The reconstruction of the former Riding Stable is an exceptionally complex project of transforming a building from 1903 into a contemporary space for the Land Registry Department of the Municipal-Civil Court in Zagreb. The building is part of the forthcoming Justice Square in Zagreb, and a result of winning design from an urban and architectural competition for the Justice Square location. The project is intended to enclose all of Zagreb's courts in one location: Municipal, Commercial, County, Administrative, and Superior Administrative Court.
The Riding Stable building was originally part of the Austro-Hungarian military complex. Its original floor plan dimensions and proportions had to be reformatted and extended for the new use of the building. The reconstructed building, along with the new extension, is positioned in the south part of the forthcoming Justice Square complex. Similar to other protected structures within the former military barracks complex, it is surrounded with greenery, enriching the working environment and forming an extension of the public park.
The rational structure of the former Riding Stable was built in two significant components: a large riding hall and a smaller entrance volume. During the reconstruction, the emphasis was placed on preserving this composition, while keeping the specific format of the building with the new annex. The reconstructed sturdy red building gains its counterpart in the light, open, and transparent steel- glass structure.
The volume of the former entrance volume becomes a house within the house. The new transparent steel-glass extension creates a contrast to the existing red building and preserves and showcases its characteristic composition and typological uniqueness. One of the main aims of the project was also to maintain the relationship and specific dialogue between the buildings of a Riding Stable with its larger edition - located across the street, which had been previously transformed into the gallery space. Together, these two historic buildings constitute an important part of Zagreb's architectural heritage.
The entrance hall at the junction of the Riding Stable and the new annex functions like a covered outdoor space, with entrances from the south and north forming a passage between the busy street and the forthcoming Justice Square. This conceptual approach interprets the entrance space not just as an entry into the building but as an urban passage, while the transparent design of the annex anticipates the institution's openness to the city and its citizens.
The project successfully maintains a delicate balance between a robust old structures and careful insertion of the new one, both in terms of programmatic and constructional aspects, as well as in the selection and design of used materials. The layout of the Riding Stable influenced the concept of the primary spatial disposition, establishing a rhythm of programmatic strips combined with voids to provide natural lighting to all workspaces. Inserted strips follow the structural grid of the old building and create a spatial and structural rhythm for the new extension. The composition of the ‘full’ - ‘empty’ rhythm, in combination with the transparent extension, contribute to spatial transparency and aforementioned openness.
The programmatic requirements for the new part of the Municipal Civil Court building included a large number of workspaces with specific access control and usage regimes. The level of accessibility varies from fully controlled archive rooms, exclusive workspaces for staff, courtrooms with limited access for citizens to service counters with the highest level of citizen access.
The light plays the crucial element in the organization of the workspaces. The existing brick walls of the old building are reflected in the glazed brick of the service cubes or in the translucent membranes of the courtrooms, which are bordered by glass bricks. The introduction of transparent materials, glass partitions, and glass brick walls ensures natural lighting and spatial transparency.
The roof of the Small Riding Stable is supported by wrought iron beams that have been retained and restored. These beams find their counterpart in the form of steel frames on top of the new annex. They do not only support the roof and the facade of the building but also carry the second floor of the structure. In synergy and symbiosis with the existing form and program, the structure is an equally significant architectural element that, forms a new object.
The reconstruction of the Riding Stable and its new annex into the Land Registry Department of the Municipal - Civil Court represents a significant and first transformation of the future Justice Square. Simultaneously, it marks the beginning of ambitious plans for the revitalization of that part of the city and the improvement of public amenities and services for citizens. The Riding Stable project demonstrates how careful planning, the preservation of cultural heritage coupled with contemporary architecture and design can transform urban infrastructure and enrich the cultural context of the city.