slanted prefab concrete panels front the zlatar bistrica sports hall in croatia

slanted prefab concrete panels front the zlatar bistrica sports hall in croatia

NOP studio’s ambitiously-designed sports hall 


The Zlatar Bistrica Sports Hall sits in a small town located on one of the few plains of the otherwise hilly Hrvatsko Zagorje in northwest Croatia. Completed by NOP Studio, the project showcases an ambitious design that injects contemporary architectural culture into a town with limited urban features: a school, church, and community health center scattered along two main roads. 


‘The school complex is in symbiosis with its rural environment; its neat and relatively neutral modern architecture defines the access square on two sides. The rest borders a typical rural property with outbuildings. This arrangement fits nicely with the schoolyard used to grow plants and teach children about nature and agriculture,’ explains the studio. 

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the studio worked with Beton Lučko to develop a unique type of concrete prefab paneling
all images © Bosnic+Dorotic



With that in mind, architect Ivan Galić from NOP studio (see more here) gave equal attention to all aspects of the Zlatar Bistrica Sports Hall. As a result, everything that goes on inside and around – from big events involving the entire local community to intimate, informal gatherings – has been fitted into an appropriate architectural framework featuring a ‘deconstructed’ western facade and precise, structural ensemble. Through this intervention, Galić has created a distinct identity not only for the school complex but for the entire town, too. 


This project has succeeded in addressing and harmonizing varying functions of such an important investment for the community, and the formal quality of the building reflects an empathic interpretation of everyday life,’ he elaborates. 

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the sports hall showcases an ambitious design that imparts contemporary architectural culture to a small town



Before reaching that success, the team had to overcome certain challenges related to community sports halls. These buildings hold key cultural and social functions and are often part of a larger institution in towns with limited public architecture. However, sports halls are commonly marginalized through simplistic design approaches instead of standing out from the crowd. 


Additionally, sports halls can provide alternative learning spaces, with rules different from those children are accustomed to in classrooms or everyday communities. ‘We had to resolve the basic contrast between a simple hall and an important public building. This contrast is a common pitfall for investors and designers alike,’ notes NOP studio. 

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the new building inherited the former orientation of the sports hall burned down by a fire 



responding to land topography, context, and past events


To start, the team built the hall on a lot sloping westwards, configuring it in such a way that respond to the land topography. More importantly, the new building is oriented in the same direction of the town’s former sports hall that burned down during a fire; such a subtle intervention gently commemorates the grim event. Meanwhile, the perimeter around the building establishes a link between the school square and the lower plateau, where an open court and school parking lot are held. From there runs the main pedestrian access organized as a stairway and ramp system.

The facade opening onto the school square features a glazed ground floor and entrance, allowing the public court to seep indoors before cascading down the grandstand staircase to the lower sporting level. This configuration enables a clear view into the hall from the square and vice versa.





texturizing the hall with slanted prefab concrete panels 


To shape the building volume, Galić considered several variations that would be both pragmatic and innovative. Much attention has been given to incorporating customized prefab elements that have only recently been tried out in Croatia. Specifically, the architect worked with Beton Lučko, a company specializing in concrete prefabs, to develop a unique paneling made entirely of pigmented black concrete, with thermal isolation in-between.


Galić then proceeded to clad the court-facing facade with horizontal panels placed at an angle that lets in diffuse light. These panels are mounted on a steel structure fixed to prefabricated concrete pillars, with their lower-end finished in polycarbonate. The first line of panels gapes at the widest angle, which gradually diminishes with every new row moving upwards. Such a configuration provides a dynamic texture, prevents glare, and offers better protection from the western sun and heat during warm weather.

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the perimeter links the school square to the lower plateau with an open court and school parking lot 



The architect used a dolomitic aggregate diabase of an original green hue, mixed with a black pigment, to create the panels; additional shades appear on each row as the variations in slanting reflect the color of the sky differently. On an average overcast day, these hues span from lead-grey to matte dark green; warmer colors can also appear during a clear sunset. The matte color palette is completed with black iron plates and sheets that equally cover fences and screening window panels.

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the interiors are configured to reflect the precise geometry of the bearing prefab elements



a well-coordinated interior design system


The interior space and surfaces, including the ceiling, retain load-bearing and dark-colored concrete prefab beams. These support the grid-like roof structure, where laminated wood contrasts the heavy concrete skeleton. Along the western roof area, light domes provide additional natural illumination.


‘Unlike most grandstands done in recent times in Croatia, this one in Zlatar Bistrica is a fixed, wood-paneled cascade descending from the square and entrance on one side to the sports courts on the other. It gives a dignified and representative public space comparable to monumental urban staircases that invite people to gather there and socialize. This concept of socialization during leisure time is exactly what we had in mind by insisting on spatial continuity. This specific interior landscape gives children and others the liberty to use it as creatively as they see fit,’ says the architect. 

slanted prefab concrete panels front the zlatar bistrica sports hall in croatia

secondary facilities like changing rooms and toilets share a yellow color that sparks energy



Secondary facilities such as changing rooms, toilets, and corridors showcase skillful design with the simplest materials and equipment. They all share the same yellow tone to spark the energy felt during sports events. Toilets are visually playful and rather distinct as they combine black grout lines with yellow and white tiles. In contrast, lockers, benches, and partitions follow the same consistent modular configuration as the rest of the sports hall.






the sports hall reflects the community's ambition to transcend its own local limits
the sports hall reflects the community's ambition to transcend its own local limits
laminated wooden beams complementing  secondary structures
laminated wooden beams complementing secondary structures
the hall has been placed on a lot sloping toward the west
the hall has been placed on a lot sloping toward the west
the outer layer is made of translucent polycarbonate, which at night turns the volume into a 'lantern'
the outer layer is made of translucent polycarbonate, which at night turns the volume into a 'lantern'
night-time view of the sports hall
night-time view of the sports hall

project info:


name: Zlatar Bistrica Sports Hall

location: Zlatar Bistrica, Krapina-Zagorje County, Croatia
architecture: NOP Studio / Ivan Galić
design team: Rea Vidović, Robert Bodiš
main contractor: Zagorjegradnja d.o.o.
prefabricated reinforced concrete: Beton Lučko d.o.o. 
wooden load bearing structure: Drvene konstrukcije d.o.o. 
collaborators: Krešimir Tarnik (construction), Mateo Biluš (building phisics), Goran Tomek (mechanical design), Branimir Cindori (sprinklers), Alen Farago (electrical), Željko Mužević (fire protection and occupational safety)

photography: Bosnic+Dorotic



designboom has received this project from our DIY submissions feature, where we welcome our readers to submit their own work for publication. see more project submissions from our readers here.


edited by: lea zeitoun | designboom

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