2.d.4. – Neighbourhood BS 3

Case Study

  • figures among the best high-density projects in Slovenia.
  • urban plan_ Mitja Jernejec
  • architecture_ Ilija Arnautović (1924 – 2009)
  • duration of the project from 1971 to 1981
  • approximately 10.000 inhabitants

        Urban plan of the neighbourhood BS3 was designed by Mitja Jernejec as a complex, hyper-urban structure, in cooperation with architect Ilija Arnautović. Urbanism and architecture in the neighbourhood are inextricably linked, which is reflected in the arrangement of the external spaces, various types of residential buildings, and the design of the transport network.

Urban design:

BS 3: Originally planned two-story underground garages were not realised, and now the lack of parking places represents a serious problem for the residents of the neighbourhood.

        The urban design of neighbourhood BS3 was conceived on the elongated land, dimensions of 800 times 250m, as a longitudinal arrangement of 4-stories housing blocks, with a north – south orientation, while the orientation of the flats is east or west.

        The major part of the neighbourhood BS 3 represents an area of low 4 storey blocks of flats. The area is divided into four parallel lines of articulated buildings that are three times interrupted by large green spaces. Among the lines of objects there are open public spaces, organized as a streets with the views directed towards the mountains (Kamniške Alpe), where playgrounds and areas for recreation are situated, and two parks, planted with large trees and crisscrossed with walking paths. The main access routes run transversely to the basic lines of urban design.

        Two groups of residential skyscrapers with steep white roofs, which are reminiscent of the snowy peaks of the mountains in the background, an identification point of the district, were positioned along the main street. They became an icon of Ljubljana’s skyline shortly after they were built.

        A great attention was devoted to the creation of diverse outdoor ambiences. They were designed with the structuring of buildings and open spaces, and with classical elements of urban space, such as streets, footpaths, squares, parks and playgrounds, which were transformed in a modern way. The neighbourhood BS3 was the first example of the housing estate that did not provide just one central public space, but many smaller ambients with different characters.   

        There are post office in the settlement, two banks, two  food stores, pharmacy, florist, library, several smaller bars, some hairdressing salons, a bakery, three units of the kindergarten Ciciban and Milan Šuštaršič elementary school.


        Lines of blocks of flats are structured in a horizontal direction with shifts in the floor plan, which create a more varied structure of the open public space.

        The structuring of the buildings in the vertical direction is carried out with the height shifts of some units and with open staircases between the pairs of buildings. Staircases connect two neighbouring units in the horizontal direction, while they are linked to the footpaths through the complex in the transverse direction. The steel structure of the open stairs is designed as a separate structural link between the two individual blocks and it is the most recognizable element of the neighbourhood.

        Architect Arnautović paid much attention to the creating of the ground floor apartments. In these flats the idea of an individual house with its own garden was developed. Transverse to the main building, pavilions with gardens are added to the apartments on the ground floor, which are slightly elevated above the terrain. They have open floor plans, which the users are able to arrange according to their needs. Generally, living rooms with kitchens and dining rooms are arranged in the pavilions, while sleeping areas and bathrooms were positioned inside the main house. Pavilions, with fully glazed facades towards the garden, were extended deep into the public park between the buildings.

        Also the layouts of other apartments were innovative for the time of their creation. There is a large central multipurpose dining room, opened out onto the balcony or the garden and is connected to a contemporary laboratory kitchen alcove and the living room.

        Construction of the housing estate BS 3 was completed in 1981 when the two groups of residential skyscrapers on the eastern edge of the area were completed.

        Each group consists of three skyscrapers consisting of four towers of different heights, which are closely spaced and shifted in the floor plan. They are, however, connected to each other with vertical communications and technical balconies. Structuring of each skyscraper has been achieved by establishing the contrast between the light surfaces of the facades and the dark vertical caesuras. Uniquely designed triangular tapered white roofs visually float above the concrete vertical structures. Each group of towers is arranged around a central piazza, which is open towards the plane on the eastern side of the site.

        All buildings were designed on a 75cm grid, and were built using a system of prefabricated concrete panels, which enabled better usage of the smaller rooms and the use of standard furniture. The load-bearing reinforced concrete walls were constructed as sandwich panels with a thickness of 14 cm, while the partition walls had a thickness of just 4 cm.

About the architect:

        The works of architect Arnautović are recognisable by the principles he used for designing the appearance of buildings. Usually he used the principle of duality: two groups of opposing elements. In contrast to unified compact surfaces of heavy concrete façade elements, the architect used some lighter elements, such as balcony railings, parapets, fences and metal constructions, which were more playfully designed, sometimes as metal laces, often painted in stronger colours in contrast to the concrete surfaces of the buildings. In the neighbourhood BS3 the concrete facade panels were not plain: strong relief patterns with different motifs were generated by different methods: with the random laying of ropes in the fresh concrete of the panels or with various inlays in the formwork.

        Neighbourhood BS-3 in many ways represents the culmination of the architect Ilija Arnautović’s oevre. It is the result of the architect’s studies of functional residential constructions over his entire career.

        Architect Arnautović was the most productive architect in the field of construction of large housing estates throughout Slovenia in the second half of the 20th century. He was fully committed to research and development of the new residential concepts, which enabled the modern way of life. His solutions were adapted to the abilities of the contemporary construction industry, and had also a great impact on its development.

        Ilija Arnautović believed that architecture had to serve users’ needs; he understood his work as a social mission and used his rich experience and technical expertise to solve the most elementary questions of everyday living. His work symbolises “Socialist residential architecture”.    

 Assessment of the current condition:

        The original urban design is completely preserved.

– The only difference is the way the central public space is used. It was originally designed as a street and planned for spending free time outdoors and for the recreation of the residents.

Today these areas are along the transverse access routes locally converted into improvised parking spaces. Unfortunately, the originally planned two-storey underground garage below the housing estate was not realised, and now the lack of parking places represents a serious problem for the residents of the neighbourhood.

– Private gardens, belonging to the ground floor flats, were fenced by the owners; there was no uniform approach to the implementation of fences. The result is a messy appearance of the public open space and the neighbourhood in general.

        The original architectural concept is maintained, but the buildings have been renovated.

– The steel constructions of the open staircases between the two neighbouring units were mainly glazed with panels of frosted glass. These additions are a quality upgrade of the basic idea. The staircases are protected from the weather (wind!), while in the original design conceived lightness and transparency of the staircase structure is preserved. All glazing of the staircases is uniform in manner.

– Units on the ground floor, which were intended for (amenities facilities and) public use have experienced many inappropriate adaptations, inconsistent with the basic idea of a transparent ground floor, which was achieved by glass facades behind the line of the pillars. Today, most of these units have full masonry facades with diverse inappropriate glazing. Many of these facilities are unused.

– The original windows and doors with dark wooden frames have been replaced, mainly with white plastic, above the windows new blinds or roller blinds have been installed.

– Many balconies were inappropriately glazed or covered with canopies.

– Most of the original facade panels, made of structured visible concrete, are painted in a variety of strong colours – yellow, orange, red, ochre, green; the exposed concrete of supporting constructions on the ground floor is painted in gray.

Protection and treatment:

        To preserve the integrity of the property, the original urban design should be protected as a whole.

The housing estate should be protected as an important example of urban design of remarkable quality, which places structured residential buildings into a generous green area, connecting residential areas with the exterior and which, with a balanced mix of public and private open green spaces, creates diverse areas with a specific atmosphere.

For fencing of private gardens, it is necessary to find a more uniform solution, in accordance with the basic urban and architectural design of the housing estate.

It is essential to provide the required number of parking spaces for the residents of the entire neighbourhood as soon as possible. In the open space, next to the two groups of skyscrapers near the Vojkova road, parking areas were planned, but never constructed. It would be correct to build a two- or three-storey underground parking garage, intended solely for residents of the housing estate, and parking on the internal streets should not be allowed any more. Furthermore, it is necessary to encourage residents to use sustainable ways of transport, as public transport or bike.

        To maintain the authenticity, buildings should be protected in their entirety.

The ground floor spaces intended for public use should be transformed back to their original, more transparent state. Everything should be renovated with the use of unified details that would follow the original design concept. Design of the parterre around the skyscrapers must be uniform and consistent with the original concept. All inappropriate additions should be removed.

Revival of empty facilities on the ground floor is essential. They could be used as common spaces for residents, co-working spaces, spaces for intergenerational cooperation, study rooms, public laundry, and other public use.

Building openings, such as windows and exterior doors, should be unified and consistent with the original concept.

Inappropriate balcony glazing should be removed, and the same applies to the added canopies.

Metal balcony railings could be moved to the outer edge of the prefabricated concrete sides of balconies, but they must follow the original design. All metal elements on a particular building must be of a uniform colour from the original palette.

Facades that were painted should have the paint removed. The original appearance of the facade panels of visible concrete with embedded patterns in relief should be protected.

All prefabricated concrete elements made of visible concrete should be carefully cleaned, appropriately treated, and professionally protected.