Slovenj Gradec is one of the oldest cities in Slovenia. Its Main Square boasts a rich history and cultural heritage. Functioning as the central hub, it preserves its historical authenticity amid the surrounding streets, adorned with numerous facades and bourgeois architecture. The Main Square’s greatest value lies in the symbiotic relationship between its well-preserved medieval urbanism and adaptable architecture (Fister, 1991). Public space, a venue for cultural exchanges, art, public events, festivals, and celebrations, serves to uphold and express the cultural identity of the community. It stimulates artistic development, providing a space for the enjoyment and expression of creativity.
The Main Square, functioning as a public arrangement, has successfully molded its program content into a “sculpture park” for decades, becoming a vital part of local identity and cultural heritage, contributing significantly to urban aesthetics. The competition project emphasizes the placement of both existing and new sculptures at the intersections of side streets, small squares, and open vistas in the city. These sculptures enhance Slovenj Gradec’s existing “gallery street,” enriching the city’s cultural scene. The proposed “sculpture park” on the Main Square offers a unique opportunity for Slovenj Gradec to showcase the idea of an open society that harmoniously combines art, nature, and the environment.
The design of the open space is grounded in the cultural engagement and economic development of Slovenj Gradec. The proposed solution reinstates homogeneity to its functions. Through pavement patterns and space openings, the space is structured into three squares. The project relies on an urban planning strategy focusing on sustainability, environmental protection, and the improvement of life qualities for residents. The goal is to create environmentally friendly, energy-efficient, green, and healthy cities. Consequently, the new arrangement of the Main Square adheres to fundamental principles: preserving the historical city center of Slovenj Gradec, embracing the “green city” concept that encourages sustainable transportation modes such as walking, cycling, public transport, and electric vehicles. This aims to reduce traffic congestion, pollutant emissions, and noise while promoting residents’ health, incorporating new paving and structural planting.
In the square area, there are currently 38 existing trees, most of which are categorized as unaffected or slightly affected. Eight trees are heavily affected, and we propose their replacement in the same location in the competition solution. An arborist assessment attributes the poor growth to unsuitable soil conditions, such as soil compaction, a small growth area, and salination. These issues can be significantly improved with clever pavement reconstruction.
In the competition solution, we propose a combination of two pavement types, logically extending the arrangement of side streets Cankarjeva and Poštna ulica and Vorančev trg. Both pavements are made from Pohorje tonalite stone, representing two variations of granite cobblestones. Tonalite blocks are used in square and building edge areas. In the tree planting area, the slab formats are parametrically narrowed, while the joints widen at radial distances from the trunk. This creates a favorable impact on hydration and aeration of the root system, relieves the sewage system, and provides improved conditions for tree growth.
The design of urban equipment is planned to be functionally flexible. The key point is that it forms an engaging environment together with trees and sculptures. Benches are placed under the tree canopies, and their height and layout on the ground create various usage configurations, such as sitting, lying down, sitting at a table (outdoor office), etc. The benches form smaller multi-level seating surfaces, resembling stages, exhibition platforms, and similar arrangements.