Ljubljana has exceptional comparative advantages for congress tourism (favorable climate, the location at the crossroads of south-eastern and central Europe, developed infrastructure, hospitality, etc.). The Exhibition and Convention Centre(Gospodarsko razstavišče), which has been positioned as a medium-sized regional congress and fair center, has been a key factor in this.
A rich fair history started at the former Ljubljana Fair by the Gosposvetska Street. In 1953, the new authority wanted to revive the activity and defined the current location along the Dunajska cesta for the location. This was the time when the Socialist Authority wanted to show the world a rapid development of the economy, and consequently the cities in former Yugoslavia began to compete among their fairgrounds.
In 1953 the open competition brought the first design of the current fairground. The construction was greatly accelerated by VII. Congress of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia, for which they built the legendary hall A (today called Dvorana Kupola / the Dome Hall). The hall was designed by architects Ilija Aranautovic. Boris Gabhersik and Milan Mihelič. At that time, the legendary fountain with the statue of Stojan Batič, which today represents some kind of symbol of the exhibition site.
The other halls were built on the basis of the competition, which was held in 1960 but was in the end not realized, so the halls were built according to the needs of the exhibition center. In 1960, the Pavilion Jurček was built, and in 1962 the hall B (today called Marmorna dvorana / Marble Hall). In 1967, on the basis of a building plan for the whole area, the hall C was built, which consists of four identical units (units are modular and the original plan was to build 26 of them). Already in 1969, they thought about the new hotel and the administrative building, which was never realized. The development of the Convention and Exhibition Centre was solved partially, and we can only hope that the idea of the hotel will finally come true.
Marmorna dvorana / The Marble Hall (former hall B) is also interesting in terms of architecture. The author is the architect Milan Mihelič. It is designed in a modern way, and the airfoil-shaped roof gives it a special touch. The special features of the hall are extremely high ceilings, which are especially appreciated by the organizers of more demanding events. The hall was thoroughly updated in 2005 and today, due to its spaciousness and functionality, it is one of the most wanted congress halls in Ljubljana.
Every hall at the Convention and Exhibition Centre has a clear authors’ signature of their creators. Dvorana Kupola (formerly Hall A) is perhaps the most remarkable. It is the first modern multipurpose hall that had electric tribunes, which enabled the organization of both concerts and sports events and congresses. Above the hall is a dome shell supported by four pillars and the specific structure was an example for similar halls in Belgrade and Skopje. The hall A hosted exceptional events that shaped the fair, cultural and congress history of the city. From the architectural point of view of, the hall still operates fresh and functional today due to the new add-on, which was added in 2004 at the last major renovation of the fairground. The Kocka Hall is especially popular among the concert organizers.
In terms of architecture, Steklena dvorana / The Glass Hall (former hall C) is especially interesting. It consists of four identical units in a mushroom shape. Without major problems, they can be combined into new units for which architect Milan Mihelič predicted organic expansion. The flexibility of such spaces also arouses excitement in the profession today. Similarly, the construction was used at Petrol service stations, where architects of today still admire the architectural enthusiasm. From time distance, this part of the Economic Exhibition can be regarded as an exceptional architecture, which was completed in the spirit of the time and also today is aesthetic and mature.
The exhibition pavilion C is considered to be the most prominent example of the structural architectural solution in Yugoslavia and at the same time the monument design of the expanding architecture. It is a complex of several type elements, the center of which is an interesting mushroom octagonal roof.
Event organizers are often unaware that they are located in sites that were at the height of architecture in time when they were built and are upgraded today to successfully compete with the global scene. This quality space is also at a great location, as it is just a shot away from the city center. At the Convention and Exhibition Centre, an innovative congress-event concept is combined with quality architecture. Time has shown all the value and depth of the thinking of the architects who co-formed the Exhibition and Convention Centre.
ABOUT THE ARCHITECT MILAN MIHELIČ
Milan Mihelič, the author of the main buildings of Ljubljana Exhibition and Convention Centre, and one of the most important Slovenian architects of the 20th century. He is considered to be an important representative of the Ljubljana School of Architecture. He relies primarily on modernism and functionalism. The importance of his contribution was also recognized by the Slovenian Academy of Sciences, which accepted him as a regular member of its own kind.
Among the Slovenian architects, he is considered a master of construction, which is especially evident in his architecture at Exhibition and Convention Centre. In addition to the architecture, he also designed posters for various fairs and events at the exhibition site. His reflection on the flexibility of the fairgrounds and congress spaces and the possibilities of adapting to different requirements is still considered to be innovative and extremely advanced today.