Jovan Mitrović wraps a glass-walled sports hall in protective timber battens

This underground sports hall for a school in the Serbian town of Obrenovac is topped with a glass box covered in vertical wooden laths to protect it from stray balls (+ slideshow).

Elementary School Sports Hall by Jovan Mitrović

Architect Jovan Mitrović designed the facility for an elementary school in Obrenovac, which is situated close to the country's capital, Belgrade.

Elementary School Sports Hall by Jovan Mitrović

Local planners had designated the majority of the school's existing yard for the building, which would have dominated the site and obscured views of a church and other historic buildings if it had been built entirely above ground.

Elementary School Sports Hall by Jovan Mitrović

Instead, the architect proposed submerging two-thirds of the building below ground to accommodate a large sports hall, a smaller space for ballet and gymnastics, storage, technical areas, changing rooms, washrooms and a staff room.

Elementary School Sports Hall by Jovan Mitrović

The site's proximity to the Sava river meant that the subterranean structure posed technical issues as it had to be impermeable to underground water.

Elementary School Sports Hall by Jovan Mitrović

"Through the design process, the solution for these challenges has been successfully found by designing the waterproof concrete hull five metres deep in the ground, just a few centimetres over the highest underground water level," said Mitrović.

Elementary School Sports Hall by Jovan Mitrović

The concrete box surrounding the submerged structure is topped with a waterproof slab and a green planted roof at the level of the surrounding schoolyard.

Elementary School Sports Hall by Jovan Mitrović

The only part of the building that extends above ground is a glazed cuboid that performs the role of a giant skylight, allowing natural light to reach the interior of the main hall below.

Elementary School Sports Hall by Jovan Mitrović

Rows of timber battens surround the glass walls to protect them from games of football and handball taking place on outdoor courts surrounding the structure.

"The row of 'wooden matches' is a symbolic interpretation of wooden fences typical for the villages in that part of Serbia," Mitrović explained. "This rhythm of wooden bars also provides a dispersion of direct sunlight."

Elementary School Sports Hall by Jovan Mitrović

To reduce the project's cost, structural columns and beams are made from the same affordable pine plywood as the cladding of the hall's walls and ceiling. The plywood was also chosen for the warm and tactile feel it brings to the interior.

Elementary School Sports Hall by Jovan Mitrović

Folding doors on one side of the main hall open onto the smaller room, which can also be used to host concerts, plays or school festivities.

Elementary School Sports Hall by Jovan Mitrović

Entrances at either end of the building connect with staircases that lead down to the changing rooms so they can be used by opposing teams or for separating boys and girls.

Photography is by Relja Ivanić.


Project credits:

Architect: Jovan Mitrović
Associates: arch.Vuk Lukić, arch. Milena Folić, arch. Miloš Milivojević and arch. Aida Hadžiahmetović
Structural Engineer: arch. Vojislava Vasović, eng. Dragan Janković
Client: Obrenovac Municipality and Obrenovac First Elementary School
Contractor: Ferbild ltd, Chief Engineer: Dragan Radulac

Elementary School Sports Hall by Jovan Mitrović
Concept diagram – click for larger image
Elementary School Sports Hall by Jovan Mitrović
Axonometric diagram – click for larger image
Elementary School Sports Hall by Jovan Mitrović
Basement floor plan – click for larger image
Elementary School Sports Hall by Jovan Mitrović
Ground floor plan – click for larger image
Elementary School Sports Hall by Jovan Mitrović
Section one – click for larger image
Elementary School Sports Hall by Jovan Mitrović
Section two – click for larger image