PMF, Faculty of Science, Zagreb: The Hall of the Faculty of Science – Nature as an Illusion and as the Object of Study.

competition: 2014
with Sadar+Vuga Architects

The atrium is the central space of the new building of the Departments of Biology, Geography and Geology of the Faculty of Science, University of Zagreb. The design of the atrium works on two levels. On the representational level it is Nature in an urban setting, creating the experiential qualities in the line of Portman’s inner plazas. It does so in terms of added ambient value: as an illusion of nature it acts beneficially in psychological terms; in addition, it de facto humanizes the atrium: it improves interior climatic conditions by the use of water and plants, hence its physiological benefit. At the same time, organised as circular »islands of nature« which articulate the rectangular atrium into a series of unfolding spaces it works on the educational level: by illustrating some selected representative types of plant associations and some aspects of the water cycle it uncovers nature – the object of study and scientific research – as a system.

The biotope bearing beds represent six types of plant communities with respected soil and bedrock conditions including micro fauna, designed as landscape types, as micro landscapes. In terms of educational process they are useful as models, as representations of the set of stages of natural succession from lichens and mosses on rock over a dry meadow, a swamp and bush to the pioneer forest and a multi-layered stand as the climax. Understanding their structure, function and narrative demands an intersection of geological and botanical knowledge as well as the knowledge about soil and the shaping of the land surface. In this view the atrium as well is the material to study.