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ROG state

I ran into an odd thing, off my planed walk-around, in that I had never investigated the monstrous ROG factory building that looks like a jail on the river side and a hardcore soviet type factory on the other. I took some pictures from the outside but my curiosity was too much, I wanted some facts and a closer look, there was a guard so I figured the worst thing he’d do was say no. I asked in English, “do you speak English”, a simple “yes” was all I got, my next question was “can I look around?” got a yes again, he clearly could not be bothered, it looked abandoned yet there was a guard. As abandoned as this thing was I figure they post a guard just to keep unwanted vandals out, yet he did not look very imposing or like he would do much to stop anyone.

What I found was a giant carcass of a thing that once was one of the largest bicycle producing factories in eastern Europe, perhaps Europe yet it just belly flopped it’s way to none existence more then ten years ago, though the damage and abuse makes it look much longer then that. It is home to a few small “offices”, and had a few cars in there but most looked like a few abstract artists in a bohemian like lifestyle making “art” from old city expo signs, recyclable garbage material and household items.

It got me thinking, why don’t they put the popsicle stick New Kolizej here, I don’t think to many people would mind taking this factory away, it’s not an art piece, maybe some communist party people might reminisce about the good old days. It’s a great river front location and would bring interest and people to a part of town that is a bit less frequented. I suppose you could make some unique urban condos too and make it a trendy young people complex with a lot of investment. I thought one would use an old space for a bike museum, guess me having roots in the State of Ohio and the famous bicycle shop making Wright brothers, I think the lesson here is there is only a museum in their shop not because they made bikes, but left the tow wheelers and brought us flight. Rog never got wings; good bikes just are not enough for the competition of Asian manufactures.

Someone trying to add a bit of art to the old building, it does bring out the red brick a bit

Chimes, they are a changin’. Some old kitchen items turned wind chime/art

The view from the riverside, looks like a school or jail with no entry from this side, just a long wall

A view int o one of the buildings, would make a nice urban loft condo to me, sky light and all. And just a few steps from downtown Ljubljana. Any investors want to “pimp my factory” out there?

Front shows all it’s factory face and name all but a memory

Note: I did more research on this and the once company boasts a 75 year old history. They have been bought and sold and in a financial/management mess for a long time, have sold this big factory land to a bank to pay off debts and are attempting a comeback. This company once had 1,400 workers working here and made 75,000 bikes a year now has five in its employ, housed in some other office space. We will see what happens in the future.

Collision Kolizej

Collision Kolizej

Glancing Back Forward

Previously I addressed this subject in my article Save Kolizej. I wrote passionately after one of my first visits to the Kolizej site that reflects one questioning visitors thoughts on this matter, But I’ll address it a little more in depth here once more.

I consider myself very fortunate to have had the opportunity to visit this wonderful city several times over the last several years, but I could not notice the apparent calamity of this building and the state of disrepair it has been allowed to fall into. It looks like a chipped tooth in an otherwise elegant smile of the city. The argument might be true in part that it is “just like so many others” in the time-period sense, I’ll let others more learned in the matters of history and architecture cover that angle in this book in their convincing arguments exactly how this space is of historical importance.

What I have to offer this project is this; I’ve traveled many world cities and cultures on half of our continents. I have developed a deep love for history and mortuary remembrances of times past, particularly in relation in our present lives. I see them as a commentary on contemporary life and recount our experiences in conjunction with our social behaviors and interaction in relation to them. The Kolizej stands out to me not solely for what it represents as a historical monument of the past, nor even it’s epic struggle for survival and adapt it’s functionality to benefit us in our present times, but also a deep-rooted signpost and reminder of historical respect. Sure Ljubljana might not suffer from one less historic building, but if this landmark building is simply allowed to be unilaterally erased what will be immune in future decades and centuries from other city development aspirations?

Ljubljana is not alone in this complex dilemma, yet it has a got a better running chance at setting a guidepost with this project then other cities have had in addressing this quandary due to the relatively small problem ratio to the city. It also helps to have so many other buildings of the historical city center being revived and remodeled in their old likeness. There is also a great pool of great minds and experts that have been making the case extensively on both sides of this issue that brings forth a healthy debate and opportunity for fresh ideas and inevitable lasting solutions at the highest level.

We all have heard the examples in the United States encountered in old cities like Boston and other New England cities that were blowing city block after city block away of neglected aging stone buildings in the 1960s before coming to the realization that contemporary history of this nature was worth something more then mere prime development real-estate, and instead opted to remodel many of the remainder into luxury housing and shops that both benefited the city through housing and tourism landmarks like the now famed houses of Boston’s Back Bay. San Francisco has also successfully renovated old warehouses into tech-savvy corporate office space for internet startups since the 1990’s, or choose simply protect and restore historical landmarks like the 1905 built Geneva Office Building and Powerhouse, that is simply a uniquely designed but terribly antiquated two story train junction center, historically it matters.

http://www.genevaofficebuilding.org/ .

Now, to use some examples a little closer to home. I remember in 1998 staying with friends in Budakeszi, Hungary (a small town situated 10 km to the west of Budapest, on the Pest side of the river Danube), there was this large socialist era factory compound wasteland called GANZ, behind the newly built Mammot 2 mall. It clearly was just a sprawling graveyard to times past and an intriguing yet desperate site that anyone would have excused to level and add modern and more functional housing or office facilities.

On a brief trip there again in 2004 my friends wanted to go for an “outing” with their small kids to a new park, I went along. What I saw as we walked the familiar streets was Millenáris Park, a rejuvenated and wonderful building and park area replacing the industrial cold feelings with that of warmth and sunshine on that summer morning. I never believed it could still be possible while maintaining its original warehouse look that was genuine as the brick walls and iron stairs before me while inside one of the warehouse-turned-pavilions on the park. For they had left everything in tact structurally, just brought it to the public and the new century with some ingenious remodeling, ground level lake and rolling grass lawns.

www.budapesthungaryblog.com/budapest-parks/millenar-park-budapest-millenaris-park.html

Similarly this city of Ljubljana gave new life to a warehouse complex that is now the BTC complex, though it has a much more commonplace feel and no art value to the city except that of a pop culture multiplex cinema.

The two projects are very different in size and scope however it is my hope that like the Millenaris Park, Kolizej can symbolically raise from the ashes like the mythological Phoenix and advert destruction with some foresight, initiative and vision to be a torchbearer for architectural heritage and preservation while still serving a public service. It was originally intended to house protectors of the city and how fitting it would be for it to once again protect and preserve the history of the town by its own continued existence. It should be a beacon landmark of hope and endurance that the city can show off in its entire original splendor to the many visitors of the city right along side its other attractions.

To use a military barracks example truer to the project at hand is the old military base located behind the train station in Croatia’s northern city of Varaždin. It was used for many years to house displaced people during Croatia’s war for independence (1991-1995) and then later those needing temporary asylum from the Kosovo conflict of 1998. It was not until the city bought it from the state and renovated the building and grounds in 2006 that it became a state of the art student dormitory facility. Not only providing the city an opportunity to clean up the cultural and social eyesore that the base had become but a service and a source of revenue base to accommodate students at a prime location in town for boarding, and a source of pride for the city and educational faculties that the city is so renowned for.

I had the opportunity to visit the grounds prier to this transformation while supplying humanitarian aid to the government led agency running operations for those living there in 1999 and again in 2001. I must say it was cave-like in its design and scope. Low entry stairs, narrow dingy halls with shadowy life forms peering out from dank rooms divided by musty blankets that made up the temporary dividers between beds. Cardboard or rags poorly sealed up the widows broken glass as well as the holes and cracks in the plastered walls. A grim sight for a building to be in, and a tragic state of humanity’s forgotten people, though unfortunately not too different then conditions afforded the low-rent tenants of the Kolizej these days and the weather beating the building itself is suffering through neglect.

Gone are all those feelings and so are the foreboding outer walls and barbed wire, renovated and refitted to the times whilst still looking all of its dignified age and original charm behind a bright new coat of paint. Included are swipe card security door access systems providing an up to date security system and a modern looking central entry metal canopy adding a bit of flare. Don’t they say life only begins at retirement?

http://www.scvz.hr/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=225&Itemid=122

Examples would be incomplete without another and perhaps only other living example (surly Kolizej is the largest and most intact of the two) of the rather obscure Austrian innovator and architect that designed Kolizej, that of Graz’s own son, Jozef Benedikt Withalm (some historical writings call him Johann) and the famous city landmark Eisernes Haus (Iron house) that he designed, built (1847-1948) and owned to house a large café house that became known as Café Meran until he sold the building. While the size and use is different, there are visible comparisons and architectural similarities. Eisernes Haus is newly renovated and annexed to a large and modernistic “Kunsthaus”, a space-like art exhibition hall completed in 2003. Eisernes Haus had been drastically renovated and changed over the last century but still resembles outwardly Mr. Withalm’s vision and reinstated is the rooftop terrace that he had originally built, clearly a reminder of history and his contribution to the city while at the same time providing it with a current and functional service relevant to the people and visitors of the city today.

http://www.recovis-restaurierung.de/seiten/referenzen_eisernes_haus_graz.htm

It is my hope that the people of this city and the world will understand and appreciate contemporary history within their city at least as much as a passing visitor and somehow come to a consensus with this location in relation to proposed projects, and that Kolizej – in the form we know it now – will live on, at least though this century renovated and cherished as a sample of valor and overcoming adversity, as the Slovenian people have shown throughout their history. They may have been downtrodden by others, abandoned and obscured, but were never out, and neither should be the buildings of historical importance on Slovenian soil.

Birds taking the opportunity to rest on the open windows

Red light, green light, which way will it go?

Up to Učka

Today I let me freinds persuade me to go for a walk with them, they said “you can take pictures”, so I went. What they did not tell me was that they were planing to walk a good part of the way (one hour each way) up to the top of Ucka called Voljak.

I’d seen it in pictures and always wanted to go see the stone fort-like tower on the top but did not realize my day had come. It was a great climb, mixed of small paths and trails in the wonderful spring time that was great dispite being a little tired. I got up their first and had plenty of time to soak up the breathtaking views from all angles. From the Istra plans on one side and the sea and islands on the other, it is really one of the wonders to see here.

The restaurant marks the place to start walking, there are also possibilities for mountain biking, and a road for cars most of the way up

Along the forest walk

two-wheelers making their way up

View of the plans below on the western side

A view of the gorge below that makes up Vela Draga, a popular place for free-climbers and nature lovers. It is also where the highway tunnel comes out into Istra

The tower and military facility in the background

A sea view east with Rijeka and the island of Krk in the distance

doing what I do, it was a great day and long walk, but well worth the time.

Adriatic Moments e-book

jayadriatic-2-240.jpg

Well, I am still here and I am releasing a little free e-book of some of the pictures I’ve taken on the Slovenia and Croatia coast, this blog is hard to post big pictures so this is one way you get to see more. Feel free to download but do not print it out as the quality is not good enough.

Yes, my camera finally came to the end of its little shutter-life. At about four years and nearly then 10,200 pictures it has lived a full and well deserved footnote in my blog that has been responsible for all of the pictures and video posted on this site to date. The good news is that now that I do not have a camera I will have time to go back over the old pictures and post backlogs of the last few years, the video function still works too so there might be more video content then pictures for the next little while till I can come up with some better gear and there is a renewed call for sponsorship for those that are able.

Fair Trade

Today I visited the Zagreb construction fair; I went to this same fair last year as well so I was curious to compare the two as well as progress in general.

building-fair-zg07hr-jw.pngIf there was one word to describe this fair this year it would be “quite” and I think there was two factors that contributed to it. First that it is scheduled all week (Tuesday- Saturday) instead of Fri-Sunday that it was last year and that it coincides with the week after Easter and the Croatia Boat fair in Split. While I do not think it will affect the presenters that much as they are running their staff anyways and prospective buyers and dealmakers are going to go there anyways but the little guys who rely on the general public will really feel the pinch, it might pick up on the weekend but it is really boring to see just suits running around making big deals and everyone else just twiddling their thumbs for a week. Commercialism is here to stay but so does the divide of haves and have not-so-much even in this micro cosmos of building materials and trade.

One other noticeable difference was that the amount of money companies are starting to spend, the laptop displays are replaced with large plasma TVs and advertisers that were passing out flyers on roller-blades last year are now equipped with Segways. This may still be Eastern Europe and forever will be geographically but with all the building boom that is taking place this is starting to look like a gold rush from local, regional and international companies all trying to get a bite of this pie that it is kind of reminding me of the southeast Asian boom years of the 1990’s when I was over in Thailand, though it is here on a somewhat smaller scale given this market size and population is incredibly smaller.

zg-old-and-new-jw.jpgThe growing number of construction cranes in the Zagreb skyline and new houses being built are a good idea of the growing demand for building materials. I used to be mocked when I first came here 8 years ago and would tell people here that the best was just to come and Croatian was a “buy stock” so to speak, now it is very obvious by the amount of SUVs in the parking and international presence at fairs like this one that Croatia is an important market and the growing amount of “haves” want the best and are willing to pay top dollar for it.

Money can’t buy you happiness, it’s true, but it can buy you a new home and as a new country I feel that there are still people who are looking for that, sire there are those who just want a bigger and better one for no reason but there are still enough people without the basics that I feel this fair serves a good purpose in that it drives competition and prices down so that the hard working man can get a “better bang for his buck” or should I say “kuča for his kuna”. The amount of window companies and roofing tiles are just one example, from the traditional clay tiles to recycled plastic to stamped out coated sheet tin, in every shape and color imaginable you almost think we are talking about luxury goods but it is just roofing that every house needs, there are so many types and prices and dealers that you really need take your time but in the end this provides a fabulous place to find killer deals for every imaginable housing need without having to call and visit all the dealers individually and I do not see why there are not more private people here looking, I guess they are all at work being a weekday, and that is the unfortunate truth. Only the rich survive, and get good deals.

8_autoslalom-1-ri07hr-jw.jpgToday I found out that there was an auto slalom event happening in Prilok, a small area on the outskirts of Rijeka. I finally decided to go down there and see what is was like, I heard there were a bunch of old cars racing so that was all I needed to walk down the hill and experience the event with a friend.

The key to this race being small and fast most of the cars were modified miniature cars from the 80’s among them the local Zastava 750, the VW Golf I, Ford Fiesta, Honda CR-X and the newer Ford Focus and others as you’ll see by the pictures and video clip. They closed this portion of the road off that is normally very busy despite its narrow and dated planning it serves to link Rijeka’s north side to Opatija via the seafront area called Prilok.

8_autoslalom-3-ri07hr-jw.jpgFrom what I saw most of the cars came from or belonged to car repair shops and garages or car enthusiasts that follow this circuit, they are street cars but must not registered and all striped out inside except for a bucket seat and roll bar, and a helmeted diver though I really think most of it is just for show or safety and that they really would not roll over or be in a high speed collision at least on this type of race. Engine-wise they are little modified and just in good running order and not drag cars or hotrods with NOS, just good clean fun driving.

8_autoslalom-5-ri07hr-jw.jpgWe were just in time for one of the heats and I took different video clips from different vantage points along the track. This was a slalom race meaning that like in skiing slalom they leave the gate one at a time and race the clock with judges at the different slalom points to mark if they knocked down cones etc. The race we saw was eventful in itself including one stalling and nearly hitting me when I was doing the curb angle low shots and another having to be towed back having died somewhere down the track causing the car behind him to have to re-drive his lap again and the retired diver getting cheers and applause from the audience while being towed back, wish I’d had filmed that too. Here are some pictures and my video clip.

8_autoslalom-2-ri07hr-jw.jpg

The starting line from above the hill that started the seaside windy drive, in summer it is a popular campground.

8_autoslalom-4-ri07hr-jw.jpg

The starting gate from the ground with the hills and old stone house in the background.

Here is the video with just a little bit of editing.