One of the main focuses of the hall and square project by Turato Architects in Krk was to end an architectural dialogue started back in 2005, when Idis Turato realised an elementary school called Fran Krsto Frankopan (with his former studio “Randić Turato”).
The new hall is situated in the vicinity of the aforementioned school, just across a narrow pedestrian street. The completion of the new sports building and public square was the crowning achievement of the architect’s quest to complete an integral urban ensemble, thereby creating a newly defined and significant focal point.
The newly built hall, aside from being a gym facility for the school pupils – who can now access it easily through an underground corridor – also aims to meet the demands of the local community, housing sportsevents, as well as future cultural activities and larger-scale public festivities. This is why the north-eastern corner of the hall’s façade opens up onto the square, providing functional continuity and uniting them.
The school-hall-square assembly is surrounded by several churches and monasteries, as well as by two tall church towers as the square’s vertical accents. Together, they all define and describe this wide public space, which, depending on the occasion, can function both as a secular and as an ecclesiastical pedestrian zone.
On the very site of the new hall there used to be an old dormitory, which had been used in the past as a gym facility for the school. Prior to the hall construction it had to be demolished. The demolition, however, unearthed several new and important archaeological discoveries on the site, thus creating a whole new context for the hall itself. Everything found on the site had to be preserved as discovered. The architects took this crucial fact into account when redefining the concept according to the new input. This directly affected the organisational scheme of the project. The excavated and preserved church and monastery walls were to become integral parts of the new building, with new walls and façades of the hall emergingdirectly from the restored, older ones.
A further contextual element was important for forming the shape and size of the building. These are the high walls, seen throughout the old town of Krk, especially around the aforementioned monasteries, enclosing the town lots and lining the narrow streets of the town. These site-specific structures also surround the hall itself. Different stories take place behind these walls daily, from the public to the private, depending on the usage of the enclosed space. The high walls of the western hall façade, next to the Franciscan monastery, are therefore a continuation of these town alleys.
This is where the story of the walls, their origin, context and shape began, resulting in variety of façade walls, formally corresponding to the context, input and location.Although seemingly set back, on secondary surfaces (the western alley and southern façade), the most recognisable and by far the most unique element of the hall itself is a wall consisting of original and striking prefabricated concrete elements. The architect named these according to their origin and fabrication, and they leave an ambiguous impression on the viewer, due to the formal factor of their (un)attractiveness.
They are in fact unique precast elements produced as a negative of a dry stone wall, or more precisely – made by placing stones in a wooden mould, covering them with a PVC foil and pouring concrete over it all. In this way the negative of the stones forms the “face” of the precast element. This inverse building process, a simple and basic fabrication with a distinct visual impact, is an invention by the hall’s author. It was the result of researching simple building materials together with a clever bricklayer, with whom the architect had already collaborated on several projects in the past.
On the other hand, the most representative façade of the hall, which visually dominates the square, is the façade built out of six impressively large concrete monoliths, weighing up to 23 tons. The monolithic blocks are finished with a layer of ‘terrazzo’, which is an ancient technique usually used for floor finishes, requiring hours of polishing by hand. Here, however, the terrazzo is redefined and used vertically, fittingly renamed as a “vertical terrazzo”. While this unexpected vertical use of the finish creates a shiny and finely shadedfaçade, its “normal” use, on horizontal surfaces, is set in a new context and rethought, since this finish, usually reserved for interiors, is used in this case for exterior surfaces in the public square. The red colour of the square’s terrazzo floor panels stands in contrast to the lightness of the hall’s façade. Its smoothness and slip-resistance is achieved by applying a layer of epoxy after polishing.
The fourth façade, facing the school, with its formal look and finish (with plaster lime mortar) ensures that the new building remains in direct communication with the existing educational facility, sharing its function.