An insightful adaptive reuse scheme is underway in Ptuj, Slovenia at the site of a former Dominican monastery. The 800-year-old building has been graciously transformed into a congress and cultural centre while many layers of history within its boundaries havev been preserved. Restoration works will continue now that the public areas of the building have been reopened.
Over the years, this former monastery and church have seen a wide variety of uses from hospital care and social housing to museum exhibitions. This most recent move looks to protect the centuries of past use through considered restorative procedures and return the site to a use close to its original function (monasteries were once used as cultural and scientific centres).
This daunting task was taken on by Ljubljana-based architects ENOTA and while the first stage is now complete, work still continues avidly inside the building’s ancient walls. A basic colour palette of black and white has been used throughout as a subtle reference to the habit of the Dominican Order where white was used to symbolise innocence and black to symbolise modesty.
ENOTA details: “With its splendid and inspiring past, followed by an unfortunate fate after the dissolution of the fraternity, the renovation of the Dominican monastery represents a demanding task of great responsibility. For a successful renovation of a historical building, the key is to keep the building in service and strive for the new programme to showcase its historical value, as well as artistic merit.”
This balance can be clearly seen throughout the new congress and cultural centre where the architects have ensured that users of the modern facilities repeatedly come into close contact with the many-layered history of the building. For example, those using the bold black staircase at the back of the main auditorium space will experience a series of different architectural styles and views.
From the uppermost point the user will be able to enjoy open views of the Baroque nave, now used as a modern event space. The newly discovered details of the mediaeval architecture layer can be seen from the top landing while the landing below offers a view of the floor plan of the forming Gothic building. At the base the user will find themselves immersed in newly uncovered sepulchres, steps and flooring made from Roman gravestones presented in situ.
The cloister acts as the main entrance hall and node for the passages throughout the building, with auxiliary spaces located nearby. The former refectory is now used as a small hall and, as mentioned previously, the central event space is situated in the former nave. All technological interventions including lighting, heating, ventilation and sound have been limited to the floor due to the extensive painted wall surfaces that are currently undergoing detailed restoration.