Coordinates of Community

project Zorka Sever Elementary School, Popovača, Croatia
authors Mia Roth Čerina, Tonči Čerina
architectural office XYZ ARHITEKTURA, ROTH & ČERINA


Rare are the opportunities to intervene in a completely intact environment — in a context without a strong focus — as in the example of the school in Popovača, situated on an empty field in the peripheral zone of this small town. At the time of the announcement of the public architectural competition in 2007, Popovača had the highest birth rate in Croatia; it was the youngest town where some of the children were being transported to nearby schools by buses. In addition to the elementary school for five hundred pupils, a hall is attached to the school, and, because it exceeds the needs of the school, also to the town, which sees in it the possibility of accommodating activities for numerous Popovača associations, and is introduced to the role of investor in addition to the county. 


The site envisaged for its construction is on the junction of the lowland north of Lonjsko Polje and Moslavina hills. Although not far from the centre of the small town, the environment of the future school was lacking focus. The scale of immediate surroundings is set up by family houses and agricultural land. How to design a community here, or rather, how to incorporate an ensemble with a size completely out of scale into this delicate situation; an ensemble that, at the same time, has the capacity to redefine, establish the community and incorporate a pulse into it? A new ensemble of a complex programme establishes a coordinate system which the future everyday life will refer to. The large, potentially autarkic ensemble is here much more than social infrastructure, it becomes a point of identification and the origin of a new neighbourhood. The school disposition defines this origin in both the internal organization and the quadrants of new public space. The main axes are at the same time the gathering places at the entrance to the school and the hall, articulated and united by the hypertrophied porch. A pedestrian path to the sports part of the plot in the north makes it possible to use the playground in extracurricular time as well, and it is also the connection to the planned recreational zone that stretches along a regulated stream.