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Competition: Science Centre, Ljubljana

The Slovenian government has launched a contest to design a landmark €19.7 million Science Centre in Ljubljana (Deadline: 20 December)

The anonymous single-stage competition will select a team to deliver a state-of-the-art centre on a prominent 19,200m² corner site a short distance from the historic heart of the Slovenian capital.

The project – backed by the country’s Ministry of Education, Science and Sport – aims to create an interactive hub focusing on science, research, creativity and innovation. Proposals should be sustainable, future-looking, and enhance the natural setting of the site.

Contest for a new Science Centre in Ljubljana

Contest for a new Science Centre in Ljubljana

Contest for a new Science Centre in Ljubljana

According to the brief, the Science Centre will be ‘a demonstration building aimed at promoting and popularising science, research, technology, innovation and learning through experiments and demonstrations of the achievements of science, economy and culture.

‘The Science Centre shall represent the interdisciplinary demonstration object and enable testing and presentation of new technological solutions or innovations, it shall be technologically advanced and innovative, a building, which will enable the placement of the latest technology and systems during and after its construction and it shall be designed as an evolving building throughout a longer period of its life cycle.’

Contest site

Contest site

Contest site

Concepts should accommodate up to 86 staff and more than 100,000 annual visitors. An entrance hall, large central space, exhibition galleries, conference rooms, laboratories, planetarium, offices, café and restaurant will all be required.

Submissions will be judged on their architectural quality, urban design, sustainability, use of digital technologies and financial viability. Judges include Fuensanta Nieto of Nieto Sobejano Arquitectos and the set designer Miran Mohar. The competition languages are English and Slovenian.

The overall winner, to be announced in February, will receive €36,000 and the design contract. A €23,000 second prize, €14,000 third prize and three further prizes worth €7,000 each will also be awarded.

How to apply


The deadline for submissions is 4pm local time on 20 December and physical models are due by midday local time on 9 January

Contact details

Chamber of Architecture and the Space of Slovenia
Vegova ulica 8

Tel: +386 12420672
Fax: +386 12420672 

View the contract notice and competition website for more information

Q&A with Mateja Tilia

The leader of the sector for investments in higher education and science infrastructure at the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport discusses her ambitions for the competition

Mateja Tilia

Mateja Tilia

Mateja Tilia

Why are your holding an international contest for a new Science centre in Ljubljana?

In Slovenia, the tradition of open competitions is long and this is the way the majority of architectural solutions for public buildings are selected. As the client and investor of the project, the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport has prepared an international design competition ‘Science centre’ in cooperation with the Chamber of Architecture and Spatial Planning of Slovenia, and that is not only because the value of the contract in accordance with the Public Procurement Act determines the necessity of obtaining the best solution on the basis of an architectural design competition, but also because it is considered that for such a demonstration building it is appropriate for the space to ‘open’. At the same time, this is also important for the development of architecture in Slovenia as well as in Europe and in the world. In our opinion, several solutions deriving from different cultures, insights and practices certainly contribute to better ideas and creativity in a given space.

What is your vision for the new science centre?

The objective of construction of the ‘Science centre’ is to acquire a new infrastructure, which will be a technical and technological demonstration, while at the same time it will allow testing and demonstration of new technological solutions and innovation. It will represent a meeting point for the implementation of various programs in the field of science promotion in connection with education, culture and economy, provide the opportunity to set up programmes ‘do it yourself’ (interactive experiments) and programmes in the field of creative arts, and allow the presentation of various scientific, economic and other findings and achievements.

‘The Science centre’ will include: program spaces (experimental room, mini experimental room, laboratories, Fab-Lab, demonstration centre, virtual hub, gallery, conference room, planetarium, meeting rooms, media centre), support spaces (scientific café, science restaurant, maker shop), administrative premises, technical spaces and outer spaces (scientific playground, green roof) and the pavilion ‘Technologies of the Future’. It is estimated that the building of the Science centre will comprise ca 8,000 m2, outer space ca 1,850 m2 and pavilion ‘Technologies of the Future’ 250 m2. Therefore the total area of the premises is 10,000 m2.

Municipal Detailed Spatial Plan 81: The Science centre represents a wider competition area that comprises 19,200 m2, while the size of the (narrower) competition area is approx. 12,435.00 m2.

The evaluation criteria are: compliance of the design with spatial acts, criteria for the quality of urban-architectural and landscape architectural design and sustainability criteria. Within the framework of the latter it is envisaged that the ‘Science centre’ will be designed and built according to sustainability principles and will as such take into account as many sustainability components as possible, which have been merged into the following groups:

a. Digital technologies,

b. Functional aspect,

c. Financial aspect,

d. Sociological and health aspect,

e. The aspect of building security,

f. Technical and technological aspect,

g. Environmental aspect,

h. Demonstration effect.

Among these as the most important aspects of sustainability are defined: technical and technological aspect, environmental aspect, including energy use, and demonstration effect.

What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?

We believe that the project ‘Science centre’ is an opportunity for architects because it will itself be an exhibit, a demonstration object. Who will decide to participate in the competition, of course as a client we do not have priorities or desires. In the competition conditions we wanted to achieve that the competition would have as few restrictions as possible, so all architects who meet the competition conditions determined in accordance with the law can apply, irrespective of the experience or ‘name’ of the architect or of the size of the enterprise.

Which other design opportunities are on the horizon and how will the architects/designers be procured?

In Slovenia in the case of major investments in accordance with the Public Procurement Act competition notice is mandatory. For organizing public competitions the Chamber of Architecture and Spatial Planning of Slovenia (ZAPS) is responsible. Current competitions organized by ZAPS can be monitored on the website. We should add to this that it is difficult to predict future competitions because they depend on many different actors and factors, but in any case, we want public investment to be the ones that provide an example in the field of architecture, in all areas of sustainability.

Are there any other recent science centre projects you have been impressed by?

All centres of science that we have visited or have seen through websites are in their own way unique and impressive, some more in content, and the others with their appearance in the space. Of course in this sense we want that a science centre in Slovenia would be special too, which we also wrote down in the competition task:

- The building of the ‘Science centre’ should mostly reflect the contemporary architectural social context, represent the most beautiful architectural creation that combines the context of a given location and time and tells the story of continuous scientific and technological development with a range of measurable and positive effects on humans.

- At the same, time the building should relate to the materiality and context of the site (water, crannogs…), preserving its distinctly green orientation and addressing people with distinctly humanistic principles.

- The building should have an emphasized function of a demonstration facility, which will show state of the art technological and scientific innovations and solutions.

- The building must provide and promote healthy jobs to the maximum extent, a healthy lifestyle and it must be an example of the design of a built-up space in accordance with the protection of nature and the environment. 

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