The Zagrebacki Salon Exhibition is an exposition of contemporary art, which takes place each year since 1965 in Zagreb, the capital of Croatia.
In the 41st edition, in 2006, it was the first time that they did the exposition in a public space, in order to bring the projects to a wider public. For that reason, the even was held in Ban Jelacic Square, the main plaza in the city, instead of the Plaster Casts Museum. In that year, the protagonist of the event was the Croatian architecture.
The main interest of this choice is the public space as a communication tool, one of the potential of our roundabout.
Zagreb is the capital and the largest city of the Republic of Croatia. It is located in the northwest of the country, along the Sava River.
Ban Jelacic Square is located below Zagreb’s old city. It dates from the seventeenth century and is the central plaza of the Croatian capital. The place is dominated by the equestrian statue in honour of Count Josip Jelacic, considered one of the most important figures in the history of the country.
It has approximately 14,000 m2 (200×70) mostly pedestrian, only one of the longitudinal laterals has been used for the passage of trams. It was conditioned at the end of XIX century. That period was the beginning of a great stage in the development of Zagreb. The irregular medieval route changed into squares, avenues and boulevards, in the same way that happened in other European cities at the same time.
The square is framed by very heterogeneous architectural examples from Viennese secessionism to modern architecture. It is a good place to appreciate the development of Croatian architecture over the centuries.
Ban Jelacic Square has a strategic location, is the heart of Zagreb. (It’s the first result that appears in Google images when you search “Zagreb”). We do not work on the same scale, but our location is also a reference point for the Garbinet neighbourhood (It’s the first result that appears in Google images when you search “Garbinet Alicante”).
2 SOCIO – CULTURAL CONTEXT
Croatian art and architecture are largely conditioned by the restrictions imposed by past dictatorships. Its artistic stages correspond to the different invasions of the country.
It was not until modern times when it began to appear artistic theories defending the need of identity. Even so, the most popular style was the Viennese Art Nouveau. For this reason the Croatian art and architecture have been unknown for many years for its citizens.
The Zagrebacki Salon was an initiative of Croatian association of artists. Each year the association proposed a topic, and the most important Croatian artists did an exhibition about it. Until 2006 the exhibition always was placed in Plaster Casts Museum. In the 41st edition they thought that it was better to do the exposition in a public space in order to approach this culture to the citizens.
Nowadays its architectural scene is considered one of the best in Europe, after Holland, Switzerland and Slovenia. The “41st Zagrebacki Salon” was the reflection of the contemporary Croatian architecture.
3 PERVIOUS STATE controversies
The main controversy was the lack of knowledge about the Croatian architecture in the culture of the country. If the architecture and the urbanism are public works the citizens have to take part in the review of the process. This controversy corresponds with the cultural need just explained.
The main use of the square is the commercial activity. This situation also created controversy. We can see how that influences the landscape. There are big advertising banners covering the scaffolding of the buildings in renovation.
The event is organized each year by the city council and sponsored by the Ministry of Culture.
In 2006, the Croatian architecture was the protagonist. During that edition the Croatian Architects Association (CAA) and the Society of Architects of the City of Zagreb worked as a co-operators. They convoked a national architecture competition under the heading of “The Quest for Ethic”.
The main participants were the pedestrians of the Square, the special audience that occasion.
The fundamental agents involved in the project are:
-Pedestrians in the square to which the project addresses.
-City Council as organizer of the annual exhibition of contemporary art.
-Ministry of Culture as sponsors.
-Croatian Architects’ Association (CAA) and Society of Architects of the City of Zagreb who collaborated in that edition.
-National’s architects participating in the competition “The Quest for Ethic”
-Darko Fritz and Radionica arhitekture Ltd (Goran Rako, Nenad Ravnic, Josip Sabolic) –authors of the exhibition.
“41ST ZAGREBACKI SALON”
The designers were the advertising artist Darko Fritz and arhitekture Radionics Ltd, a group of architects formed by Goran Rako , Nenad Ravnic , and Josip Sabolic.
The temporary exhibition presented to pedestrians, one hundred and twenty architectural works and projects. The best results of the “The Quest for Ethic”
They were printed on waterproof sailcloth and displayed on galvanized steel scaffolding.
The structure was disposed to draw in the ground plane a large number “41” of more that thirty meters long and twenty wide. In the right part of the scaffolding was sketch over the paving of the square the capitals “Z” and “S”, they were outlined in adhesive tape while the inside part was coloured with chalk. As a whole the two figures showed a “41.ZS” alluded to the 41st Zagrebacki Salon.
The exhibition was placed for a month and then dismounted.
First of all, related to the pedagogical function. If the message is destined to a broad public the communication way should be simple using texts, photographs, sketches and virtual images. That’s what they do, avoiding systems of representation that were too complex or specialized.
The economical and easily demountable structure had six meters high in order to allow people to move around the exposition, so it did not obstruct the normal traffic in the square and also the ground level section was visually released. We have to remind that the place is the centre of Zagreb, so the pedestrian traffic is very intensive.
The project was inserted in dialogue with the square. The material used is very accurate, it used the same structure that the publicities panels. Moreover the statue becomes the apostrophe that separates the two parts of the acronym, in the new composition of space.
Due to their scale, the figures could not be read from the pedestrian’s viewpoint and were only perceptible from a bird’s-eye view or the upper floors of the buildings surrounding the square. For this reason, they developed a virtual image in an aerial view. This picture was hanging over the cubic scaffold, which represents the point that separates the numbers of the letters. Furthermore, the day they opened the exhibition, an aerial photograph of the square was distributed in the digital media and was reproduced on banners around the city. With that fact they created an icon for the exhibition.
The “41st Zagrebacki Salon” had an excellent reception. For one month the exhibition made possible for the public space to become a public forum for discussion about the actual architecture.
I think this is an exemplary case of how to use a public space. The didactic use in a place where everyone has access provides an opportunity for many people to reflect issues that are often excluded to specialists. Is the best way to bring information to the communities.
Also the communication way, how the artists make a turn, in which the continent take place of the content. While the exposed architecture is restricted to two-dimensional representation, the exhibition structure acquires the relief and scale of an object built that is inserted into the urban landscape. They transmitted a message that alluded to the acronym of the exhibition “41.ZS” generating their identity.
Definitely, I believe that the project answer to the roundabouts opportunities using them as the point of a maximum visibility where we can do a “wake up call” for the city with its own identity as a neighbourhood. While we transform the roundabout, we transform the heart of the area in our own showcase.