Trnje district of Zagreb
The Croatian capital Zagreb has 800,000 inhabitants and is the last in our present series. It is divided into 17 districts, and we propose to look at the one that has undergone the greatest change in the last ten years, from a working district with numerous industrial sites to a new district whose potential is far from being exhausted.
Geographical heart of Zagreb
Trnje may be regarded as the heart of Zagreb. Geographically speaking it is right in the centre of the city, bordered by the Sava river in the south, the east-west railway line in the north and major roads in the west and east. There are a number of important institutions in the district: the town hall, headquarters of the municipal works, Croatian radio, the stock exchange, the Croatian University Library and other important business institutions.
Small but fine
It has an area of 736 hectares and is thus one of the smaller administrative units. In terms of population (43,000 inhabitants) it is also at the lower end. And yet for centuries Trnje has been of great significance to the city of Zagreb, and its dynamic history equals that of the old town districts.
It was mentioned by name as the site of an important river crossing in the Golden Bull of 1242, by which the Hungarian king made the settlement Gradec in today’s old town a royal free city. Until the early twentieth century it was known mostly as a dreaded flood plain.
It took on its present form in the 1950s when the east-west ring road, today’s Vukovarska street was built. At the time the district was still sparsely inhabited, but that was soon to change.
Model urban planning
In 1955 the first ever tender for the urban development of the district was announced. In the next fifteen years numerous public buildings were constructed and integrated in the cityscape. Flood barriers were erected after the major flood in 1964, which made the district more attractive. The first planned residential area in Zagreb was built at that time in the western part of the district, while public buildings such as the town hall and district court, various universities, the Vatroslav Lisinski concert hall and numerous other buildings were erected in the centre. Although this area looks a little dusty after forty years, it gained international acclaim when it was first developed.
In the east of the district a number of industrial buildings were constructed over the years, which now stand empty or have been demolished following the decline of industry in the post-Communist era. A sad example is the ruin of the Paromlin factory, built in 1906 and now just a shell following a fire some twenty-five years ago. The authorities are still undecided what to do with the factory building, which stands on the most expensive piece of real estate in Zagreb.
Boom without plan – with a few exceptions
The decline of industry created space for numerous building projects that have been completed in the last ten years. On the eastern edge of the district, for example, a new business neighbourhood, known as Zagreb City, has arisen. It is the home of banks, insurance companies and other businesses and also a number of high-rise office buildings.
Unfortunately the new buildings were designed in the mid-twentieth century without any account taken of the needs of the inhabitants, with the result that the area empties out completely when the offices close. In their development of the infrastructure the authorities were also unable to keep pace with the building boom of the last decade, so that the area is also poorly served in that respect. This results in considerable traffic problems, particularly during the rush hours. There are some exceptions to this lack of planning, however. The new headquarters of the Zagreb ambulance service was built some years ago on the south-eastern edge of the district and won first prize in the public building category at the 2009 World Architecture Festival. Investors are also gradually realising that office buildings are not the only interesting constructions. The Green Gold Centre, which opened early this year, is a multimedia congress centre with shops, modern bars and restaurants that are proving highly popular with the inhabitants of the city. In the same complex a new Hilton hotel will be opened at the end of 2012.
Positive prospects for the future
Further urban development projects are planned for the future. A new neighbourhood is to be erected on the 200-hectare site of the former Gredelj railway factory and the ruins of the Paromlin factory. Among architects the project is even described as the “new Zagreb city centre”, and a new department has been set up within the municipal works to manage the project. Another huge project that could change the look of Zagreb is the redesign of the former Zagrepčanka sausage factory. The city of Zagreb purchased the 7-hectare site in 2005 and has been trying in vain since then to find a partner for its redesign.
Unfortunately the economic crisis of the last four years has meant that both projects are currently suspended. The ownership of the site of the sausage factory also has to be clarified. It is to be hoped that the recession and the shortage of public funds will not mean that the area ends up being developed merely for profit rather than in the public interest. At all events, Trnje has the opportunity to go down in the history of Zagreb as a model of urban planning.
Also read our series on Vienna´s 23 districts
Districts in our partner cities
Part 1: Belgrade
Part 2: Bratislava
Part 3: Budapest
Part 4: Bucharest
Part 5: Ljubljana
Part 6: Krakow
Part 7: Moscow
Part 8: Prague
Part 9: Sarajevo
Part 10: Sofia
Part 11: Zagreb