Istrian Cultural Center Izola

Izola (SI), 2022



To boost the new cultural quarter of the Slovenian city Izola, our proposed design for the Istrian Cultural Centre is guided by the concept of connection. Carefully positioned in the urban and natural fabric of the harbor city, the building connects the city with the seaside, bridges the gap between the historic center in the north and the newly developed tourist areas in the south, and links practitioners and visitors of various art forms. We designed the beating heart of Izola’s cultural quarter featuring a wide variety of spaces, from a small café and a book shop to exhibition spaces and a full-scale theatre hall.

A cultural axis
At the heart of the design Istrian Cultural Centre is a spacious and light foyer, a ‘cultural axis’ that runs through the building, reinforcing the visual and physical connection between the sea and the city. Along this shared, dynamic axis, three ‘boxes’ allow for plays, concerts, performances, exhibitions, and movie screenings. The boxes, that almost seem to float, are positioned on separate levels to provide them with their own foyer so they can also function independently.
In addition, the ground floor is activated with public spaces such as a café with a bookshop on the city side and a restaurant orientated towards the sea. The permeability of the transparent façade seamlessly connects the inside with the outside. The open-air theatre on the plaza continues the succession of the cultural programs along the cultural axis.

Transparency and connection
Due to its multi-story foyer and transparent facades, the cultural activities are put on display to the communities of Izola, creating a feeling of inclusivity and bonding within the community. Several important historical landmarks of the town are represented in the design of the building. The subdued materiality of the façade is reminiscent of a Roman villa. The perforated skin of the building and light curtains form an ode to the fishing tradition of the city and the soul of the old city center is reflected through playful use of color and space.

The perforated facades allow for most of the building to be naturally shaded from the strong Mediterranean sun in addition to preventing sun glare during daytime activities. The theatre tower is clad with solar panels, the carefully positioned skylights take care of the dispersed lighting in the core of the building. The division of the cultural spaces emphasizes the rhythm of the immediate context of the surroundings. With the green background, its proximity to the Adriatic Sea and the colorful city center of Izola, the Cultural Center intensifies the city fabric.

About Izola
Izola is one of the three harbor-cities of Slovenia. Situated on the Adriatic coast of the Istrian peninsula, the city has a close connection to the sea. This is reflected in its rich tradition in fishing and large marina. The old town center has a Venetian charm with its slim streets and colorful architecture. All these factors are entangled within both the interior and exterior design of the Istrian Cultural Center Izola, making it a subtle bridge between the old and new parts of the town.

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Name: Istrian Cultural Center Izola
Location: Izola, Slovenia
Program: Full-scale theatre, two performance areas, open-air theatre, restaurant, bookshop, café. Competition design.
Surface area: 9000m2
Period: 2022
Status: Performed
Client: Municipality of Izola


VenhoevenCS: Manfred Wansink, Mateja Pipan, Timothée Pignoux, Quentin Roquelaure, Anna Hering, Maria Ángeles Reinares San Martín
Partner architect:Petra Ostanek
Landscape architect:Matej Kučina
Other:Valerija Skok (fire safety), Marion Cornelissen & Reyer Meeter, ITA (stage technique and acoustics)
Images: Mitja Usenik (renders)