Thursday, 10. 4. 2014

From sugar factory to culture factory

The Kresija Gallery in the centre of Ljubljana is hosting an exhibition titled "Cukrarna, From Sugar Factory to Culture Factory" on 21 May 2014 to present the Cukrarna revitalisation project by the Scapelab architectural bureau.

Only a few buildings share the heritage of the Cukrarna building in Ljubljana. Industrial revolution, wars, fires, earthquakes, the Moderna period and financial endeavours have carved it into a top quality building heritage, extraordinary in form and content. The building has been left to random interventions and persistent decay, and this year is the time for the almost 200-year-old building to take a modern and inspiring turn.

The Cukrarna building revitalisation project from the Scapelab architectural bureau is a chance for the city to have an origin of a city centre expansion, a new cultural space and a future attraction of passers-by and visitors to the capital.

Cukrarna is a building of many layers – its brick walls are literary suffused with stories and events from the span of 200 years. Though its first impression is none of value, it is full of rich content. Considering its heritage it is one of the most important buildings in Ljubljana, which undoubtedly must be renovated and revitalised with appropriate content to become once again a part of the city's active life and pride of the residents.

Majestic History

The sugar factory was built by Rossman&Pelican in 1828 as an answer to the changes in the customs legislation of the Austria-Hungary monarchy, and is one of the first objects to harvest the first waves of industrialisation and globalisation. It was in the Cukrarna building that the first steam engine in the area of Slovenia started functioning in 1835, which classifies the building as the cradle of Slovenian industry.

By alluring additional owners and capital, the factory was acquiring cauldrons, efficiency and space. It was not long before the building expanded for two floors, and a new addition in 1854. What followed were the years of expansions, reconstructions and additions that contributed to the fragmented structure of the building today. At the peak of its activity the sugar factory employed over 200 people and recorded high profit over the decades. The development came to a halt in 1858 due to an accident. Franz Kurz Goldenstein depicts the fire of the building in his "Cukrarna in Flames" painting, which was of such horrible extent to have the melted sugar running into the Ljubljanica River and "the water ran brown and sweet for days". The actual reason to stop the production was in fact the new sugar producing technology from sugar beet developed in France.

The building had several purposes during the years. It was a home to military recruits and the tobacco factory, and after the second fire it was set up as military barracks. Several families found shelter in the building after the 1895 earthquake – one of them was Polonca Kalanova, known as the landlady of Josip Murn. The small room in the abandoned building was a place of home and creativity for the first names of the Slovenian Moderna period – Murn, Kette, Cankar and Župančič. They gathered here, read poetry and created one of their most known bodies of work. After the World War II the building became a sanctuary for people from the edge of society, homeless people, wage labourers and prostitutes.

Complete Revitalisation Project

The building is situated at an important location in the urbanistic plan of Ljubljana beside its historic and cultural proportions. It is situated at the very beginning of the planned city centre expansion; therefore it will be one of the programme’s attractions of the promenade that will start at Špica, via the city's centre and to the Fabiani Bridge. The programming revitalisation of Cukrarna will enable a new programming attractive point, an important cornerstone of the city's centre expansion to East.

Ljubljana copes with the important role of object revitalisation with plan and wisdom. Ljubljana has opened an anonymous public tender for the Cukrarna area solution, which turned out 16 solutions of which the committee selected the Scapelab architectural bureau. The historical building renovation is a first phase of the wide area by the Poljanska Cesta revitalisation. The idea for the Cukrarna revitalisation was prepared in 2013, while in 2014 the construction license was obtained, which made it possible to participate in tenders for European funds.

The Cukrarna building was reconstructed several times through history, sometimes due to accidents, fires and reckless transformations and additions. The overlapping and conflicting interventions demand a complete removal of internal construction. The outside building walling is preserved – the carrier of the industrial spirit, as protected by the Institute for the Protection of Cultural Heritage of Slovenia.

The historical walling has modern spacing for exhibiting cultural production. The space is introduced in a modern and conscious resignation from the existing historical matter of the outside walls. The newly created emptiness holds two programme volumes, floating over the stalls and connecting with bridges and an elevator. The volumes form a clear image of new and modern intervention into the fabric of history from the outside, while the inside space is creating a flexible gallery and event space. The Cukrarna will house a jazz club, a restaurant, a multimedia space, a specialised bookstore and a library. The cellar is predicted for a modern workshop as production support and the south yard is formed as event space with graduated seats under the treetops.

New Opportunity for City of Ljubljana

The revitalisation of the Cukrarna building will provide Ljubljana with exhibition space of large dimensions to host larger exhibitions and events, such as the successful BIO and Ljubljana Biennial of Graphic Arts. The new exhibition space will be a home for gallery activities of other institutions (e.g. Jakopičeva Gallery) so the number of exhibition grounds in Ljubljana will not increase. The Cukrarna building will become an art factory as a tribute to the Slovenian Moderna period – a space of vivacious intertwinement of modern art production of all genres, it will generate a city's development and interest in the tourist offer of the city.

The Cukrarna building revitalisation project is an opportunity for Ljubljana to preserve and interpret its cultural and industrial heritage in a modern way. A roundabout of constant transformation of Cukrarna – a factory, a successful company, a shelter, a Moderna movement space, a poorhouse, a shopping centre never to be – will take a new spin with a transformation to a space for art. Ljubljana will be one step closer to its vision of the expanded city centre and the "cultural" factory metaphorically with the attractive former factory renovation.

Welcome to the Kresija Gallery at Stritarjeva 6 to view an exhibition “Cukrarna, From Sugar Factory to Culture Factory”. Free entrance.