Meaningful Emptiness, Ljubljana, Completed, 2011

An evening glance at the facade of an anonymous block of flats from The Sixties stops at a lit window of the first floor. The window is devoid of any décor or embellishment which usually veils interior design. The elimination of all redundancy reveals itself in full as we enter a recently renovated apartment.

     We find ourselves in a central living room equipped with extreme restraint. East-west oriented, the living room extends over the entire length of a three and half room-apartment. Its quiet colour scheme and absence of décor enable our eye to notice materials and details which, strictly speaking, are merely joints between faces.

     A large wardrobe as partition wall with wooden sliding door, is a central element which separates public area from privacy area and service rooms from behind the wall.  Owing to the warmth of its oil lubricated oak wood, the wall is, in Rohe’s style, nucleus and heart of the apartment. In front of it, there is a large dining table which invites. A grey and smooth floor finish manufactured from synthetic concrete, warm in winter but cool in summer, is literally spilt all over the apartment. The floor in irregular spotty patterns which is even more emphasized by completely smooth white walls, does not need a carpet. All of it brings softness and warmth into the apartment image. This is the way how we experience the renovated, about 60sqm large hired apartment, in which lives a young couple. After a few years, they decided to adapt the apartment so as to fit their practical needs and habits, and accept also their lifestyle. Guided by the wish for simple, clarified concepts, which are sincere to the choice of individual materials and strict to the execution of construction details, the couple liaised with the architect. A shared vision of the minimum has since become basis of the project.

     In minimal architecture, one can come near a perfect or simplest solution, when nothing more can be taken away. This could be one measurable criterion for its success. Furniture manufactured from a combination of iron bare profiles and plywood panels does not need other décor than that offered by the general nature of plywood in a contrasting combination with its black surface. Even negotiating about sliding door handle turns to be unnecessary when the handle is reduced to a finger groove providing gripping.

     The project was planned to be as modest as possible also regarding spatial planning activities, which was a silent wish of the apartment owner who approved the renovation.  Also the two clients wanted the project to be as cost-effective as possible. This led to a number of practical ideas. Lamps, for instance, hang down from recycled computer cables. Drawers under the kitchen desk are boxes on wheels with each of them sparing the cost of a roller mechanism for opening the upper drawer, which requires a carefully considered arrangement of the contents of each drawer.

     Only time and living in the apartment will tell whether the applied concept of the minimum was strong enough to make the residents keep the rational concept of the apartment also after they have gradually filled it up with everything brought about by life. Or, on the other hand, the minimal architecture was merely an intermediate goal set with a view to enable the residents a more liberal future use of the apartment.


Project name: Meaningful emptiness  Location: Ljubljana, Slovenia  Authors: Tomaž Ebenšpanger (UM FGPA)  Investor: Private  Type: Interior  Project year: 2011  Photographs: Miran Kambič  Text: Meta Kutin  Translation: Špela Kutin