BIGZ: Participatory Heritage Management

Education - Students / Prize (ex aequo)

The State Printing House was completed in 1941 as a new monumental headquarters of the BIGZ publishing company. In 1992 the building was recognised as a cultural monument and protected for its architectural merit and connection with early Yugoslav industry. When political and economic transition caused printing works to grind to a halt, the light-filled, adaptable interior spaces attracted small businesses, artists and musicians from across the city.


2022 finds BIGZ a conflicted heritage asset. The surrounding post industrial landscape has become attractive for development, bringing potential for investment in the decaying façades while throwing into question the continuation of it’s cultural function. Confronted with this critical moment, the thesis questions the existing value judgement, highlighting the significant cultural value that exists in the synergy of social interaction and innovative activity of the informal cultural centre.


Dragiša Brašovan, the ‘style master’ of pre-war Yugoslav Architecture created an interplay of volumes and fenestration that identified to the functions within. When creative entrepreneurs moved in, they occupied the smaller cellular office spaces and assumed the role of building administrators, gathering in the circulation spaces. In attributing value to the façades, the 40,000 square meters of functional space behind them entered a transient period as the building awaited investment, creating conditions for short-term experimental occupation.


Adaptability of the concrete frame is considered an inherent strength, capable of overcoming the maintenance costs associated with the building‘s scale by entering into a circular economy. The project employs existing social capital as the nucleus of future regenerations. A community maker-space facilitates adaptations and the wider city population is engaged via a communicative facade and public events space.


Author: Peter Covell



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