The proposal ‘Poetic/ Pathetic’ by Ivanisin. Kabashi. Arhitekti from Zagreb, Croatia has won the open international competition for the development of the Mratinje Dam Complex in Montenegro that was launched by the Montenegrin Ministry for Spatial Planning and Environmental Protection. The competition aims to initiate development and economical growth of the Northern Montenegrin regions by promoting the beautiful landscape and establishing landmarks for tourism.
The existing Mratinje power plant was constructed in 1975. Its concrete arch dam is the fifth biggest of its kind in the world. At the time of construction, this was the biggest and technically most demanding construction site in former Yugoslavia. Before the Piva River canyon was flooded, a sixteenth century monastery of great cultural significance had to be moved to a higher position. A little city was built on the shore of the accumulated lake to provide housing for employees of the power plant. Today, the municipality of Pluzine counts some 5,000 inhabitants.
Although not natural by their origin, the accumulation lake and the concrete dam itself offer a spectacular sight which is still rather missing on most tourist itineraries. Further development of the Mratinje area should generate tourist interest for this part of the country. The Mratinje dam and lake are to be established as its central attraction.
In evaluating the competition entries, the jury wanted â€œto encourage the visions that promote symbiosis of the natural and the man-made, environmental protection and technological achievements at the same timeâ€, as Branislav Gregovic, Deputy Minister and member of the competition jury has put it in the national newspapers. The winning project ‘Poetic / Pathetic’ proposes construction in five subsequent phases.
Here’s a detailed project description we received from Ivanisin. Kabashi. Arhitekti:
1. HEROIC LANDSCAPE
â€œPoetic and patheticâ€; this is how an Italian botanist has described the Montenegrin nature some hundred years ago. Mratinje area, where the washed- out gigantic dam has become an integral part of the landscape is the best proof for such a reading, even thou it is hardly â€œnaturalâ€ for at least for the last thirty-five years.
It is certain that the scenery of the Piva river gorge was astonishing also before the dam was erected in the most logical place, where the canyon narrows at most. Big infrastructural interventions usually benefit from the strategic positions they logically occupy. Still, natural and technological elements rarely blend so â€œnaturalâ€ as they do here. With construction of the dam, the narrow gorge and steep cliffs have become only narrower and steeper. Their natural properties have been magnified. Occasionally, when it rains a lot and accumulation level is high, they are additionally adored with aerosol of the impressive waterfall. On the other side of the dam, an impressive liquid platform of the varying level was created, that measures the natural elements, again magnifying their inhuman proportions.
With weathering, the dam has become an integral part of nature; an entirely new and totally artificial â€œnaturalâ€ rarity of Montenegro, perfectly nested in its scarce karst embossment. Properties of this heroic landscape where â€œnaturalâ€ and â€œtechnologicalâ€ elements were united in creation of an extraordinary melancholic beauty are departure point for this project.
The arch of the dam spans between the two steep cliffs of the riverbed. Its two sides feature radically different conditions. On the South- eastern side the vegetation is lush although it is rarely in the sun. North-western side is sunny but the vegetation is rather scarce here, perhaps due to the harsh winds. The gorge in front of the dam is humid and dark, the accumulation lake behind is brightly reflecting the surrounding huge limestone mountains. Its level alters at maximum difference of about eighty metres.
View from the floating platform
2. MAGNIFIERS OF NATURAL AND TECHNOLOGICAL ELEMENTS
Proposed intervention is concentrated on the sunny end of the dam, in front of the concrete reinforcement of the cliff. Conceived in five phases it can work well at any stage of completion. The subsequent phases introduce five houses- devices; magnifiers of â€œnaturalâ€ and â€œtechnologicalâ€ elements of this heroic landscape:
Model lake side high accumulation
PHASE I: PLATEAU
Plateau is an observation deck in the level of the top of the dam, cantilevered on two steel trusses that are anchored in the bare rock. Underneath is the visitor centre with its two sides fully glazed, opening the views to the â€œnaturalâ€ spectacle of the canyon on one side and to the â€œtechnologicalâ€ spectacle of the dam on the other.
Model lake side low accumulation
PHASE II: TOWER- DOWN
Tower- Down protrudes from the cliff about twenty metres down in front of the dam. With its upper part it is attached to the plateau, rising above it for about ten metres. With a system of light terraces cantilevered from the heavy concrete core, it reveals sights of the both sides of the dam.
Model gorge side
PHASE III: TOWER- UP
Tower- Up is placed on the other side, overlooking the accumulation lake. It touches the mountain in highest accumulation level and rises up for about thirty metres until reaching the top of the existing concrete reinforcement of the upright cliff. This tower consists of the heavy concrete core and light cantilevers too. It houses a mountain dormitory oriented to the lake views and a two storey assembly space cantilevered to the opposite side.
PHASE IV: BRIDGE
Bridge is suspended on the two steel trusses that stretch between the two towers. This double height space is fully open to the dam, the lake and the mountains in the back. To the rear side, a dramatic, almost vertical view opens up to the bare cliff with pine trees literally hanging from it and the massive concrete reinforcement planted at its bottom. From this space, the â€œnaturalâ€ and â€œtechnologicalâ€ phenomena may be fully observed from the distance, forming the perfect background for its proposed content. The Nature and Technology History Museum would exhibit artefacts related to the construction of the dam and collections from the wild life of the surrounding area together, emphasizing thus the â€œnaturalâ€ and â€œtechnologicalâ€ character of the site. Its glazed sides are enfolded in metal lattice, to regulate the insulation and for protection of the possible rockslide or avalanche.
PHASE V: FLOATING PLATFORM
Floating platform offers ultimate experience of the â€œnaturalâ€ and the â€œtechnologicalâ€ elements, making the most of the artificial nature of the accumulation lake. At the highest accumulation level, the natural buoyancy keeps the round shaped platform attached to the north- western shore of the lake. As the accumulation level descends, the platform slides down the two hundred metres long inclined truss that works as the access ramp too. At the lowest accumulation level, the platform would eventually endorse the opposite shore. Its upper surface is a dock for small boats. Inside, it contains a perfectly sealed restaurant, always half sunken in the lake. With unbroken view outside it would offer a rare experience of enjoying the meal with eyes exactly in the height of the calm water mirror that changes its level according to natural cycles and technological intervention.
Floating platform interior
Floating platform interior
3. A PROPOSITION TO REFLECT UPON
Presented with this project is a sequence of event- spaces that create their own contexts tightly bound to the phenomena found of the site. With its gradual realisation, the potentials of the site would be not only revealed but also magnified. Basic materials are concrete and steel, suitable to the harsh climate and adaptable to the local labour force. The floating platform, the trusses for the plateau and the bridge and finally the sliding truss of the platform could be completed in the shipyards on the Adriatic coast animating again the domestic economy. However small in scope, the construction process would eventually sophisticate the local building industry.
This proposition was conceived as a catalyst of the tourist industry too. With completion of the separate phases, the tourist capacity of the whole Montenegrin North would parallel grow. The proposed intervention would serve as a departure point for various excursions, from one- day visits to the dam to longer stays related to joys of hiking in the surrounding mountains, rafting in the river, rowing in the lake, gastronomic tours in the nearby villages, hunting and bird- watching in the forests and of a very new sport: spotting of natural and technological beauties.
Magnifiers of natural and technological elements would magnify the local economy too.
Images: Ivanisin. Kabashi. Arhitekti
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