The design proposal of the Badel Block Complex by Popular Architecture is a combination of polyvalent and stable, both a massing inviting interpretation and detailed development by others, and an anchor seeking to re-channel the site’s positive qualities. Conceptually, the project begins with making a direct link between the former distillery building and the preserved façade of the Gorica Factory — two features required to be kept. Treating the factory façade as a gateway, the plan pulls in the existing context of an active street market — into the heart of a site cut-off from the city for decades — while also avoiding direct replication of the area’s pervasive perimeter block typology. More images and architects’ description after the break.
Initiated by Zagreb’s Office for Strategic Planning and Development, the Badel Block competition sought mixed-use proposals to guide the former industrial site’s redevelopment. With an additional east-west link extending the axis of Laginjina Street, three “micro blocks” are formed that give the site a new porosity in all directions. This subdivision makes more street level surface area for new retail and restaurant program, while the courtyards of each micro block create a gradation of conditions between public and private.
With the three footprints established, we use them to test the impact of adding the brief’s proposed 65,000m2 of gross building area (GBA). As pure extrusions, nine floors of each totals 63,945m2. This size creates a high level of overshadowing both of the existing, such as the distillery and the apartment building to the north, and also within the extrusions themselves. In response, the micro blocks are reshaped by the sun and vertical context: heights are modulated to produce a range meeting varying sunlight needs and transitioning between new and existing, and arriving at the GBA target. The result is three boulder-like shapes combining a perimeter block and tower typology.
Perhaps most significant is the overall shaping for southern solar access and the resulting programming. Uses such as retail, restaurants, and offices are placed on lower, darker, and deeper plan areas. These locations take advantage of the reduced need for direct sun due to higher internal heat gains through larger occupancy levels and more heat-producing equipment. Alternately, the upper south facing residential levels, with lower occupancies, benefit from their zoning’s abundant direct solar gains throughout the winter. Preliminary Passivhaus analysis indicates that apartments could easily reach a heat demand of 14 kWh(m2a), below the Passivhaus maximum consumption of 15, and about 90% lower than normal housing. The southern orientation is also easiest to shade, so proper façade design combined with cross-ventilation will greatly lower cooling demand.
The overall form is only a recommended maximum envelope. Like rocks, we imagine the massing can be carved. The micro blocks can be interpreted in various ways, in various combinations: as maximized envelopes where the sloped surfaces imply internal voids suggesting shared uses; as finely stepped “ziggurats” creating a maximum of roof gardens; or as an aggregate made over time with multiple owners with different financial motives and tastes, similar to Zagreb’s flexible precedent, the Endowment Block from the 1930s. Rather than indulge in architectural specificity, the design ultimately works to secure durable urban conditions supporting negotiation and participation.