Between ecology and spectacle

architectural office ENOTA
project Family Wellness Termalija, Podčetrtek, Slovenia
written by Maroje Mrduljaš

 
The area comprising Styria in Slovenia and Zagorje in Croatia is a picturesque region with hills and valleys, which characterize its dynamic topography. Ever since the Antique period, the region has continually been urbanized through small towns, boroughs, monasteries and baths spread along the winding roads. A network of baths is what today makes one of the cornerstones of the regional economic development, as well as the urban and cultural identity of the region. Most of these new buildings were rather generic. However, Enota's interventions in the thermal spa complex of Terme Olimja in Podčetrtek, and to some degree the works of Croatian architects Mikelić and Vreš in the near-by Terme Tuhelj spa, made the region of Styria and Zagorje emerge as places of radical architectural research. Perhaps the act of moving away from urban centres, and the specificity of the bath, helped emancipation towards new spatial concepts, which Enota developed due to the ability to reconcile a sensitive approach to the context, or a certain architectural ecology, with an inevitable input to create a spatial spectacle required by the contemporary tourism and leisure industry. 
 
Enota faced a complex challenge in Podčetrtek where the existing architecture was relatively discouraging. The original thermal spa and hospitality complex had been comprised of rather uninteresting facilities, with no articulated relationship with the context and the landscape. In a sequence of separate commissions, in which Enota added to their previous projects of working without an initial master plan, the requirements did not change, but rather grew in scope: more density and more spectacle.