Looking at Maribor’s riverbank one can’t escape the feeling that the city structure is seriously missing a large river-related opening. Recent constructions have gone even further, with big, anonymous, closed boxes becoming the dominant typology for the waterfront development consuming all available free space. The change of such practice is a priority to the city, and for that reason construction of the UGM is first and foremost a chance for the city to reverse this trend and establish an important public place facing the river.

The new UGM center is basically a large green carpet with art and children-related programs. The programmatic definition of the area is naturally and directly connected with the concept of the exhibition space and the way a work of art is communicates with the public. The traditional concept of the art gallery as a “black box” with white clean interior walls, artificial lighting and climatic conditions, should be reconsidered. First of all, many contemporary artists do not find themselves comfortable in the isolated environment of the galleries, and prefer engaging the audience in common everyday spaces. For both exhibition needs and the role art can play in the definition of public life, a contemporary exhibition space should offer various relational possibilities as opposed to the classical exhibition space that offers a simplistic relationship with a straightforward separation between “art” and the “normal” world.

A contemporary exhibition space has blurred borders between the two where different programs mix and create new cultural opportunities. In that sense a mix of different programs in the competition brief, from the architecture center and library to catering facilities next to exhibition rooms, presents the opportunity for the creation of a vibrant part of the city which is recognized through the art program. Conceptually, the most interesting relationship is between the children’s program and art, both offering a different perception of the public space, both generating spatial interventions.

The main part of the proposal is the green carpet, a ludic park housing temporary installations from amusement parks and tents to art pavilions and spatial interventions. The carpet introduces new topography with holes and folds opening up towards the closed parts of the program: a “city living room”, exhibition spaces, lecture halls. The remaining programs: a library, a creative center, a children’s museum, an architecture center, a catering area, museum administration; all are distributed in the oval cylinders penetrating the carpet. They all interconnect at the level of the “city living room”, and function as additional entrances to the interior connecting programmatically and spatially open and covered parts of the building.

The western part of the carpet is used for service areas and delivery. There is one controlled official entrance to the museum for the delivery of artwork and personnel entrance. Artwork is transported with the freight elevator to the basement, inside a controlled area with restricted and controlled access.