The Concept of Architecture

The Story of Attitude to Nature

Miha Dobrin, u.d.i.a., M. Phil. (AA) (Arhitekti Dobrin, d.o.o., Ljubljana)

The concept of architecture tells a story of its placement in the natural environment through the prism of attitude towards nature as well as approach, delineation and standstill at the point of constant motion. Hotel Mons – Hotel and Congress Centre Ljubljana is a facility of a diverse plan-view and cross-section, easiest to imagine as a palm with outstrached fingers, slipped into the natural environment. This way, maintained to their greatest extent are as contact with nature as well as the highest quality components at the location. (To maintain the two existing beech trees between the two wings of hotel rooms the entire facility was rotated and moved relative to baseline after the mark out.)

The outstretched fingers present separate functional complexes and construction phases of the Brdo area, whereas the palm presents core or heart of the project. The first phase of construction comprises congress and restaurant complexes in one and the hotel complex in another two lamellae, whereas a possible adding of programmes in the second phase of construction is indicated by the parking lamella on the upper level (index and middle finger).

The Story of Two Volumes Stacked One above the Other

The concept of two volumes stacked one above the other derives from and is subordinated to the starting concept – the attitude to nature. The volume of the public, mass and noisy programme (congress centre and self-service restaurant in the function of the motorway rest area) is positioned on the motorway, whereas the volume with the individual, cellular, quiet programme (hotel part) is stacked on it and oriented towards the forest. The difference between the programmes and volumes orientation are tempered in the facade materials. Fully glazed facade of the first volume on the side of the motorway, addressing the passers-by with its interior events in an almost exhibitionist or advertising way is opposed by the quiet facade, clad with max plates, hiding with the mimicry of tree trunks from the noisy interference in nature in the location's immediate vicinity (motorway, Lesnina emporium, connecting road). The starting point of the second volume facade uptakes the idea of a 'lochfassade', with the windows as holes in the facade envelope, presenting within the cellular system of hotel rooms, changing canvases of nature. The deviation from the system is presented by the public spaces of this volume, where the larger openings ensure experience of nature on the big screen (A la carte Restaurant, hotel corridors). The diversity of the otherwise simple volume is provided by the alternation of two window formats and algorithmic facade pattern in chlorophyll tones.

The Story of Adjustment to the Terrain's Complex Geometry

The architectural design takes advantage of the terrain's complex geometry. Owing to the 2B+GF+2F floor planning, this structure has three ground floors – the B2 level, facing the motorway, the B1 level, facing the forest and the service part, including the reception and convention centre on the GF level, meaning that it is actually a 3GF+2F structure.

A Story of Light (see also The Lighting Concept)

The story of breakthroughs and caught, framed views with the natural scenic background on the one side and penetration of daylight on the other, the story of the zenith light pouring into the core of the hotel, thus making it alive and constantly changing during the day…

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  • Hall2
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The Story of Semper's 'Stoffwechseltheorie'

The homage to this theory is placed in the hotel's reception area, where opposed to each other stand two equal pieces, clad in different skins. The reception in the melting structured veneer and the hotel bar in the cold of glass and metal, whereas both pieces are connected by a band of colour-inverted pavement pattern.

The Story of Colour Contrasts, the Story of Light and Heavy

The hotel is full of small »stories« - basic colours on the floors, mimetic colours on the facade, the doubling of colours from the glass facade on the inner wall of the conference room, colour confusions and contrasts, inversion of colour patterns, experimenting with materials and details …

The Story of the Eternal Movement

At the juncture, crossroads and changing spaces the movement is omnipresent and thus embodied in the sculpture by Karl Schlaminger 'The Eternal Pendulum' ('when there is no movement, there is death' — K. Schlamminger). The spaces of movement are illuminated with linear lamps. The deviation from the concept was accepted only in the places, where the givenness of the space did not allow the conceived placement of architectural elements and where the consistent execution of the concept of illumination would draw attention to this fact (for example non-linear placement of glass jetty in the convention centre foyer), or where the consistent implementation was not possible due to the limitations of space.

The selection of lamps was led by both the compliance of their forms with architecture in general and the refinement itself in the sense of adjustment to individual spaces or programmes finesses and/or nuances.

Among the facilities bathed in light is also the main hotel core, doused in indirect light in all the three public floors, presenting at the same time an analogy of the hotel atrium, doused in zenith daylight.

Public or meeting spaces are illuminated by two types of general lighting. Due to the height (5 m), intention of »unobvious presence« of the light source and possibility of light and colour adjustment halogen lights with extremely small outlets (Erco Doppelfokus) were used in one part of the meeting spaces and the downlighters with saving light bulbs in the other. The nuance between the public meeting spaces and the more intimate ones (in the space between the two hotel wings) is accentuated in the latter by the placement of soft round passage ceiling spotlights (Victoria Krypton). The markedly elongated profile of linear lights for corridors, both in- and outdoor, was used due to their compliance with architecture and synergistic effects of installing – transversal lighting enabled as virtual shortening of the long corridors as well as maximum utilisation of the light cone shape of the lamp itself. The placement of the same lights elsewhere (for example the regular lights from the corridor leading to the A la carte Restaurant, situated in the ground floor), enabled a better transition/or integration between the two programmes. General lighting in the hotel corridors is supplemented by halogen lamps, accentuating the colour shading in front of the entrances to hotel rooms, raising the required level of harsh shadows and shifting the lights' colour into a warmer part of the spectrum, thus announcing the privacy in a hotel room.

The »Story« in its Entirety

In Hotel Mons – Hotel and Congress Centre there is a total of 114 double rooms, furnished and equipped at the level of a four-star hotel, A la carte Restaurant with 82 seats, in which breakfasts are served as well, spaces for recreation (fitness, sauna and billiards), Congress Centre and a Self-Service Restaurant (marketplace) with 300 seats.

Dimensions

The plan-view dimension of the congress and restaurant complex is 52x20m and that of the hotel complex – 105x16/24m. In its 2B+GF+2F vertical dimension the structure consists of three ground floors, located at the B2 level, facing the motorway, B1 level, facing the forest, including the reception and convention centre on the GF level, meaning that it is actually a 3GF+2F structure. The GF and B1 floor height is 4,25m, and all the remaining heights are 3,20m.

Noise Protection

Due to the proximity of motorway and a high level of noise, measured at the foreseen facade plane (73dB) the baseline requirement for a high quality sound damping was addressed to with functional design and technical implementation of the facade and windows, as well as an appropriate choice of glazing (sound damping 44dB). Therefore, the nosiest hotel programme (Self-Service Restaurant) is located closer to the motorway, whereas the most distant programmes are hotel rooms. The tract along the motorway creates the noise barrier behind the access piazzetta in front of the hotel's main entrance.

Construction

Features and spatial location acts dictated an extensive intervention in the terrain. More than 60.000 cubic metres of soil had to be cart away and around 5.000 cubic metres of grey clay replaced with gravel in order to improve the terrain's capacity. Due to high costs the originally planned deep foundation by means of piles (Ljubljana Marches!) was changed into a shallow foundation with floor plate and foundation beams on the 60 to 80Em thick buffer gravel dam. Due to its size, different weights and construction optimisation the structure was divided into four construction systems. Prevailing in this structure is the reinforced concrete wall construction in the grid of 8.0m with concrete wrapper and solid roof panel, with the deviations in the congress and restaurant complexes, dominated by pier construction and steel roof construction in the 'lighter' part of the building. Both site organisation and construction were progressing quite successfully, despite the complex terrain geometry, project diversity and requirement for maximum preservation of the existing trees. The facility was completed - beginning from the terrain preparation all over to the access road execution – in seven months (May-November 2003). The structure finalisation and outfitting took another eight months (January-August 2004).

Miha Dobrin, u.d.i.a., M. Phil./(AA)