, and the combination of these two re-inform the urban fabric. Urban retreat is a productive landscape which addresses unresolved questions concerning boundaries between spaces. This Badel Block proposal is highly specific to the site, and innovative in multiple dimensions. But the true value lies within its power to open opportunities to reconsider conventional spatial relationships across disciplines. This is the potential of the Badel Urban Retreat.