Central Square International Design Competition

Type: Civic | Landscape | Archaeological
Location: Central Square, Plovdiv
Year: 2014
Collaboration: dn:A (design) + I-Wen Kuo (design)
Links: Plovdiv Square International Design Competition


In the centre of Plovdiv lies a landscape more often found at a city’s edge than at its core. It is a residual landscape; an island or artifact of ‘terrain vague’ within the surrounding urban fabric. It is layered yet ambiguous, activated yet disconnected, built yet erased. Its edges, once fixed, now flow.

From a historical perspective, the notion of ‘terrain vague’ may constitute an archetypal reading of landscape as a cultural - and ultimately physical - construct. Such is apparent in Giorgione’s La Tempetsa (c. 1508); a painting widely regarded as one of the first major landscape works in the western cannon.

Here two curious figures meet at what could be described as a residual palimpsest on the edge of the city, where the presence of ruins indicates a territory long since abandoned. Despite this shift of the city and its civic programs, the remaining urban void is nonetheless imbued with unusual occasion, as witnessed in the meeting of the two figures.
Might this representation of landscape allude to the potential for unique situations and interactions beyond the purely civic realm? If so, then what methodology might be derived from a detailed reading of the painting and how may this reading direct a project for Plovdiv’s centre?

Infrastructural Program/Programmatic Infrastructure as Project

This project draws upon a set of meta-themes and their associated subtexts derived from Giorgione’s archetypal landscape. These thematic extractions are then linked with planning devices in order to determine the layered intervention over the site. These interventions are as follows:

01 Field System- Territorial Survey

A blanket field system is used to define and mark the limits of territory within ‘terrain vague’. The prescribed site boundaries are expanded to incorporate the Tsar Simeonova Gradina and surrounding syenite hills.

02 Organised Nature- Scenography

The formalised landscape of the Tsar Simeonova Gradinia and the doric wilderness of the syenite hills converge to form a soft frame for the site. Natural elements are reorganised and rescaled to create an archetypal backdrop of idealised wilderness.

03 Mnemonic Confetti- Built Ruins and Artefacts

A series of amenities are distributed throughout the field system promoting providing liminal gathering and event. Pavilions and built artefacts balance the existing archeology and serve to rescale and divide the site into its various functions.

04 Atypical Event- Infrastructural Program/Programmatic Infrastructure

An infrastructural cross-spine is introduced along the Eastern and Southern axis of the Roman forum in the form of a raised pedestrian connection over the surrounding traffic. A series of galleries, exhibition spaces and amenities are housed at strategic points along the walkway in order to curate the layers of the site and its surrounds.