In Podčetrtek in the old days, washerwomen used natural thermal water to do laundry. They began to use water for health purposes at the beginning of the twentieth century. Only in the 1950s, at the instigation of a local parish priest, was the water analyzed, and its healing mineral properties proved. Following the enlargement and deepening of the water wells, the first wooden pool was built in 1966. The first hotel and outdoor bathing area were built ten years later. The tourist resort apartments followed soon after. Today, Podčetrtek is among the most developed municipalities for tourism in Slovenia. In addition to its thermal spas, unspoiled nature, rich cultural heritage, or great gastronomy and wines, the town is increasingly known for its high quality contemporary architecture. Local politicians, hoteliers and private owners have understood that the innovative potential of contemporary architecture can significantly contribute to the improvement of local tourist attractions, market positions of individual tourism businesses, and the integrity of the visual appearance of destination.
The Ortenia Eco Apartments are among the first ecologically built apartments in Slovenia. The private owner of the Ortenia Eco Apartments included his offer in the existing tourist destination. The commitment to contemporary sustainable architecture already required openness and boldness. They use the benefits of sustainability principles in all segments of their operations. A modern high-quality architectural project opens additional opportunities for the destination at all levels of action—in the implementation of the business concept, as a tool for making the brand stronger, as a way to organize the business, to communicate with the public. The project that boasts high quality realization additionally points to the desires and efforts of the architects to create a higher-value project. Speaking from personal experience – having stayed in the apartments, we can confirm that they have succeeded, jointly, and in cooperation with all the contractors.
The core principle, both in planning and construction as well as in current operation, was to take into account the principle of sustainability to the greatest extent possible. The apartments were built from natural, healthy materials. The fully glazed south and north walls of the apartments exploit all the advantages of natural light. Renewable energy sources were used for heating and cooling, thus reducing the use of primary energy, and, consequently, ensuring low cost of operation and maintenance during the predictable life cycle of the building. They also ensure the well-being of users—guests and employees. For its quality architecture and sustainable construction the project has received the most important national award for sustainable construction —Zeleni svinčnik (The Green Pencil) from Chamber of Architecture and Spatial Planning Slovenia in 2014.
The apartments are located on a rather demanding micro location, on a raised southern slope of the town, which offers fascinating views of the hill with a backdrop of the castle and the village settlement. Also, the steep terrain defined the shape and the way of shaping the volume of the entire facility. The north side of the building with the entrance area and parking has two levels; the south side with a garden is on the ground floor level. The lower part of the building is partly dug and constructed in concrete. This part houses the reception, restaurant, fitness center with massage, sauna, staircases, as well as multipurpose and engine rooms. The upper part of the building, projecting north, is constructed of wooden frames with no steel bearing elements. It consists of three separate volumes in broken shapes that articulate the entire complex in a scale of the original rural construction. Thus, the three separate floating volumes seem smaller than they actually are, and, in spite of the geometrical shape of the roofs and walls, combine with the surrounding area. There are two studio apartments in each of the three volumes. Their southern and northern facades are fully glazed. On the south side, the guests can look forward to an intimate garden, while the north side offers a magical view of the castle. These views from the huge windows give the guests the feeling of being in the middle of an untamed garden, or hovering above the village.
In a health resort, the use of natural materials for the building, furniture, textiles and cosmetics is an obvious choice. The insulating material is of cellulose fibers, and the facade cladding of wood. In the interior, clay plaster serves to control the climate of interior spaces, which are thus permeated with the smell of earth. The guests do not perceive the use of renewable energy sources, but these are of key importance for systematically maintaining low costs of use in the facility. Water is sourced from a depth of 80 meters and used to heat both the water in the hotel and the rooms. Next to the house there is the collector of rainwater from the roofs, which is used for flushing the toilets and watering the outdoor areas. The furniture in all the rooms was locally produced in Slovenia from solid, untreated and oiled oak and beech. All the textiles are entirely made of natural materials, and the towels, sheets, and bathrobes are made of organic cotton. The cleaning agents used to clean the hotel rooms, as well as the cosmetics offered to the guests are organically sourced. Though they may seem invisible and unimportant, such details strongly affect a pleasurable experience for hotel guests.
Quality architecture ensures a sense of well-being with a long-lasting effect. It increases the consistent image of the tourist town, and supports its competitive advantage. Attractively designed and furnished, the rooms reflect the comprehensive vision of the project: above all, striving for the satisfaction of all project stakeholders, as well as for the maximum comfort for the guests.
Contemporary architecture in Podčetrtek proves that quality architecture has significant impact on the lives of local residents. Its appearance shapes their living environment, educates, and emphasizes their cultural values. It also impacts the experience of tourists, thus contributing considerably to economic growth and success of this tourist destination.