Displacement of a place. The curious case of Remiza in Nova Gorica, where the ancient engine-shed depot is imploded by a shopping mall Dipo, is in fact, a common urban incident of favouring suburbs over cities. The incident fires up when the object’s original function faces an expiration date. It further causes the turn of the firm structure to the outdated, useless hut.
Remiza=Roundhouse (a locomotive maintenance depot) is a unique railway’s typology invented to host the servicing and storing of steam locomotives. Remiza’s half-circular shape is designed to solve the problem that steam locomotive cannot turn backwards; it has to be rotated by the special mechanism. Remiza in Nova Gorica is built on Bohinj Railway (1900-1906), which connects Western Austria with the port of Trieste. Due to new political divisions in Europe, with the dissolution of Austria-Hungary into separate states in 1918 and the isolation of communist Yugoslavia after 1945, the railway decreased in importance during the twentieth century.*
Remiza’s firm structure surpasses the death of its function in 2006 when Slovenian Railways sold the railway area to Primorje d.d. Since then, Remiza has entered the realm of the real estate trades (ending under the ownership of Austrian Supernova), which means that its value was determined solely in terms of the business deals. Hence, for the next 13 years, the place has been nothing but a poor investment, defined in media by the digits of renovation and maintenance costs and the distressing pictures of disrepair interior. The predicted costs proved an unbearable burden in 2017 when Nova Gorica’s councillors rejected the city administration plan to rent the building rights from GF real estate over the 40 years period. The initiative to reprogram the building with the creative activities which would open it to a public use failed. As a result, the place was “renovated” to host a furniture store.
To claim any architectural-historical-cultural qualities as the relevant and deciding factor on Remiza’s potential within the above context seems naïve. Such treatment of one of the oldest building in Nova Gorica has its spatial manifestations: the building was rejected as the left-over place; its bad-looking emptiness caused a public trauma. The building renovation was done regardless the Remiza specificities – semi-circular wide open space is now closed and fragmented, the original roof steel structure is hidden (and possibly destroyed) by the suspended ceiling, the clerestory light coming from the roof windows is lost, all openings are closed with the discount announcements.
Even though the unique Remiza interior is replaced with the generic white box, renovation is accepted with enforced optimism: at least the ugly ruin is repaired now, the trauma is healed. But why is that so that ruin irritates more than yet another shopping mall? At the moment, due to the repaired and preserved historical façade, the Remiza is seemingly still in place. But it is actually displaced. The object, built to serve as a machine depot was not at all just an instrumental hut where repairmen dealt with dirtiness. The manner in which it was constructed, its scale and atmosphere (now present only at the pictures) could in its original form and materiality host any human-activity. This place, the Remiza’s interior was a distinct place, unlike any other place in the near vicinity. It was the place which one would remember. That particular place, now cleaned of all its particularities to adjust the monotonous shopping, is a place nobody remembers. That is the preservation strategy at its best – it repairs useless places by making them unmemorable. It is how the displacement of a place – an incident from the beginning of the text- is practised.
Last but not the least, in a praise of resilient Remiza’s ruin which had opposed the shopping mall for more than a decade, let me advocate in the name of the ruin’s function. The ruin’s role is not in its romanticized (or dangerous) decay but in its unfinished state. It is the state which initiates the rebuilding process, a moment when passers-by engage in thinking of what could be/should be there instead. It is out of the dissatisfaction with the ruin’s unfinished state that the reconstruction and the public debate arise. The emancipation is in the potential of ruin to be anything else but a ruin (if corrected, repaired or finished.) It is a moment when ruin belongs to everybody who imagines its reconstruction. On the opposite Remiza, today has the brand new façade which should persuade the passers-by that there is nothing left to be repaired or rethought.
Researcher Danica Sretenović
1918Railroad Service infrastructure/ maintenance of steam trains, workshops, locomotive depot
1945 Railroad Service infrastructure/ maintenance of steam trains, workshops, locomotive depot
2018 Shop / furniture discount / Skupina Rutar Group pohištveni center Dipo
1918 Imperial-Royal State Railways
1945 State Railways (Ferrovie dell Stato)
2018 Supernova Ngo izvedbe nepremičninskih projektov d.o.o. / GF Nepremičnine
Form of government
1918 Constitutional Dual Monarchy Austro-Hungarian Empire
1945 Constitutional Monarchy Italian Kingdom
2018 Republic of Slovenia
Spatial Planning Agency
Type of heritage and protection
1918 Not recognized as heritage
1945 Not recognized as heritage
2018 Heritage with no protection