This is the winning entry of an architectural competition, an affordable housing project in Rijeka, Croatia measuring at 7,161 square meter project by Zoka Zola Architecture + Urban Design and Projektura d.o.o. The city asked for an urban design solution in order to place 80 condominiums in 3 – 5 buildings, with each building having its own newly formed lot, and the local area would include a playground, park areas, fire lanes, and 120 parking spaces.
The topography of the site is fairly unusual, as the architectural firm describes it as being similar to “scrambled papers.” The site is 15’ over 15’ of dip in one direction, and has a 10’ over 20’ rise in another direction and so forth. On the site’s highest elevation, there exists a small circular wetland, as the whole site was once a habitat for a dense forest with varied species. The main focus of the project was articulating the “edge of the city,” meaning where the man-made human habitat meets the natural environment of the forest. Each of the buildings are placed perpendicular to this edge, enabling the newly created urban environment and the forest to “merge” into a new type of environment.
In order to maintain as much of the site’s existing qualities as possible, the buildings follow topographic contours at the same elevation as the two neighboring roads. The selected topographical contours were later mathematically interpolated into three-segment poly-lines that would form a building shape with two “bends” and three variable lengths segments. These variable segments allow for the possibility for the flexible programming of varied apartment sizes that allow those same “bends” to become vertical circulation spaces. This design decision allowed the ratio of floor area to perimeter to increased, which resulted in well-lit apartments with through-views and three-sided views. Plus, each condominium unit has a view of the city and the forest, and most of the units also have a view of the nearby Adriatic Sea.
The apartment buildings are elevated from the ground by empty ground levels, resulting in making the whole site and its surroundings usable and perceivable, and also avoids subterranean condominium units. The spaces between and underneath the buildings allow interplay between the site’s topography and the building’s configuration and makes those spaces varied and rich. This also allows people to use the entire site, regardless of where they live. People can walk underneath and between the buildings and across the site, meet others along the many pathways, underneath the buildings at the edge of the forest, or on the large play area in the center – which is the site’s highest elevation point that has the strongest connection to the site’s more broad surroundings.