Macedonian Orthodox Church by Bif-Studio



Croatian architects Bif-Studio have won a competition to design a new Macedonian Orthodox church in Zagreb.


The concrete building will include a pastoral centre and an apartment for the priest.


Construction is due to begin in 2009.


The following information is from the architects:


The preliminary project won the first prize in the competition by invitation from the Macedonian Orthodox Church in Croatia in October 2007. The location of the Church is in the center of the city, beside one of the main city avenues.


The project will run from May 2008 and is planned to be finished by December 2008. The construction would start in 2009.


The building of the Pastoral center and the Macedonian Church of the Orthodox parish "Sv. Zlata Meglenska" merges with the present ambience of the urban matrix of Stara Knežija beside the Ljubljanska Avenue in Zagreb.


Situated on the suggested location, the building is trying to blend with the environment by assembling and expanding all its parts, since this is its sole place of existence. It is to be hoped that, if the place and the building become one, physical and functional demands will be surpassed and the city area will acquire new values.


The plan is that the entrance to the Church and Pastoral center should lead from the pedestrian zone alongside the Ljubljanska Avenue through the tree-lined road on the north side.


The building does not have an open square that would lead toward the entrance, but the Church and the Pastoral center will have an open entrance-court that develops over the perforated wall as a protected courtyard. Thus, even the gathering of people on the open area in front of the Church may make the space more intimate, moving it away from the traffic jam.


The plan is to make the entrance below the steeple that covers it like giant eaves; the entrance will expand onto the courtyard domed over by a mulberry-tree, leading to the Pastoral center. The covered area leads you further to the front area of the Church, an area from where a vertical communication leads to the Church choir and service connection for the steeple.


The front area is lit by a glazed wall on the north side and by a smaller garden alongside the roofed porch. The plan is to build the Church nave as a parallelepiped volume with a barrel-shaped arch extending along the entire nave, distancing itself from the walls and ending in the iconostasis wall.


The entire area is closed, lit by a diffused light coming from the above, from the narrow hollows on the northern wall of the nave, and by a roof light coming from the south side. The light coming from these directions is dispersed over the barrel-like arch and reveals the intimacy and darkness of the nave with its entire spectrum. Opposite the iconostasis, the entrance wall under the choir is covered with wooden facing.

According to this proposition for the design, the walls and the ceiling of the main nave are left as empty book pages, waiting to be filled with contents. The elevated priest's podium with the altar is situated in front of the iconostasis, and the plan is to light up the entire nave with big chandeliers.

The Pastoral center is conceived as a lean-to structure against the main nave, accessible by walking across the courtyard. The ground-floor comprises of the reception room and priest's office that are connected to the altar area. A vertical communication leading toward the upper floor is located next to the entrance area of the Pastoral center. The plan is to arrange the entire upper floor as an apartment for the priest and his family, while the basement area comprises of the Church service rooms.

Although this is planned to be a basement area, it is lit and ventilated through the split-leveled courtyard and garden, thus providing it with intimacy and not disrupting the monumentality of the volume of the main Church nave. In this way, this intimate and multi-purpose area offers the possibility of congregational gathering and socializing, and it can be turned into a separate guest suite. Through the design of the building we tried to achieve a simple, yet symbolic composition in which the traditional influences can be clearly seen in the main disposition, while the intimate areas remain subtly concealed, remaining primarily dedicated to liturgy.


The plan is to build the Church and the Pastoral center with classic construction, with a basic structure of reinforced concrete which will surmount the rather small construction requirements. The nave of the Church ranging up to 9 meters is conquered by a straight ceiling panel and the barrel-like interior structure is tamed by a light mounting panel surface suspended on the structure. It is planned that the main part of the steeple be a monolithic structure stabilized in the basement area.


It is planned that the main bodies of the Church and Pastoral center be made of cast-in-situ concrete, composed of white cement and chosen aggregate. With careful blending of materials of high quality, we plan to include the influence of the human labor which would always remain evident on the facade of the building. The main walls of the nave will be multi-layered and built in segments at sufficient time intervals, so as to sense the influence of time and human labor as a constituent part of the Church facade. The structure and the coating are executed side by side to the prepared cast with the incorporated thermal protection. The outer facade of the building is not treated, but just impregnated. The same method is used for the construction of the steeple and the outer wall of the Pastoral center.

The outer wall of the Church courtyard will be built using prefabricated perforated elements, also with no subsequent treatment. By selecting the material and properly using it, with a high degree of craftwork, we intend to present physical labor as a constituent part of the Church construction without disguise.

The basement area is connected to the intimate garden by a large glazed wall. According to plan, the floor of the nave is to be constructed in the form of a ceramic or stone mosaic and the walls will have a concrete surface with smooth edges.

Posted on Monday July 14th 2008 at 1:58 pm by . Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • JoJo

    Thank god! I was getting really bored with all the existing Macedonian Orthodox churches in Zagreb.

  • John

    what, is this supposed to be a good building?

  • Yes, it is

    @John: Why would you say it is not a good building? Regardless of its merits, it is a very complete post (text, pictures, plans, sections, elevations), which enables one to analyse it in an intellegient and informed manner. I suggest you do so before commenting again.

  • Andre

    Boring churches like this should be considered a sin.

  • abe

    hum. just a normal approach. a church can be so much more than that.

  • :)

    it’s ok.

  • edward

    Excellent design! Simple volumes, carefully organized and proportioned, to focus on the nave, create an elegant statement. I am a little concerned that the concrete finish might diffuse the crisp lines, but it’s hard to tell from the drawings what it is going to consist of. The depiction of the nave interior certainly looks like the real thing. And glad to have some legible plans and sections for a change.

  • Matty D

    However under-exciting the design may be (I do believe alot more options could have been explored and many resources have been left un-tapped), this is quite possibly the most complete submission I’ve seen posted. So kudos for the inclusion of all the various medium…

  • scruces

    Yet a church can be so much less

  • jean baptiste

    the retaken of Peter Zumthor Bruder Klaus rammed concrete pattern on the façade is extremely disturbing, certainly no discrepency at all. drama!

  • i like it…nothing distracting..everyones eyes will be on God

  • M-Boogie

    aaah… one of my second year projects got recycled…

    (Note to myself: always shredder modernist, boxy school projects that need to be locked away from mankind forever. Aftermaths seem to terrifying, obviously…)

  • leandro locsin

    false arches… aesthetics for the sake of aesthetics. sad

  • I like the model, its like a little church for ants, reminds me of Zoolander.

  • faux pas

    Looks like a protestant church (way too puristic), has absolutely nothing with Orthodox aesthetics, philosophy and tradition…

  • Vla


  • John

    This looks like the mordern churches build in Denmark around the 60's and the 70's, very boring indeed

    • Andi

      In east-European countries modernism and its variations are still quite appealing for architects because it’s an escape method from the chaotic environment there. I’m not trying to find an excuse for the design, just trying to provide an explanation for the authors’ choice.

  • edward

    Architecture is not a sub-text of haute couture and the canons of rational Modernism are as valid today as they were at their inception. First rate work by Bif-Studio.

  • Looks more like a prison to me, don’t think i’ll be making the trip to Zagreb for that particular photo architour !

  • edward

    Ein’ feste Burg ist unser Gott

  • J. Dvaid

    I like the design, the shapes and the volumes, but for a church? , it`s quite simple and monotonous… is more like a restaurant, a lounge bar, something alike, but a church…. no

  • John

    To “Yes it is”:
    The post has NOTHING to do with the quality of the work. You can post only only one image. That’s everything you need if the building is good. One can tell you’re new to these types of forums… perhaps even the internet?…
    Oh, and the building sucks by the way.

  • i think that the entrance under the ‘floating’ tower is really successful…. also, the simplicity of the form of the church and how it seems that the tower is rotated ‘missing’ volume that makes the entrance garden..

  • anton

    benches? in orthodox church? hmm…

  • John Avlakiotis

    Could somebody explain to me what is a “Macedonian Orthodox Church”?
    I Live in the North of Greece on a Land called Macedonia since at least 500BC. Long before the Slavs ever appeared in Europe.
    I am Greek Orthodox from Macedonia – Greece.

    What has Zagreb to do with MACEDONIA?

    The design of this church I find interesting – not bad.

  • Vladimir Georgievski

    It’s useless, even trying to explain something that is so obvious, so …
    all bacause ( ofcourse ) , you are G(R)EEK !!!
    you are trying to insult the architecture with your vulgar political connotation … you people simple – disgust me !!!!!!!!!!!

  • John Avlakiotis

    What disgusts me my dear friend is your blind fanatism to be met also in Greece. I have said nothing bad about the architecture. I have made a comment on the title of this article. As you know -better than me- the ‘Macedonian’ Orthodox church is not recognized by any other Orthodox church.
    It is very obvious to me that no nation of our region has the exclusive right to be called ‘Macedonia’ cause we are all part of it. You are Slav-Macedonian, I am Greek Macedonian.
    So let us work this out leaving the bad feelings of the past behind.
    By the way… this is a much more interesting project than any contemporary churches I have seen in Greece.

  • Zoran

    reply to John,

    dear John I’m real Macedonian, born with the only country called Macedonia and live in Zagreb, Croatia. The idea for the church is excellent, so please look into the reality and not be estonished “What has Zagreb to do with Macedonia “? What you as a greek post your comment here ???? ???

  • much more needed

  • I am a Macedonian, from Skopje, and having all those great temples down here – this is reallt not the best solutions for a Macedonian Orthodox church.

    :( :( :(

  • Greek

    I am so amazed with this church! For sure I will visit it! I think its time to have pure simplicity and in our churches. The resources are going deep… Amazing proposal! Congratulations also to the visionary authorities! As a Greek Orthodox Architect I m really impressed! An Orthodox Church can enjoy sophisticated Architecture … we live in 2010…