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Au Studio | Beton hala Waterfront Centre

Concept & Competition Au Studio | Beton hala Waterfront Centre

The development of this site provides a rare opportunity to regenerate one of the last sites within the historical centre of Belgrade. It will create a new city destination and will improve the ongoing challenge of connecting the popular Kalemegdan Park with the vibrant Sava waterfront and can become a catalyst for regeneration of the adjacent cultural quarter, Kosancicev Venac.

The new Waterfront Centre will accommodate 6000m² of flexible exhibition and 5000m² of retail space and provide a large 800 space public car park. The centre addresses a new public plaza, which provides panoramic views over the Sava River. The layout integrates and connects to the existing and iconic Beton Hala, which already attracts large visitor numbers along the river promenade.

Au Studio | Beton hala Waterfront CentreThe design approach for this competition entry draws from the context of the site and aims to integrate with the adjacent quarters. Integrating and extending the park’s landscape and materials, while retaining a low profile to protect the views and character of this part of the city are at the heart of the scheme.

Playing back the Brief

The competition brief lists a number of expected responses to the site, which we explored in the concept stages of our design decisions. A safe, continuous pedestrian connection between the Sava Port, the existing Beton Hala and the Kalemegdan Park was an expressed wish, as was a connection between the proposal and the Beton Hala; an iconic structure to be protected. The pedestrian connections on the site were to be easily accessible via the existing tram system, whilst the tram itself should be designed in such a way that it no longer interferes with the road traffic at road level. The extensive car and bus parking stipulated for the site was to have minimal disruption on pedestrian flow, as well as being easily accessible to the commercial and exhibition units.

Au Studio | Beton hala Waterfront CentreReconciling the two Districts

One of our key concerns is to reconcile the two districts of the area: the green and expansive Kalemegdan Park at the upper level and the cultural quarter of the old city, Kosancicev Venac at ground. In order to establish a sustainable and lasting relationship to Kosancicev Venac it is important to create an active street environment accommodating both commercial use and traffic. Maximising the commercial activity along Karadjordjeva Street and making its environment as pleasant as possible suggests locating the car park, bus parking and service access on the opposite side of the site.

Au Studio | Beton hala Waterfront CentreMovement and Connections

Reconciling these districts requires strong pedestrian connections from both levels. These form two natural desire lines: an extension from Kalemegdan Park and Fortress and an extension of the old city from Pariska Street at ground level. This results in two open spaces that create a knot at the confluence of movement patterns, which provides a natural departure and arrival point for visitor flow. The desired movement pattern allows two separate building blocks to be formed on either side, each accommodating the two distinct uses: The Exhibition Centre and the Commercial/Recreational Centre. This allows the scale of the site to integrate varying but complementary environments of cultural and commercial nature.

Public Spaces

Like the Kalemegdan Park, the new Waterfront Centre is a landscape that connects a number of different levels via a hierarchy of public open spaces and footpaths. The main public plaza is located on top of the Beton Hala landscaped roof, which is defined by the exhibition hall and commercial spaces on either side. It is overlooked by the ‘Large Steps’ which draw visitors to and from Kalemegdan Park. They can be used as informal seating or an amphitheater type arrangement for special events such as open air concerts.

The river terrace opens up in both directions offering two different characters: a Sculpture Garden in front of the Exhibition Halls and a summer time Beach Terrace/Ice rink in the winter. These areas offer exceptional views and form part of the major attraction of the new development. Maximising these views and increasing valuable water frontage has informed the proposals throughout the design development. A smaller square, Karadjordjeva Square, forms a civic arrival space at the confluence of the three roads and mediates between the new development and Kosancicev Venac. From here, visitors can access a widened and generous landscaped pavement along Karadjordjeva street, with a new colonnaded frontage allowing protected access to commercial units. These activate the street frontage and significantly contribute to reconciling the new development with Kosancicev Venac.

Au Studio | Beton hala Waterfront CentreFifth Elevation 

When viewed from the upper level of the Kalemegdan Park it is clear that the roofscape of the new Waterfront Centre is very prominent and should be treated as a landscape, or fifth elevation. Views from and towards the Kalemegdan Park and its fortress are critical; therefore a building with a low profile would preserve valuable historic views and allow successful integration with the landscape. Extending the landscape of Kalemegdan Park will consolidate the new connection to the Beton Hala level, visually tie the two districts together and provide a contextual response to the new roofscape.

Contextual response

The material response has been informed by the distinctive forms, materials and landscape of Kalemegdan Park. These are echoed in the volumes and finishes of the new Centre’s facade and roofscape, which extends the park’s boundary. Our contemporary interpretation of the historic fortifications allows the proposal to integrate with the existing landscape in a complementary way, using materials and finishes specifically selected to respond to and enhance the predominant materials of the Park and Fortifications. Integrating the site within its immediate and wider context is key to our design direction. It is our critical aim to preserve the exceptional natural, cultural, historical and architectural values of the area, and to propose a design that reflects historic heritage and future aspirations via a contemporary approach.

Location: Belgrade, Serbia
Architect: AU Studio
WAF Entry: 2011
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