Stanko Kristl Architect

Humanity and Space

Tadej Glažar, Tina Gregorič, Maja Vardjan

Fifty years ago when Alfred Roth was building his famous school in Skopje, Macedonia, on one of his travels to the building site he stopped in Ljubljana where he gave a public lecture. Nineteen years’ younger architect Stanko Kristl met Alfred Roth and discussed some of the topics on school design. Lecture and discussion was of great importance for Stanko Kristl since he just won a competition for a new elementary school in Ljubljana that political nomenclature was strongly opposing it. Teachers from the jury resisted and built the school almost undercover in a smaller city. School later got the highest cultural prize and became an important reference for school design in Yugoslavia.
Exhibition "Humanity and space" at Museum of architecture and design in Ljubljana shows for the first time insight into archive and work of Stanko Kristl (1922). He is considered one of the most prominent Slovenian architects, a man whose work has provoked and inspired local and international publics alike, both during the process of their creation and up to the present day. He is still practicing architecture, writing in public newspapers, working on renovations or extensions of his older projects or conceptualizing and building new ones.
His life path shaped his character that influenced his method of practicing architecture. As a young man, member of a local aero club, he built and fly with gliders, later forced into German army he took a part in biggest tank battle at Kursk during WW2 where he was terrible wounded. Despite the problems with communist government he finished architectural studies at prof. Edo Ravnikar who was a student of Jože Plečnik and Le Corbusier. As the best student in his generation Kristl became Ravnikar's assistant and closer collaborator. He traveled vastly especially to Scandinavia and Switzerland and participated at several international competitions, met Alvar Aalto who invited him to stay in Finland.
As an architect in the broadest sense of the term, Stanko Kristl uses his projects and research
work to pose, at every opportunity, the fundamental question of architecture: What is architecture in relation to human?
People and their perception of space is a key theme in his work, one that has left a significant mark on architect Kristl’s design research approach. In his architectural projects, in numerous articles and research papers, he repeatedly underlines the necessity to integrate sociology and psychology into the architectural design process. Research work into a kind of primal comprehension of space (der ursprüngliche Raum) and the perceptions of an unborn child set the stage and direction for the radical design of the kindergarten in Ljubljana (1969-1972); a study of integrated teaching methods and child drive for curiosity led to the concept for the elementary school in Kranj (1965-1968); and the development of complex and systemic design methodologies allowed for the simultaneous design and construction of the Diagnostic Therapeutic Service building of the University Medical Centre Ljubljana (1968-1972). Hospital buildings were and are still today the larger architectural topic he is working with. He designed more than twenty different medical complexes. Important one is in Kuwait where he got a commission for Therapeutically medical center (1982-) upon the visit of Kuwait government at Medical clinical center in Ljubljana. During design phase he got an additional invitation to design a mosque as part of a hospital complex. This was a unique opportunity and honor for non Muslim architect to build religious building in Arab world.
Same care as in public buildings Krsitl pays when he is designing homes, either private residences or communal apartment buildings. He introduces the care for user, rational, comfortable and artistically composed space. Buildings are always cladded with warm materials as bricks, terracotta tiles or terranova plaster in earth colors. He pays attention to outdoor space either in relation with french window in every room or introducing first modern atrium houses, where the common garden has as much importance as private atrium. The roof as an umbrella (Regen und Sonnenschirm) is elevated from the main volume, thus provide perfect climate condition in a house.
Stanko Kristl consciously avoids repeating the same solutions. Within his projects he constantly questions the true nature of basic architectural programs and tries to redefine them over and over again. He goes beyond the mere search for functional spatial solutions to the given assignment, instead, with his comprehensive approach to architectural design he strives
for change, upgrade in established concepts of education, housing and healthcare. He seeks to design alternatives to the existing standards and modes of
work. His drive for change is always thoughtful with an "... objective, inner justification" ("...die objektive, innere Rechtfertigung..."), to quote Alfred Roth, and demonstrates his absolute commitment to the idea of humanity in architecture.
He designs buildings as open structures that over time allow for a high degree of adaptation, change and growth, all in the service of inhabitants, users. Architecture is largely determined by their visible structural design, experimental use of unconventional materials, and innovative details and technological patents in order to achieve economically efficient construction and later maintenance of the buildings. His research-based innovative approach results in architecture that transcends the borders of what is known and established, and so provokes both extreme enthusiasm and fanatical resistance from both the professional and general publics.
Kristl’s realized architectures have been awarded with numerous prizes, they are making a crucial impact on Slovenian 20th century architectural heritage and constituting a unique contribution to post-war experimental architecture in Europe.