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Producing Ideas, the Culture as a Device to Identify and Define New Uses for the "Sleeping Giants"

02 May 2017

One of the topic aspect of the process of rehabilitation and reuse of a vacant building is to identify and define new uses considering their one character and identity, and considering how the new project could dialogue with the former use.

Another point of interest, that is consequent to the first one, is the research of methods to bridge costs required to enable the identified uses for these buildings.

The physical and social transformation of the cities is generally considered the result of global economic and political decisions. The result is a worldwide urban homogeneity. In many cases these developments have been imposed on the cities from above, by regulatory plans and projects, bound more to political choices, rather than effectively considering the needs of the city and its inhabitants. What role do the citizens have in this process? What do they think about it? Are the citizens claiming their right to the city? Is it possible to have a common ground where the interests of citizens, institutions and professionals meet? How the creative and scientific sector could help the public institutions in supporting these processes?

The city of Maribor is working in the development of the Integrated Action Plan with the University of Maribor, during the workshop and the idea competition, experts, architects, teachers and students have been working to produce ideas for the KPD, the “sleeping giant” that is the target of the Maribor Integrated Action Plan.

These topics were discussed in Maribor during the Bi-Lateral Meeting that took place in March. The involvement of the creative sector, for example the University, in the case of Maribor is crucial in defining the process and in many case in the support of this kind of intervention with specific infrastructure on the estate.

The KPD a former prison built during the 19th century as a typical five-pointed building. Located on the bank of the Drava River, it was abandoned more than 50 years ago. One of the main point of interest is the relation with the historical centre, the building is really close to the city centre, less than 1 Km, but the fragmentation of the ownership does not allow to identify a use for the complex in future. The central wing is owned by the municipality, both southern wings are owned by different private owners, the western wing is owned by the Development Agency and the eastern wing is owned by municipality and by the Development Agency. Many are the hypothesis of public and private uses are to be considered: public space and creative industries , industrial heritage museum, business incubator, hotel. In the former prison hospital, the only wing that has been renovated, work various cultural associations, but the entire building, that is still in poor condition requires a radical renovation with new contents.


To launch new ideas and visions for the reactivation of the KPD target building, the University of Maribor, Faculty of civil engineering, traffic engineering and architecture in coordination with the ULG of Maribor of the 2nd Chance project, organised within the regular master study programme, Module Sustainable Building, Prof. Metka Sitar and  Ass. Nataša Šprah, a student project under the mentorship of the architect Werner Nussmuller from Graz. At the beginning a preliminary survey of the site was conducted by the responsible lecturers and the invited mentor (site visit, interviews, gathering documents together with the ULG). The students were asked to gather examples of comparable projects from Slovenia and abroad, focusing on the revitalisation of buildings’ architecture and open spaces, and to collect basic information on problems in relation with the renovation of abandoned complexes.

Key of the workshop, as reported in the Maribor Meeting Report, was the joint formulation of ideas for recommended uses of the protected building by the students under the mentorship of Werner Nussmuller, taking into account the perspectives of potential investors, the major, spatial planners, etc. An additional task for the students was to discuss these ideas with a sample of random persons of various profiles in order to obtain the most realistic assessment of the actual requirements for the city. Collectively the most suitable ideas were grouped into three distinct concepts under the leading titles 'Cultural Centre of Maribor’'Market Way' and 'Island Awakening', sharing a common holistic approach for the revitalisation of the degraded building.


Some of the main findings for the redevelopment of the building, besides the potential uses, were:

  • ACCESSIBILITY/ The importance to physically and functionally connect the target building to its surrounding and improve the accessibility;
  • MIXED USES/ To realise a mixture of commercial and cultural uses;
  • NEEDS/ To base the uses on real needs.

Based on the results of this workshop the concepts will be further elaborated and finalised to feed the Integrated Action Plan for the revitalisation of the KPD complex. The final concepts has been  presented during the Third 2nd chance Transnational Meeting in Porto in April, in order to share the methods and results with the Partners of the network.

Another interesting contribution to the Meeting was given by the representatives of the Europe for Citizens’ project  New Ideas For Old Buildings that is a project to improve public property management in towns by increasing real estate occupancy with public participation.

The Final meeting of the project in Maribor was held in December 2016 as an interactive conference: HOW OLDIES CAN BECOME GOLDIES, where the partners -that has been dedicated their efforts to improve public property management in towns which are facing economic and social decline by increasing real estate occupancy with public participation- have shared their solutions for revitalising their towns and enhance the quality of life. To learn more see the video.


Several Good Practices on the Reuse of buildings through cultural activities were presented during the meeting. The TKALKA / Weaver, a former galenical laboratory in the centre of Maribor owned by the Municipality and now rented (low rent) for uses to promote tourism, social entrepreneurship, cooperatives and social innovation development.

Maria Luna Nobile

Communication officer, 2nd Chance Lead Partner Team