14.12.2021. / news / university and community

A former industrial complex, known among the locals as Benčić, is slowly becoming Rijeka’s own “art district”. Going back to the eighteenth century, the complex was the site of a sugar refinery, repurposed first into a tobacco processing plant, and then again into an engine factory, Rikard Benčić, finally closing its doors only in 1995. What was known as H-Building from the tobacco-producing days is now home to the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art; the administrative spaces of the erstwhile sugar refinery have become the City Museum of Rijeka, now housing its brand-new permanent collection; and the so-called T-Structure from tobacco time will shortly be the Rijeka City Library. A fourth object within the Benčić complex, formerly known as the Brick House, was opened to the public in March 2021 as the Children’s House. Designed by a local architect, Saša Randić, it is the first of its kind in Croatia: a gorgeously decorated, joyous space that fosters creativity, explicitly constructed for children. 

Anticipating large visits of the youngest residents not only of the city, but the whole region, has provided inspiration for yet another interesting spatial installation in Benčić. The international project, “Sense of Play” is a cooperative project of DeltaLab – Centre for Urban Transition, Architecture and Urbanism of the University of Rijeka, with the Norwegian architecture and design studio Snøhetta, and Design and Architecture Norway – DOGA, with the support of the City of Rijeka. The project envisions an art installation for children that applies the principles of inclusive design and is thematically dedicated to play and exuberant creativity, entitled “Sense of Balance.”

The installation was designed by the architectural studio Snøhetta, drawing on cultural and field research of two creative workshops that included local cooperative organizations, Association of Architects Rijeka, Rijeka City Library, the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, and Art-kino Croatia. Snøhetta is an international studio for architectural design, landscape architecture, interior and brand design, headquartered in Oslo, with studios in New York, San Francisco, Innsbruck, Paris, Hong Kong, and Adelaide. In its 30 years of existence, Snøhetta has designed prominent public and cultural objects, such as the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet in Oslo, a new library in Alexandria, Egypt, the first underwater restaurant in Europe, even Norwegian monetary bills. “Sense of Balance” will be Snøhetta’s first project in Croatia. 

Speaking of the project, Arrate Arizaga, the spokesperson for Snøhetta said:

“Sense of Balance is an installation inspired by a child’s drawing, colorful and abstract. Snøhetta is very fond of collaborating with DeltaLab and DOGA to create this engaging piece. A free and intricated piece that refers to Rijeka’s rich history as a cultural melting pot and invites everyone to imagine their own interpretation.”

Although envisioned to be part of Rijeka 2020 – European Capital of Culture, the realization of the project had to be postponed to early 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Based on the knowledge and experience exchange between Croatian and Norwegian partners and cooperating institutions, the general design of the project was presented in September of 2021. The installation by Snøhetta is set to be placed in Benčić Park, next to the new Rijeka City Library building, both of which were designed, along with the Children’s House, by architect Saša Randić. The official opening is expected to take place in late April 2022 and be accompanied by a public and educational program organized by DeltaLab. 

The “Sense of play” project, valued at 150,000 Euros, is funded by is funded by Iceland,

Liechtenstein and Norway through the EEA grants and Norway Grants, and is supervised by the Ministry for Regional Development and European Union Funds of the Republic of Croatia.

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